Hi, my name is John, and I’m an addict.
Sad, but true – however, my addiction is to buying cookbooks on eBay – and it’s not the uncontrollable kind of addiction. In fact, I believe I have a very efficient and intelligent process of doing my eBay bidding – I’m not looking for popular and current favorites, I’m after hidden gems – and Yes, I want to steal them!
When I find a cookbook I think has potential, I’ll run it through the used book listings for both Alibris and Amazon, to see if it actually has any collector value (it’s always nice to know that others think the book is valuable for some reason – and there’s nothing wrong with “investing” either). If I find a goodie, I’ll maybe put a max bid of a tenth, or less, of it’s bookseller price, and then I walk away – never to return in a temptation to up my bid – Nope, … if other bidders find the book too, then the game is over, and I lick my wounds and move on.
It’s a good process, with some very nice eventual rewards attached – but it requires patience and lots of time – lots and lots of time! And the problem is that I’m not the only buyer playing this game! But it’s still worthwhile to play because it’s simply amazing how many dummies have absolutely no idea how much their books are worth, and so they list them for .99, or some such low amount, assuming that there are so many knowledgeable eBay buyers watching the listings, that if their book is worthy, the buyers will bid it up. Yeah, could happen, but more often it won’t, and somebody like me will likely snag a steal instead. Nope, I don’t feel bad – that’s the way everybody learns! I paid my dues.
Where am I goin’ here? Well, Sandee asked me to make some scones for one of her affairs, and of course I said, “Sure”, ’cause I look for excuses to do more baking – I guess baking is another addiction! The scones we keep going back to are from a book that I got on eBay several years ago, and when I first got it, my initial thought was, “Damn, why’d I get this one?” The book was entitled, Pillsbury – Best Muffins and Quick Breads (here it is on Alibris), and now that I had it in hand, it was looking just like the millions of “table cookbooks” which are mass produced with lots of nice pictures and little real substance. Damn!
I don’t remember what made me try this scone recipe (page 119), but I did, and we loved them! And I’ve been playing with the recipe ever since. Why is it better than most other scones? Hummm? Well, for reasons one and two, it uses both cardamom and orange zest – both of which are much underutilized in baking and cooking! But, given my Yankee naturalization as a southerner (that’s a ten year residency, as opposed to the southern rule of “bred and born in the South”), I’m well aware of the basic requirements for all good southern food, which in this case would be lots of fat and sugar – and this is why I’m telling you I adapted this recipe a little (just a little!) by upping the butter, and adding a jam and glaze topping for the scones, which not only makes them very southern, but so much better too.
So, if you’d like to try these in your kitchen, there’s only one rule – first time you make them, you must follow the recipe. After that, if you want to mess around with the formula, feel free – But first try should always follow the rules. BTW, I’m giving you the modest version here – If you wish, you can double the batch and make 16 medium sized scones – that’s not against the rules!
(adapted from, “Pillsbury – Best Muffins and Quick Breads”
Clarkson Potter, Publisher – 1999)
Ingredients: (if you don’t have some of these ingredients, wait until you get them to make these scones!)
- 1 ½ cups all purpose flour (cake flour is even better)
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 Tbs baking powder
- ½ tsp ground cardamom
- ½ tsp salt (or to taste)
- ¼ cup of cold butter (I’d throw in a Tbs or two more!)
- 1/3 cup currants (No, don’t use raisins – get some currants and see how nice they make your scones)
- 2 tsp grated orange zest (I use a Microplane zester – love it!)
- ½ cup buttermilk (if no buttermilk, add 1 ½ tsp vinegar or lemon juice to reg milk – stir)
- 1 egg
- Any good jam or preserve
- A glaze made from 1 ¼ cups of powdered sugar mixed with 2 Tbs of milk and a ½ tsp of vanilla – if this glaze is too thick, use a little more milk to thin it – if it’s too thin, use a little more powdered sugar to thicken it – thicker is better!.
- Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
- In med bowl, add flour, sugar, baking powder, cardamom, and salt – mix well.
- With pastry blender or fork, cut in butter into flour mixture until it is crumbly (I use the food processor to pulse the flour/butter but only until the butter is the size of small peas – be careful, the F P can easily overdo this task!).
- Stir in currants and orange zest.
- In a small bowl, combine buttermilk and egg – blend well.
- Add all at once, and stir only until dry ingredients are moistened.
- Remove dough to a well floured board or counter top, gently fold and knead dough four or five times.
- Shape into an 8” round, about 1” thick – cut into eight wedges. (or two rounds, and 16 wedges, for miniatures.)
- Move to an ungreased sheet pan – leave about 1/2” between wedges.
- Bake at 400 degrees F, for 20 minutes, or until they are golden brown.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool on a rack.
- When fully cooled, put about a Tbs or more of jam or preserves on each scone. Allow to air-dry for an hour or so.
- Mix 1 ¼ cup of powdered sugar with 2 Tbs milk and ½ tsp vanilla – stir well – this can be thickened or thinned as you wish, but be careful because the jam itself tends to “thin” the glaze.
- Using a plastic sandwich bag, spoon the mixed glaze into the bag, seal, and with a knife or scissors, snip off one corner of the bag (only a small hole please). See the side pic for a “how-to” suggestion.
- Now squeeze the glaze toward the corner with the hole, and onto the tops of your scones.
- Trust me – by the third scone, they will all begin to look beautiful!
Go ahead, eat the ugly one now. See, I told you they were good.