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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Lemon Cherry Scones with a Sense of Humor and a Purpose

Have you ever had one of those moments where you say, "Oh my God, this is all I have ever wanted in a scone" and it has scarcely more than 100 calories? Yeah, me neither. Until now. This recipe became an instant classic in our home. And if that scone looks a bit strange, perhaps a bit suggestive to you, no need to adjust the dial on your internet. It is supposed to look suggestive. This is a scone with a sense of humor and a purpose. I baked these scones to support a team walking in the Avon Breast Cancer walk in Chicago, an event that raised a whopping $9.1 million this year. A very dear friend of mine, L., was treated for aggressive breast cancer last year. Several women I know decided to get together and form a team to walk for the breast cancer walk. So I went to cheer them on, and was incredibly moved by the experience. It was the public airing of a thousand personal scars. It was mourning and triumph and remembrance wrought on the moving canvas of 4000 men and women walking.

Read more about the experience of the Breast Cancer Walk or skip to the scones recipe.

Breast Cancer Walk

My friend L cheered on the walkers, and occasionally joined in walking with the team for stretches. She was still thin from the lingering affects of her treatment. It was a public venue where she stood, utterly exposed as an unreconstructed breast cancer survivor. And in that wash of support and camaraderie there was a state of grace and belongingness. At one point an older woman, alone and also unreconstructed, walked by where we were stationed at one of the designated cheering points. As she walked, she looked around at the groups of cheering supporters all around her and her face crumpled into the most poignant expression of pain and sorrow and gratefulness that I have ever seen. L and I collapsed into each other, our faces a mirror of this kindred stranger's. We were both swept up in the public expression of this lone survivor's emotional experience.

I was not prepared for how emotional I would feel. After we drove up to the cheering station, I sat in the car and balled my eyes out for a few minutes before I could even go and cheer. Even after I regained my composure small moments of great poignancy would send me back on an emotional roller coaster. A man passed with a shirt that said "I walk for my wife Nance." He was walking alone. Little girls stood near us misting the passing walkers and wearing shirts that said "My mom is a walker." Scores of survivors passed in their distinctive hot pink hats. Some reconstructed, some not. Some old, some young. People walked for the men, women, mothers and daughter and friends in their lives who had been touched by breast cancer.

But there was also a lot of levity. Our team sported the bird-innuendo "Save the Boobies" above a quizzical looking blue footed boobie bird. This was just one among many playful references to breasts. Many people walked with "Team Ta-Tas," The Ta-Ta Sisterhood, and the "Yes Mamms" (for mammary glands). Dozens walked with a bright pink shirt that said "I support these" with the drawing of two hands cupped under the chest area of the shirt. One man, who could have passed for a Harley rider under different circumstances, wore a pale pink tutu and carried a glittery wand. This self-proclaimed "boobie fairy" has walked alone for years in remembrance of his fiance, who died of breast cancer.

As our team walked past us, I knew they had 12 more miles to go that day, and another half marathon to walk after they woke up on Sunday. It was somehow metaphoric for the process of chemotherapy itself: to do an impossibly hard thing today, and then get up and do it again tomorrow.

My friend and I made plans to get up early so we could cheer the walkers as they wound their way through our East Roger's Park neighborhood. But I also wanted to make a little something to cheer our team up as they headed into the home stretch. And somehow in the convoluted space of my brain I thought: scones shaped like breasts!

They were originally going to be a more traditional cranberry orange scone. But when I got to the grocery store at 10PM the darn oranges were $1.50 EACH. I looked at my husband. "I am not paying that for one stinking orange." We had lemons at home, we had dried cherries. Just putting the two ideas together in my head tasted good. I posed the combo to my husband who said skeptically, "I'm not so sure. You probably shouldn't tinker with it. It might be too sour or something." To which I boldly said, "Ha!" and went about tinkering anyway.

Lemon Cherry Scones

by The Skinny Gourmet (E. McDonnell)
*I prefer a lemony scone, so I would recommend zest from a lemon that is only slightly smaller than a woman's fist. Additionally, zest varies in its potency. If you scratch the skin, you should get a strong scent of lemon. If you have a small or less potent lemon, I would recommend using zest from 1.5 lemons

1.75 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2.5 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup milk
zest from one lemon (pref organic)*
quick squeeze of lemon juice (about 1/2 teaspoon)
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup dried cherries

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl: flour, salt, sugar and zest. 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 the extract to the milk, stirring to combine, and then add the milk to the bowl along with the squeeze of lemon juice. Mix to form a sturdy dough that just holds together. Add cherries.

Press into a disc and divide into portions. I cut the disc into size and then divided each portion in half again to get 12 servings.

If preparing regular scones, roll each gently into a ball and place on a baking stone or parchment lined cookie sheet. If preparing the "boobie" variation, sculpt appropriately. To get the best look, you may want to divide each portion into two, roll them into spheres, and then press them together in the middle.

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 (but they've never lasted that long in our house, cause they are too good).


Peter M said...

Congrats on your RFJ win...I voted at the last minute...but for whom? ;)

Erin said...

Peter you tease. It was really a lot of fun to participate in the joust. I have to admit I was all geeked out and excited to find out that I was in a tie for first. I just might have compulsively checked the voting results as the time ticked down. It was a close one with lots of good competition!

hope you enjoy the ingredients I picked. Perhaps some fascinating Greek take on them?

Laura said...

Yum, these look fabulous. And what a great cause too.

Prudy said...

Great scones, great cause. The salad below looks insanely good.

toontz said...

My favorite scone of all time is dried cherry. Never thought to put lemon in mine, though. I will definitely try it next time!

I love your choice of ingredients for the next Joust. I haven’t come up with a recipe yet. Just did apricot-pecan scones for another event, so I will have to get my thinking cap on.

I used to live in Rogers Park! I loved it there!

Kevin said...

Those scones look good! Dried cherries are one of my favorites and I hardy need an excuse to try something new with them. :)

Erin @ The Skinny Gourmet said...

Laura and Trudy, definitely great scones and a great cause. I've made them twice since then (this is embarassing to admit, because it hasnt been that long) without the novelty twist to them. And Trudy I'm glad to see the salad caught your eye. Its devilishly tempting in those photos eh?

Toonz and Kevin: hooray for drief cherries. I bought a big bag of them and have been experimenting with them (to my great joy) ever since. And yes, lemon is a divine pairing. my mix of dried cherries has three different varieties of dried cherry, but they all tend to be sweet, rather than sour, cherries. I imaginesour cherries would pair better with a more basic almond flavor without the citrus.

Toonz, Rogers Parks?! Small world. Where are you at now? When did you leave? the area has really been changing (gentrifying) recently, but along with that have come some nice higher end dining opportunities. And does this also mean you understand my fanatic devotion to Devon Market?

katiez said...

Wonderful scones - and I always choose lemon over orange.
What a wonderful peak into the Breast Cancer Walks. They weren't around (or, at least, not big) before we left the U.S. so I've never been or participated. I do have a pink sweatshirt - that I wear here to very curious looks. Maybe I could start something... must ponder that!

kirby! said...

hahahaha boobie scones, awesome.

rpglegal said...

Absolutely lovely scone recipe... although they have to be baby sized to get 12.. I could only really do 8. I used Whole wheat pastry flour and they were tremendous and easy. Your garlic,Romano oven fries are on my list next.

La Muse said...

I tried this recipe this morning because my boyfriend loves scones and I have some lingering fresh cherries that we bought last week. I used about 1 cup of the fresh instead of dried and they came out great. Thanks for the recipe!

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