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Monday, May 19, 2008

Taste and Create: Old Fashioned Irish Raisin Spice Scones

If you are looking for a healthy scone, it doesn't get much healthier than this. It isn't fancy, and if you are accustomed to those big butter, big calorie scones sold at American cafes, you may find this old fashioned scone a bit humble. This is the brawny, salt-of-the-earth peasant scone to Starbuck's high maintenance cosmopolitan diva. It is a dense scone when compared to its butter-rich counterparts. It has a mild flavor that is more "floury" than "buttery." But this recipe was first written at a time when butter and sugar were still luxuries that were used preciously.

It took me a while to figure out how I really feel about these scones. I am in love with the history of the recipe--which was handed down in a handwritten book from an Irish mother to her blogging Irish daughter Ruth (of Ruth's Kitchen Experiments). The post is even titled My Wee Mummy's Scones. I mean, how can you not be a little in love with that? Though my head was in love, my tastebuds were unsure. My initial taste reaction when I first tried one was that it didn't quite pack enough "oomph." My tastebuds are selfish little guys who have been totally duped by those sugary, buttery versions at the cafe.

However, over the week that they sat in a container on my countertop, I found myself returning to these little scones pretty regularly when I was looking for a convenient snack that was hardy enough to be satisfying. When you eat one, you have the sense that you have actually "eaten," compared to the "oh well I had better stop now but I still feel peckish" sensation that most convenient snack foods can produce (chips, pretzels etc).

I came across this recipe thanks to Taste and Create, a blogger exchange that invites food bloggers to prowl through each other's recipes, recreate one, and blog about the experience. I know how hard I work to put together original recipes, so I always take these exchanges fairly seriously. I want to try to recreate the recipe as faithfully as possible, and avoid all temptation of the "epicurious syndrome" where people comment on a recipe but they have made so many of their own deviations and variations that it is no longer really the original recipe at all. Judging from the picture on her website, I'd say mine turned out pretty much exactly as intended.

As an academic I am ultra-sensitive to issues of attribution and intellectual property, and so normally I would not reproduce the recipe on my site, I would just direct you to the original recipe. However, the original recipe is all in weights (ounces or grams), and most of my readers are Americans who use volumetric recipes (cups or tablespoons). So I have reproduced the volumetric recipe from the original below (using the spice variation).

I don't know if I would make these again in the exact same way, but the healthy and sturdy characteristics make this recipe an interesting base to begin experimenting from. I am including my inclination for what I would do differently next time as well below, along with the Nutritional Information so you can see how healthy these little guys are.

Original Recipe: My Wee Mummy's Scones.

Volumetric Recipe Adaptation

Makes 12 scones

1.75 cups all-purpose flour
2.5 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 tablespoons caster sugar
2.75 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 cup milk
1 ounce (a loose 1/3 cup) raisins

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Rub in butter (this is a delightful process of really getting your hands dirty and it works just like it sounds. Plunge your hands in there and rub the butter and dry ingredients together with your fingers until well combined). Add milk and mix to form a sturdy dough that just holds together. Add in raisins. Press into a disc and roll out. Using a circular biscuit cutter or the mouth of a glass, cut out 12 scones. You may need to press together scraps and roll out again in order to get all 12.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Store in an air-tight container for up to five days (or at least that's how long they lasted at my house before I ate that last one).

Nutritional Information (per serving): 114 calories, 2.9 grams fat, 20.1 total carbs, 0.7 grams fiber.

Thoughts for Next Time

1.5 cups flour
1/4 cup wheat bran
2.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
4 tablespoons sugar
3.5 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 (generous) teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1.5 ounces raisins

I like the idea of working from this healthy old fashioned base, but I would probably experiment next time around to add some more flavor elements and perhaps work towards a more rich crumb. I have been thinking about perhaps roasting the flour (a la molecular gastronomy) for enhanced flavor. I'm also toying in my head with whether some citrus zest would be a good way to pump up the flavor without losing the old fashioned (minimal butter and sugar) appeal of these scones. I've also been thinking eagerly about a more savory adaptation of the basic scones recipe here, maybe something with a base for a tasty tea sandwich? yes I think so.


Anonymous said...

i love delving into the history of recipes too :) they always have some pretty nice stories behind 'em. lovely photo. great colour of your scones too. mmmm.

kellypea said...

Stick with them. You are so right about our being accustomed to those humongous "stones" we purchase at bakery counters. The first time I tried a "real" scone recipe, I noticed the lack of sweetness, too, but a bit of nice jam fixes that right up! Your little ones look delicious!

Ruth Strong said...

Your scones look fab!!!! Love the mix of the spices and the raisins. I'm so glad to hear you liked them... I'll have to pass on your thoughts to Mum now.


PS I've picked out a recipe to recreate from your blog, just haven't had time to make it yet, but I'm hoping tomorrow will be the day... I'm running out of time! lol

Erin said...

Diva, I agree, stories add a lot to a recipe. And glad to hear you liked the photo. I was pretty pleased with myself too. I am a novice food photographer and scarcely a food stylist, so I'm always pleased when something comes out well.

Kelly, I'm sure jam would have been great with these as well. I think I'll be experimenting more with heathful and more traditional scone recipes in the future.

Ruth, I'm so glad to hear they look good to you. I was so excited to make them and only later felt like I was treading (softly) on hallowed ground when making someone's mum's recipe.

Anonymous said...

Roasting the flour. Now I'm intrigued. I'm going to have to do some research on that now. Thanks for the insight and the recipe adaptation inspiration. :)

LisaRene said...

I love scones and am a bit addicted :) This recipe seems to be in-between a scone and biscuit. I find it intriguing that scones and biscuits are all comprised of the same few ingredients and that by adding 1 T more of this or 2 tsp less of that you get a totally different result!

These sound like they would be ideal embellished with a bit of jam :)

Anonymous said...

I was just heading down to your royal foodie joust entry, until this post caught my attention. You see, I have a problem with scones. I have an unexplainable obsession with them. One that's ruining my waist line. So I love the idea that these are less sugar and butter oriented than the usual scone. And, I might toy with this base as well.

Dana said...

These look awesome. I hate the mammoth scones they sell these days -- they're just way too much. These look perfect!

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