Sassenach Scones

An iced pumpkin ginger scone.

With a family name of “Douglass” on my mother’s side and my married name of “McKinnon”, being enamored of scones is almost mandatory; with shortbread coming in a close second. I think my obsession with all things Scottish stems from the frustration of being denied a bagpipe in my youth, though in all fairness, my folks did try to get me lessons–but were refused because I was a girl. That’s okay…I probably would have ended up with even chubbier cheeks and been the dork bringing up the rear in the high school band.

If your only exposure to scones comes from a booth at the fair or a trip through Starbucks, you’re missing a whole sensory experience of combined flavors and textures. Fair scones are wonderful; basic biscuit-like pastries that melt in your mouth. I have nothing bad to say about fair scones, except that you can only indulge in them once or twice a year. The Starbucks scones I’ve tried, however, aren’t worth the exorbitant price they charge. They come in a variety of flavors, but are crumbly, cold, and taste like leavening. Bleh.

Most store-bought scones are made with the American taste bud in mind: too sweet and sometimes too salty. We expect to bite into a pastry and have it scream “sugar!” This is fine if you’re eating a cupcake (don’t even get me started on Costco muffins) but is really not what a scone is all about.

One of my favorite scone recipes is from an old Pillsbury cookbook. I refrained from playing with the recipe, faithfully presenting it here in all its glory. OK, a few teeny tiny changes. Somewhere along the line small cans of evaporated milk switched from 5.33-oz. to 5oz., so I changed that. And I bumped the oven temperature from 400 F to 425 F. Oh, and sometimes I leave out the currants, and I changed the instructions a little…but those are the only changes I made, honest! This recipe makes a lovely basic scone, perfect with butter and jam, and would also be ideal for strawberry shortcake. I love crunch, so I bake mine at least 20 minutes, and sprinkle the scones with lots of sugar before they go in the oven.

CURRANT SCONES

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold butter
2/3 cup dried currants (optional)
5-oz. can evaporated milk (chilled)
1 egg

  • Heat the oven to 425 F.
  • In medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; blend well. Using pastry blender or fork, cut in butter until mixture is crumbly.

Blending the butter into the dry ingredients.

  • Stir in currants, if desired.
  • Combine evaporated milk and egg; add all at once, stirring just until moistened.

Add liquids to dry ingredients.

  • Mixture will be a little dry. With your hands, knead it a couple of times to bring it together to form a ball. Place dough on a floured cookie sheet and flatten into a circle, about 1 inch thick.
  • With a floured knife, cut into 8 wedges, cutting straight up and down. You may leave the dough as is, or separate the wedges with a spatula if you prefer crunchy sides.

Scone wedges, separated for crunchy sides.

        • Sprinkle with sugar and bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Serve warm with butter and jam!

A warm scone with butter and homemade raspberry jam.

Now, see? Wasn’t that easy? They’re just a glorified biscuit, waiting for butter and jam. Or in a perfect world, clotted cream. Unfortunately we live out in the sticks, and (just my luck) the closest store to us appears to be completely out of clotted cream.

With fall rapidly approaching, I find myself dreaming up recipes for comfort foods. Here’s a recipe for Spicy Pumpkin Ginger Scones that made my husband fall down and kiss my feet. Yeah, yeah…slight exaggeration. But he did eat his way through a lot of test scones, since it took me three attempts before I was happy with the outcome.

Spicy Pumpkin Ginger Scones

Spicy Pumpkin Ginger Scones

2/3 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling!)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 egg
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup cold butter
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger,(you’ll find this in the spice aisle)
Milk or cream to brush on finished dough

      • Heat the oven to 425 F.
      • Lightly flour a cookie sheet.
      • Mince the crystallized ginger and set aside.

Mincing crystallized ginger.

    • In a small bowl, mix together the pumpkin, cream, and egg until well combined. Place in the refrigerator to keep cold.
    • In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.
    • Cut the cold butter into small cubes and toss in the bowl of dry ingredients. With a pastry blender or two butter knives, work the butter into the flour. It should be crumbly – you don’t want to see any chunks of butter.
    • Stir in the minced crystallized ginger.
    • Add the chilled pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients all at once. Stir just until combined. You may need to use your hands to gently knead it into a ball.
    • Place the dough on the floured cookie sheet and press into a circle approximately 1 inch thick.
    • With a floured knife, cut into 8 wedges, cutting straight up and down. You may leave the dough as is, or separate the wedges with a spatula if you prefer crunchy sides.
    • Brush with milk or cream and sprinkle with sugar.
    • Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.
    • Cool on rack.

Spicy Pumpkin Ginger Scones, fresh from the oven.

If you like your scones frosted, make a simple icing by adding milk , a teaspoon at a time, to a cup of confectioner’s sugar until you get the desired consistency. I like to add a few drops of vanilla (or booze) too. Drizzle it on when the scones are almost cool.

Since I now have bagpipes droning in my head, I guess I’ll have to continue with the Scottish theme and give you a shortbread recipe in my next blog. Soon!

May the best ye hae ivver seen be the warst ye’ll ivver see.
May the moose ne’er leave yer girnal wi a tear-drap in its ee.
May ye aye keep hail an hertie till ye’r auld eneuch tae dee.
May ye aye juist be sae happie as A wuss ye aye tae be.
I

Children in My Kitchen!

My granddaughters are staying with us for two weeks, and today was “baking day”, also known as “what the hell was I thinking” day.

Though gingersnaps and dog biscuits might sound like a rather strange combination, the cookie recipe offered lots of opportunities to measure and mix, along with the fun of forming the dough into little balls and rolling them in sugar. The dog biscuits provided the required rolling pin and cookie cutter action, and made my spoiled dogs very happy.

Here is a picture of my sweeties as we start to bake:

My sweet little cooks.

Hair back, aprons on, and hands washed, we started with the gingersnaps. One thing was critical…when it came to taking turns, the recipe was carefully scrutinized and everything had to be absolutely fair and equal. If Sophie added the sugar, Taunee got to add the flour. “HEY! Why did she get to put two spoons of ginger in and I only got to put one spoon of cinnamon?” Explaining that one tablespoon equals 3 teaspoons just muddied the waters. Thankfully, a distraction and a quick move to the next step was successful.

I’m going to give you my gingersnap recipe, with the proper instructions for mixing and baking them. Then I will tell you how we did it.

GINGERSNAPS

1 1/2 cup shortening
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup molasses
5 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cloves
3 teaspoons ginger
3 teaspoons cinnamon
White sugar for rolling the balls of dough in

In large bowl mix shortening, sugar, eggs, and molasses together thoroughly.
Add dry ingredients and stir well.
Chill for at least an hour.
Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Roll dough into small balls (about a level tablespoon of cookie dough) and then roll them in white sugar.
Place them on an ungreased cookie sheet, leaving at least 1-1/2 inches of space between each cookie. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool on a rack. The cookies will flatten when they come out of the oven, and should have little cracks on the surface.

Now…here’s how it actually went.

I took the first turn, because getting shortening in and out of a measuring cup is even difficult for me to do, and I didn’t think I could stand watching the struggle. Sophie went next, capably adding the brown sugar. Taunee got indignant because Sophie also got to add the eggs. NO FAIR! She was appeased with getting to pour in the sticky molasses. “Pour” is probably not entirely accurate. She slowly drizzled it over the ingredients in the bowl. I let her put the first cup of flour into a separate bowl, and then Sophie took over.

As Sophie measure the remaining four cups of flour into the bowl, Taunee entertained us, distracting Sophie, who lost count of how many cups she had put into the bowl. When I suggested we start over, she was sure she had only put three in, and added another cup. Both girls were amused by the way the ginger came out of the teaspoons, making “eyes” in the flour. Naturally, the tablespoon of cinnamon had to be added in a curved line to make a smiley face.

Spicey smiley face in the flour.

The girls did a waltz with a graceful dip in the kitchen. I called them back to attention.

We turned the stand mixer on and mixed the dough. I’ve made these cookies for decades, and knew that this batch didn’t look right. Oh-oh, we should have re-measured the flour.

Whoops. Just one extra cup of flour did that?!

So…these are not mathematically correct ratios, but we threw in two tablespoons of soft butter, half of an egg (yes, that was interesting), a drizzle of molasses, and a pinch of baking soda, and mixed it again. Much better.

Sophie loved the dough. It’s a good thing I know where our eggs come from, because she kept sneaking bites. Taunee tried it and decided it wasn’t bad, which is pretty good coming from a girl who will only eat “white cookies!” I must say that if I were to rate cookie dough, this would be in first place, with chocolate chip cookies in second and peanut butter cookies in third.

We didn’t have the patience to wait for the dough to chill, so we just baked it at room temperature. I scooped the dough out of the bowl and each girl formed some into a ball and rolled it in sugar before putting it on the cookie sheet. Taunee wanted to taste the sugar stuck to her hands. Mean Grandma made her wash her hands again. These girls had spent the previous afternoon playing in the mud and loving it, but Taunee was really bugged by the sugar on her hands, so we got an assembly line going, with Sophie wielding the cookie scoop and Taunee rolling the dough into a ball – or sometimes more like a football! I rolled them in sugar. Everyone was happy, and the cookies were a little crunchier than usual, but still very good. Whew.

Now, on to dog biscuits!

My dogs are spoiled; they will eat Milk Bones, but grudgingly. They appreciate yummy homemade dog biscuits far more. I don’t pretend to understand canine nutrient needs, and must stress that these are treats. They usually get one each morning, and sometimes one at night. At least they don’t have unpronounceable ingredients in them, and they’re fun to make. That absolutely makes it worth the effort. I do know that the chia seeds are very good for their skin.
The girls just like to make them because they can use the little dog bone cookie cutter. That works for me!

I usually just “wing it” when it comes to making these biscuits, but measured the ingredients this time so I could pass it on to you. Here it is:

Dog biscuits, ready for the oven.

HOMEMADE DOG BISCUITS

6 pieces of bacon
2 eggs
½ cup milk
½ cup chicken (or beef) broth
½ cup peanut butter
½ cup grated cheddar cheese (optional)
3 tablespoons chia seeds (or you could use ground flax)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup white flour
½ cup wheat germ
2 cups wheat flour

Heat the oven to 325 degrees.
Brown the bacon, saving the grease. Chop the bacon into small pieces and place it and the grease in a large bowl. A stand mixer works best for this because it will be a heavy dough.
Add the eggs, milk, broth, peanut butter, cheese, and chia seeds to the bowl and mix well.
Add the baking powder, white flour, and wheat flour to the bowl and mix until combined. The dough should hold together. If it is crumbly, add a little more broth. If it is too sticky, add a little more wheat flour.
Roll dough out to desired thickness and cut with a cookie cutter. Place on cookie sheet (you don’t need to leave space between biscuits – they won’t get larger) and bake for one hour. Reduce heat to 225 degrees F. Bake for another hour, or until the biscuits are very hard. Allow to cool completely before storing.

Cutting out dog biscuits.

What’s a day in the kitchen without a flour fight? Then a dip in the kiddie pool while Grandma finished cutting out and baking dog biscuits, followed by a bath so the paste didn’t harden and turn their heads into pinatas, and of course…washing dishes.

Flour fight!!!

The not-so-fun part of cooking and baking…DISHES!

I want these girls to love creating wonderful messes in the kitchen, but I’m not a very good mentor. I don’t have half the patience I did when my children were young, and have to really work at not taking over (“Here, let Grandma help you”) when I see a bit of egg shell falling in the bowl, or a wobbly hand measuring flour into a bowl. Cooking with the girls confirms the reason I always scoot people out of my kitchen – it’s nearly impossible for me to follow a recipe or plan my next move when anyone is talking to me,or singing or dancing or whining or giggling or fighting or…well, I’m sure you understand.

Raspberry Pie

 

This is speed writing at its best, so don’t expect me to be clever and charming. My two young granddaughters are here for a couple of weeks and there is little time to sit and write, but we did find time to make this yummy pie for a friend’s housewarming party.

Raspberry pie, decorated for a housewarming party.

8 year old Sophie couldn’t quite get the hang of the pastry blender, so we used our (clean) fingers to blend the shortening into the flour. Also, I didn’t take time to chill the pie crust pastry, and we were working at mach speed, but we were still tickled with the results. I’m sure Martha Stewart wouldn’t have dripped any raspberry juice on the top crust, and Paula Deen would have used lard instead of shortening, but you have to admit it looks appetizing.

 

Crust components for my pie.

For the house we pressed pie dough into a mold I use for chocolate houses at Christmas, and created a lattice crust. For the lattice, I drew a circle a little bigger than the pie pan on the counter with a pencil, put a piece of waxed paper over the circle, and wove the dough, then trimmed it to size. Hearts around the house instead of the lattice would have been cute, and much easier. Of course, we thought of that after the pie came out of the oven. Oh well.

I love to create designs and scenes in pie crust. Here are pictures of two pies I’ve made using that technique. The pie with the farm scene won a blue ribbon at the fair, even though the little pig in the center started sinking into the “mud” on the drive to the fairgrounds, and was just barely sticking his snout out by the time we got there. Maybe it was cuter that way!

Scenic pie crust.

Farm scene on a huckleberry pie. (Use the raspberry pie recipe, but swap out huckleberries if you’re lucky enough to find a lot of them!)

My go-to pie crust recipe has been around forever. It goes by different names, but is usually called “Never Fail Pie Crust.” I usually have a psychological need to prove that I am inept enough to screw up anything that says it’s foolproof, but this recipe actually is a gem – and turns out flaky every time, even when I’ve had to re-roll it.

Never Fail Pie Crust
(makes 2 crusts)

1 cup chilled shortening
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vodka (or vinegar if you prefer)
1/4 cup milk

Mix flour and salt in medium bowl. Cut in the shortening until it looks like coarse crumbs.

Mix vodka into milk. Combine all at once into flour mixture.

This can be rolled into crusts immediately, or flattened into disks and placed between sheets of plastic wrap and chilled first in the refrigerator.

Raspberry Pie

Pastry for two pie crusts
5 cups raspberries
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup MINUTE tapioca, preferably ground in a coffee or spice grinder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Milk to brush on the pastry
Coarse sugar crystals (optional)

Roll out half of the pastry dough and place it in a pie pan. Fold the edge under, flute it, and place the pan in the refrigerator. Roll out the other half of the dough and form it into strips for a lattice crust, or cut out shapes to “float” on top of the pie. Get creative here! Refrigerate.

In a large bowl, combine the raspberries, sugar, tapioca, salt, cinnamon, and lemon juice and let the mixture sit for 15 minutes to soften the tapioca.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Remove the pie pan from the refrigerator and pour the berry mixture into it.
Top with your dough designs. Brush with a little milk and sprinkle with sugar crystals, if desired.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees F and continue cooking for approximately 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Let it cool to lukewarm, then serve with a little vanilla ice cream. Do the happy dance!

I have to admit that I’m not a real fan of pies, which is probably why I am just now discovering how much fun they are to make. It’s been all about cakes and cookies for me because that’s what I love to eat, and because my crusts were always hit-and-miss…not exactly inspired. I usually opted for a crunchy streusel topping if I did make a pie, because I couldn’t trust myself to make an edible (or attractive) top crust. If you have the same concerns, try this pie crust and watch your confidence soar!

On my next blog, the kids are going to take over the kitchen. Yikes.