Monday, October 4, 2010

Apples, Scotland, and the Fine Line Between Rocks and Cakes

Fall has clearly arrived, which mean that hundreds of thousands of people living in "heat-included" apartments across Chicago are entering that period where things are cold, but not cold enough for the landlord to turn on the radiators. My solution has always been to use the oven more--in the case of this lovely weekend, scones were in order. I've always been torn--I feel that traditionally, scones fall more on the biscotti side of the richness/softness/tenderness scale of baked goods. By which I mean to say, they are eaten with something else--be it clotted cream, jam, or a hot cup of coffee--and are thus a bit drier than some other pastries.
But these days, people want to be impressed in a single shot, sacrificing the harmony of complementary foods--so many times, scones are baked to be eaten alone, like a muffin, and they then become much softer and richer than perhaps they were before. Which isn't to say they were ever light--butter and cream prevent that--but you've gotta consider that since the name comes from The Stone of Destiny, a/k/a The Stone of Scone, a rock where Scottish kings were crowned, scones had some pretty dense beginnings.
Me, I try to find some common ground. I like a good flaky scone--a texture acquired by using cold butter, creating layers of flour and fat that separate while in the oven, made a touch softer with cream and the occasional egg. But don't over do it with the egg and turn it into a cake. Put some good nuggets in it, some dried cherries or cranberries, or the traditional currants, and eat it with a dollop of Devon cream or good jam. Be sure to brush the top with cream and dust it with a chunky sugar. This weekend, I served it with a big, fat slice of double smoked pork rib belly from Gene' some of this now! Cheaper than the garbage Oscar Meyer is peddling, cleaner for sure, and mind blowingly delicious. Plus, grab a nice apple from your friendly farmer, or better yet, go apple picking. No wax, beautiful and unique markings, and if you are picking them yourself, plenty of that great fall air. Way better than sitting inside that cold Chicago apartment all day.