Thursday, January 7, 2010

currant scones

Oh January. Poor, poor January. Even though it's bitter cold, I get to see more bellies around this time. So casually, the shirt gets lifted.
"Look at this!" They give the flesh a hateful pinch.
I guess it's the "morning after" quality of January, I don't know. But with the resolutions and the new beginnings, there seems to be, dare I say, a bit of guilt about what has come before to bring us to the moment of resolution.
Now a woman's belly is a magical thing, and not just in its capacity to house a child. The belly not only shrinks and grows with the intricacies of food and water consumption and menstrual cycle, it shrinks and grows with the imagination of the mind.

You know what I'm talking about, right?

I have a friend who swears that her body grows bigger the moment she enters her mother's house. I don't doubt it. And although it took me several painful years to figure this out, my mood has everything to do with how I look in the mirror.

It's not the belly for everyone. Sometimes it's the hips or butt or face. But the belly is special because for so many of us, it has gotten really huge at least once, and that growth has changed it forever. A flat stomach is in the column with all those things that came before, like movies and eating chocolate without hiding it and having sex in the morning.

But I have to tell you something. I've always considered the curve of my belly to be a new feature. I was wrong. A few weeks ago, I found a picture of myself in a bathing suit at eighteen, and I had the same curve. My belly button was an utter stranger to the one I have now, but hey, after the size I was at nine months with Sadie (no one believed I was having only one kid), it seems a miracle that my skin survived at all.

So if these bellies are truly at the whim of our guilt and imagination, I'm thinking that when I say that I'm going to eat healthier, I'm doing that in partnership with my belly, not against. That curve that is part of my body allows space for the organs that keep me alive, and once it grew to house my girls, an idea that I still find miraculous and wild, even after I watched it happen twice. And the girls! Don't even get me started on the girls. I have passed down my genetics to them, the curve of the belly that will be part of their lovely shapes forever. But if I pass down the second glance in the mirror, or the hand over the belly in photos, I will have a hard time forgiving myself for that one. I'm almost there, but I'm going all the way on this one. I'll say here that my belly is an asset, and I have no interest in getting rid of it.
There, I said it.

Here I sat down to tell you about scones, and I've gotten off topic. I guess it is because I was thinking about baking, and how it keeps getting linked with naughty eating.

I think of it differently. To bake at home is to put real, basic ingredients together, to fill your house with warmth and good smells, and to take the time to make something good to eat. I'm not advocating a pie crust every day, but for me, when I bake, I am right there with my food, molding it with my hands, and this is also healthy.
So I wanted to tell you about scones.

Every couple of weeks, I get together with a group of pretty wonderful women. Sometimes we cook and sometimes we knit, although when we knit, I just sit there and pretend and they forgive me for it.
Everyone brings food for lunch, and these are some women who know good food. So yesterday, I made scones.

I don't often make scones, as I'm really more of a muffin girl. But part of me feels like I just haven't found the right recipe. Usually, the right recipe is from this book, so I decided to try out Alice Waters' scones. I had exactly 30 minutes, and the simplicity of the recipe and the lack of butter cutting drew me in.

I was really excited to tell you about this recipe. I took them out of the oven, and as I threw them into a bowl before getting into the car, I shoved one into my mouth and burned the hell out the roof of my mouth.
Even so, it was perfect. Pillowy and light, not too sweet. Filled with air and currants.

I threw them in the car, late for knitting. I knew I the group wouldn't mind that I was late when I walked in with these warm golden scones of perfection.
I ate another one in the car, and it was even better than the first, due to the lack of pain from the burning.
The morning progressed. I pretended to knit. My scones were eaten, and I felt proud. I received compliments, and of course I believed them.

But later in the morning, I had another. Oh, would that I had abstained, and then I could have remained with the illusion of my own scone success! What was once a soft bite of flaky deliciousness was now...
Once currant scones, now currant pellets. I felt the urge to use them in some sort of a sport.

I'm sure that Alice is not at fault. How could she be! Perhaps I overmixed- but I just don't know.

So why am I still telling you about these, despite the pellet nature of the end product. Well, although I considered keeping the whole thing from you, I realized that I had to share the recipe with you, and to tell you that you should absolutely make them.

And eat them immediately.

Or at least within a half an hour. They come together in a moment, and they are perfect if a friend is coming over for tea, or if you need something exciting to feed your children in the afternoon.

These are so, so, so good when they are warm.

I think that you will like them, and so, I give you, the recipe, for:

Make in 30 minutes, Eat in 30 minutes Currant Scones
Adapted from Alice Waters, the Art of Simple Food

2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar plus 1 1/2 tablespoons for sprinkling
1 1/2 cups cream
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup currants

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix together in a large bowl the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and currants. Stir in the cream. Mix until the dough just starts to come together. It will be very sticky. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead a few times, adding more flour to make this possible if the dough is too sticky and liquid-y. Pat the dough into an 8 to 10 inch circle. Brush with the melted butter, and sprinkle with the sugar. Either cut the circle into 8 wedges or use a biscuit cutter to make smaller round scones. Place on a parchment or silicone lined tray and bake for 15 minutes or until golden.


  1. Scones are one of those baked goods that NEVER taste as good as you think they should once they get cold. I don't think it's your fault or Alice's, I think it's just the nature of the beast.

  2. Alana-
    You are such a good writer! The sister post was really pretty, and just reading this one made me feel good about myself. You could cut it down and give it to Sadie as a little letter or something. Oh, wow! You moved me a lot, sister. I'm younger than you, but I'm your sister and I love you. I love you SO much!! And I love your food, no matter how funny it gets once it's cold (except for that not-so-good attempt at chicken stew!!). I love you.

  3. Oops, I forgot, I love your new photo, too!

  4. thanks maia- sisterhood might be mysterious to me, but I sure know I've got a good one....

  5. wow, alana, what a lovely post!
    it got me all misty eyed...
    (and excited to make and eat scones quickly)
    i am so very glad that we are friends!
    love to you

  6. Those look delightful! I'm not sure I can get currants here...could you recommend something in their place?

    It's so fun to get good writing and good cooking in the same post...thanks!

  7. Hi Jolyn! Most things will work here- raisins are ok, or chopped crystallized ginger would be really lovely. If you want to veer from dried fruit in general, a good heaping tablespoon of lemon zest would be great too.

  8. I see this is an old post but wanted to add my 2cents regarding this recipe of Alice's which is a favorite of mine. Dried cranberries are our favorite fruit to add, however fresh strawberries, peaches, and raspberries are also luscious. When eating leftovers, we always re-heat in the oven. I frequently make this recipe for group occassions and am always asked for the recipe. Your photos are lovely!