With Halloween fast approaching, the images of ghosts and witches are becoming ever-present on our cultural stage. And for me, this time of year brings to mind three very special witchy figures from literary history: the wyrd sisters of Macbeth. For this week’s breakfast excavation, then, we’re aiming our shovels at the land of Macbeth to dig up a recipe for scones, an “ancient” pastry that combines Scotland’s heritage with our own local, seasonal ingredients!
Searching for Scones
Like many cultural recipes, the exact origins of the scone have not been determined; however, literary evidence (in the form of a Scottish poem from 1531) lead most food archeologists to believe that this pastry did originate in the British isles. With the invention of the scone falling well before the widespread use of baking powder (an acid-base combo that puffs up pastry, much like yeast does for bread), the original scone would have been similar to a flatbread. Because oven technology was not yet widespread in Western cultures, the earliest scones were baked on griddles, producing a round “bannock.” These bannocks were then cut into triangular wedges, the shape we most often see in our modern scones.
Making the Modern Scone
When ovens became more popular in the British Isles (most likely in the 18th century, when cast iron stoves became more common in European kitchens), the modern practice of cutting scones into triangles before baking was developed. The final ingredient for making the light, airy scone most often enjoyed today was developed and marketed in the late 19th century by August Oetker, a German inventor who solidified baking powder’s place in the home kitchen. Even with the modernization of scone production, the making of scones is still considered a highly cultural practice, leading many descendants of traditional scone makers to rely on family recipes instead of those found commercially.
To honor this practice, I decided to create my own scone recipe to share with you, in order to honor the Scottish tradition and incorporate ingredients from my hometown. As this is my first time making scones (and the first time to test this particular recipe), I assure you that the recipe that follows is meant to serve as a jumping off point for experimentation. So, just as I will continue modifying this recipe in the future, please feel free to make your own changes and adaptations in order to create the scone that fits into your individual cultural tradition!
Pumpkin Scones with Apple Butter Glaze
Ingredients for Scones
2 1/2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
2 Tablespoons white sugar
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
6 Tablespoons of cold butter
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup half and half (or heavy cream)
Ingredients for Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons apple butter
2 Tablespoons half and half
Directions for Scones
- Preheat your oven for 425 F / 220 C
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and salt until well blended
- Add the cold butter the flour and spice mixture, and cut the butter in until there are no large chunks remaining (a pastry cutter or fork works best for this)
- In a small bowl, mix together the pumpkin, egg, and half and half
- Pour the wet ingredients into the flour/butter mixture and stir to combine
- On a clean, floured surface, form the dough into a rectangle, and, with a sharp knife, cut the rectangle into equal squares. Cut each square in half diagonally to form two triangles. For more traditional scones, form the dough into a circle and cut the circle into equal, triangular wedges.
- Transfer the scones to a baking tray lined with parchment paper and bake for 15 minutes, or until the scones are golden brown. When finished, allow the scones to completely cool on a wire rack.
Directions for Glaze
- While the scones are cooling, combine the powdered sugar, apple butter, and half and half in a small bowl. Stir until the mixture is smooth.
- When the scones are completely cool, brush the glaze onto the scones and allow to dry.
- Enjoy a taste of Scottish history and seasonal ingredients!
As always, thanks for stopping by for this week’s breakfast excavation! I hope to see you this Saturday for a rather nutty experiment!