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December 11, 2011

It’s been a while since I dedicated a Sunday post to the topic of brunch foods. But it’s time to get back on track. Especially since I came to realize how precious little I have said about scones on the FLB. After writing almost every day for over two and a half years (oh my, that’s a lot of Fussy) it’s hard to believe there are any topics I haven’t covered.

The only mentions on the blog of this classic breakfast pastry are that Mrs. London’s has some perfect cream scones (and I don’t use that word lightly), that last year All Good Bakers was offering savory scones as part of their CSB, and that I prefer savory scones to sweeter breakfast treats.

But never have I spelled out what makes a well made scone so good. Never have I flown off the handle about how many scones are just simply awful. And I’ve never told the story about how Mrs. Fussy used to bake scones at a café on the Berkeley/Oakland border many years ago.

All this came flooding back after biting into an amazing scone from a local bakery.

Far too many scones are fat, pale, limp, heavy, sodden, dense pieces of baked dough. Some may be round, others may be triangular, and they can sound great on paper. Heck, they may even look beautiful behind glass. But when you bite into them, you get the distinct impression you are eating something virtuous.

You know what I mean.

When you bite into a croissant, you know it’s decadent. The same goes for a cupcake. Many scones can be dry and almost sandy. And really, given how unremarkable they are, I have to believe people continue to order them is because of some misplaced belief they are good for you. But that’s just not true.

Scones are full of fat and calories, even the bad ones. The good scones, though, are at least worth the hit to the waistline and the arteries. Great scones have a crisp, buttery crust and a rich delicate interior.

Mrs. Fussy once told me the trick is using a lot more butter than you would imagine.

Long ago there was a café in Berkeley beloved for its scones. And for a brief period of time, Mrs. Fussy was one of a few people to know its secret recipe. Regrettably, she never stole it, and thus remains a secret. Although while she was working there, waking up crazy early to bake the scones, I had the opportunity to improve upon them.

It was a great setup because I had to pass the café on the way to work. By the time I was out the door, the first batch of scones was coming out of the oven. I would pop into the backdoor of the bakery, and steal both a kiss and a scone.

My contribution was minor, but significant. After trying the blueberry scone, I mentioned that it would be even better with a bit of lemon zest. And it was. Still, there was nothing I could do about the low-fat white chocolate raspberry scone. That was just a train wreck, but people loved it.

People kill me.

Yesterday though, I had my first really great scone in a long time. It was a savory scone, filled with seasonal flavors of sugar pumpkin and sage. As it so happens, the pumpkin was locally grown, from a small sustainable farm. And on top of that, the butter and buttermilk used in the scone were made by the baker herself from a small local dairy’s vat-pasteurized cream. This could only come from one place.

I’m a tough critic. And while I’m a professed fan of their grilled cheese sandwiches and overall approach to food, this was the first baked good that really made me sit up and pay attention. The crust and the crumb of this scone were fantastic, and all the flavors were in balance. For what it’s worth, Mrs. Fussy thought it was a little on the sweet side for a savory scone, but I enjoy the tension between sweet and savory.

Amazingly, the scone is only $2.50. They may even have some in their shop today. And there you can sit down at a table and enjoy the sunshine coming into the small bakery through the big window.

Better hurry, before they run out.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 11, 2011 12:03 pm

    You might be a bigger romantic than foodie if all you took away from this post was, ” I would pop into the backdoor of the bakery, and steal both a kiss and a scone.”

  2. December 12, 2011 12:47 am

    Nick made our scones for several years (i’ve taken them over now – he has so much more to handle these days) and believe it or not, I didn’t try them for a long time because of a terrible initial experience w/ scones many years previous. I remember the moment in our home kitchen when he finally got me to try one and I couldn’t believe how moist and perfect they were (none of that dry crumb-in-the-back-of-the-throat-choking). He carefully taught me how to make them last year – it’s important to incorporate just the right amount of buttermilk relative to the extra ingredient-moisture level (i.e., less buttermilk because the pumpkin is so moist, more milk w/ dried fruits, etc.). Since I started making them w/ my own butter/milk, I think they have improved dramatically. The taste and texture profiles really are reflected with the particular ingredients used. I tried making my cinnamon buns down South once for family w/ the mediocre materials available and they weren’t nearly as tasty. I am so glad you enjoyed your savory scone! We’ll keep churning out the butter and more seasonal ideas for you to try :)

  3. December 12, 2011 12:55 am

    The comment referenced by Deanna also made my heart melt! You may not post photos regularly, but you created a poignant, romantic, food-centric picture in my mind w/ your sweet recollection of back-door stolen kisses and warm scones during your courtship w/ the Mrs.

  4. December 12, 2011 1:30 am

    I know next to nothing about scones (I have no explanation for this), except that when I was in high school I spent the summer before my junior year in the UK, where I ate my weight in scones every day. I realize that basing all my scone experiences on high tea at Fortnum and Mason is a terrible idea, but even then the scones I ate there seem vastly different from anything I’ve encountered since. Maybe it was all the clotted cream. I don’t know, but I’m making grabby hands and need to get myself over sometime soon to try some of the ones in this post!

  5. December 12, 2011 11:00 am

    Next apple season I suggest you make these. Easy to make, delicious to eat, surprisingly delightful to some (my FIL is rather fussy, and claimed he typically doesn’t like scones, but liked these).

  6. December 12, 2011 5:09 pm

    While I’ll take an AGB scone any day of the week, I must say if you ever get the chance, have High Tea in the Gallery at the Carlyle Hotel in NYC. The scones are especially scrumptious… but the crepe cake that comes after them (or the ludicrous amount of cured salmon that accompanies them) might taint my opinion.

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