By Hyacinth Miles

I never really understood the point of scones. Despite the bourgeois appeal of the name, which I admit has a more sophisticated sound than say, biscuits and gravy, I was, after all raised in the South. We prefer our bread products to not break windows, thank you very much.

But the platonic ideal of scones, crumbly on the outside and moist on the inside, served with a pot of tea, marmalade, and possibly a dairy product unavailable in the United States, has a definite appeal. So when my friend Greg, baker extraordinaire came to visit I was more than willing to learn the error of my ways.

What followed was nothing short of a revelation. In fact, Greg’s scones exceed my platonic idea in every way, except the fact that we ate them leaning against the cabinets in my tiny kitchen and not sitting in an atmospheric thatched roof cottage looking out on a well-manicured garden.

So as Greg was on the way to the airport I mugged him and stole this recipe. Or, well, no. Actually he gave the recipe quite calmly, relaxed in his confidence that no one this side of the Atlantic could make scones as well as he.

Which might be right, but I think we should have a go just the same. It turns out it’s not really that difficult, though it is harder than popping open a can of Pillsbury biscuits. Take 2 cups all-purpose baking flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 or 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/3 teaspoon salt. Sift the flour, then combine these dry ingredients. Cut in one stick of butter and mix with your hands until it has a crumbly texture. Stir in 3/4 cup of buttermilk. Add dried fruit or chocolate chips to taste.

The dough should have a firm consistency when the mixing is complete. Try not to over handle it, since this will make the scones tough. Roll the dough out into a single piece about an inch and a half thick. Cut the dough with a knife in diagonal cuts so that little triangles are formed. Place the triangles on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

It turns out that scones have quite a cult following in the United States. When I was in Japan, a friend coined the term “tortured sushi,” meaning any sushi made in America that contained ingredients that would never be found in sushi in Japan, say broccoli, or mayonnaise, or cheese.

Looking at the recipe web sites with page after page of scone variations, I am having dark thoughts about tortured scones. Some of the recipes are delicious, for instance the Ginger Scones (included below) that give Greg’s scones a run for his money.

But other scone recipes are just wrong. Peanut Butter was mentioned more than once, so was corn meal (corn meal?) I found several recipes for oatmeal scones, granola scones, wheat germ scones, and even whole wheat, low fat scones. Whole wheat, low fat scones? This defeats the whole purpose of scones. What it’s about is the crusty, crumbly, white-flour, high-carb, full-buttered goodness. Here’s an idea, America: when you want to eat healthy, how about eating something healthy (and then having dessert) and not wasting time and energy trying to make something unhealthy good for you. A little common sense might be in order here.

If you’re not ready to tackle the baking, authentic scones are available at many local outlets including the authentic English ones served at Scarborough Fare and Greentree Tearoom. n