cherry scones a-yum-yum

I finally did it–I mastered the mysterious microwave/toaster/oven contraption in my kitchen! It is now no longer a derelict object collecting crumbs and dust on my refrigerator; instead, I’ve given it a good cleaning and fiddled with every button and setting it has. Without food inside, of course.

Although my first attempt at baking with the microwave oven was a dismal disappointment (I’ve never made a more unsatisfactory batch of cookies–burnt, flat, and dry), I told myself that with some research, experimentation, and a willingness to possibly fail again, I would give it another go. And so, with all of the above Ganbare attitude I could muster, I  ended up spending a lovely Thursday evening making a batch of my favorite stand-by baked good: scones.

The recipe for these scones is one of my absolute favorites. I’ve had it for almost seven years, given to me by the mother of a close friend in high school. They were a staple in her kitchen, and now they’re a fixed part of my cooking repetoir. I can’t think of how many times I’ve thrown together a batch as a last-minute dessert or thank-you gift. And in all the years I’ve had the recipe, and despite the countless times I’ve made it, I’ve hardly changed a thing. Although I did have to make some unavoidable substitutions the other night due to a decided lack of buttermilk in Japanese supermarkets (or at least my inability to read the labels >.<). But all it took was 1/2 cup of plain yogurt instead of buttermilk, and in fact, I found that the scones turned out even more moist and golden than with buttermilk. Possibly healthier too… But more than anything, I think it was my pain-staking blending of the butter (with a regular fork, no less!) that gave the scones a little something extra. Or at least I’d like to think so.

In any case, the oven was working like a charm, and the recipe went over so well, that I was positively beaming by the time I pulled out the last batch and sprinkled them with a final dusting of sugar. I let them cool, and then began on my second favorite part of making scones: gift wrapping! Half of the fun of baking, I think, is the gift-giving aspect. For me, it is such a singular pleasure to send off a collection of golden, crumbly goods to friends, closely followed by giving handwritten notes and cards. Sometimes, I even do both and feel like the world over :) I can only conclude that my absolute delight in giving baked goods to others, combined (hopefully) with their reciprocal enjoyment, is a sure sign of my allotted purpose in this world: Full time scone connoisseur. With ample time for dabbling in all my other interests and persuasions, of course. What’s a baker without her other handicrafts?

These scones, however,  were made with one brief but purposeful aim: to enliven the afternoon coffee break in the office! They were also intended as a thank-you for the incredible washoku lunch the women in the office treated me to the other day. After having managed to artfully yet efficiently package all 16 scones in two very small tin containers, I think the real success of the scones wasn’t just their darling golden countenance, but the true-to-Japanese gift-giving form I managed to pull off. I love the look of the petite triangular scones nestled into the rectangular tin. And the paper accents add a very handsome homemade touch, if I do say so myself :)

I was so excited to bring the twine-entwined tins into work that I promptly handed them over to the Office Lady Higashida-san even before depositing my rain-soaked bags and umbrella. When 1 o’clock finally came, I helped distribute the treats to everyone in my education section of the city hall with tea and coffee. I also stopped by the two neighboring sections to visit the other women who came to lunch yesterday, and thank them with some broken Japanese and the wrapped scones. It made me so happy to finally be able to fully express my gratitude at what these people have done for me. I hadn’t realized how much living without a full-size (and fully comprehensible) oven would affect my sense of self, or how much I would come to depend on baking as a fail-safe trans-lingual means of thanking someone. As it turns out, I can rest easy now thanks to some indispensable advice from a fellow JET denshi-renji baker, and continue wreaking floury havoc on my kitchen :)

Amazing Cherry Scones

1/2 Cup Buttermilk or plain yogurt + 1 TB
1 large egg
3 TB brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 Cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 stick unsalted butter
1/2 Cup dried cherries
Granulated Cane Sugar to finish
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk (or yogurt), egg, brown sugar, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and baking powder. Blend in butter with pastry blender until mixture is like coarse meal. Stir in milk mixture and cherries with fork until sticky dough forms. Knead dough gently on a well-floured surface a few times with hands. Form into a large round, cut into 6ths or 8ths with a knife, and place on a lined baking sheet. Brush scones with buttermilk and sprinkle generously with cane sugar. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden.

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