It's an easy thing to say that scones are my favorite quick bread to bake at home. They are incredibly simple, always delicious and the variations are endless. Scones are also one of my least favorite things to buy because they are so often disappointing. Store bought versions tend to be enormous and strangely dry. They crumble to sawdust on the palate and they are either overly sweet or lacking in any real flavor at all. A home baked scone is an entirely different animal. It requires no advance planning since the majority of the ingredients can be found in your average pantry and it can be easily adapted to a wide range of ingredients, both sweet and savory as the mood desires.
Scones have a long history in Europe with versions found in Scotland, England, Ireland, Germany (schonbrot), and Holland (schoonbrot), long before they crossed the ocean and became popular here in America. The most common and my favorite tale is that scones were created in Scotland and that the word scone is derived from the "Scone (stone) of Destiny", also known as the "Coronation Stone" and the "Stone of Scone" in Scotland. The stone itself has a fascinating history which lends its allure to the humble quick bread. Legend dates the Stone of Destiny back to biblical times and claims that it is the stone which Jacob used as his pillow in Bethel. Jacob's sons may have carried it to Egypt. Jewish history chronicles that the stone was used as the pedestal for the Ark, a chest which contained the tablets of the Ten Commandments in the temple. Theoretically it moved from Egypt to Spain to Ireland to Scotland. It's Celtic name is Lia Fail or the "Speaking Stone" and it was believed that the stone proclaimed the kings of Scotland and no king could be crowned who had not sat upon the stone. It remained in Scotland until it was forcibly taken by the English King Edward I, the "Hammer of the Scots" and moved to Westminster Abbey in 1296. The stone was built into the coronation chair which has been used to crown every king and queen of England since the coronation of Edward II. The stone was finally removed from the chair and returned to Scotland on November 30, 1996. Of course there are tales of the monks replacing the stone before it was stolen by Edward. In 1950 the stone was abducted from Westmister by the Scottish Nationalists and subsequently returned. Because of these stories there is some controversy as to whether or not the stone which lies in Edinburgh Castle is the actual stone and the mystery and wonder simply enhance the aura surrounding the stone.
The original scones are believed to have been made with oat or barley flours, shaped in a circle, baked on a griddle and cut into pie slices. Eventually they were made using wheat flour and bicarbonate of soda for leavening. Nowadays scones are usually baked in the oven and made with white flour. The best examples are light and moist with a crumbly texture and lightly sweet flavor.
This morning I had a craving for something sweet and warm for breakfast. There was a bit of pistachio praline in the cupboard and a bag white wheat flour in the pantry. The obvious solution was a quick batch of scones. I added a bit of candied ginger and tiny pinch of cinnamon for heat and spice to round out the flavors. By the time the oven hit 375 degrees the scones were ready to bake. We were breaking bread in half an hour.
1 1/2 cups white wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
2 ounces cold butter, 1/4" dice
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons diced candied ginger
1/4 cup coarsely crushed pistachio brittle (substitute pistachios or any other nut if you don't have brittle)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder cinnamon and sugar or pulse in a food processor to blend. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add the milk all at once and gently mix or pulse in food processor until the mixture just comes together as a crumbly dough. Turn the dough out onto the counter and sprinkle with ginger and brittle. Using a bench scraper, fold the ginger and nuts into the dough. Pat the dough into a 6-inch round and cut into eighths with the bench scraper. Place on a foil or silicone lined sheet tray (the sugar will run) and bake 7 minute, rotate and bake for another 7-10 minutes until golden brown. Let rest for five minutes before eating.