Sunday, August 10, 2008

“O, It’s a Jolly Holiday with you, Bert”

DH likes English food. When I was in graduate school, my family lived in Cheltenham for three years. When we would visit, DH was in culinary heaven. “Bring on the bangers and mash,” he’d exclaim at breakfast. At lunch, I’d hear “More fish and chips, guvner?” in what was presumably an English accent: (Think Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins).*

He knows his Anglophilia puts him in the minority, but he also harbors an interesting theory (that quite a few folks may find mildly offensive). He believes there are profound similarities between the Southern food he ate as a child and English cuisine. I see some truth in what he says—if you focus on the overcooked veggies and the predilection for frying. Southern food, of course, has some roots in traditional British cuisine, but it also has an amazing range and richness due to its African, Caribbean, and New World influences.

There is one sphere where the Brits and Southerners do compete for excellence—in the quixotic world of quick bread. What regional cuisine can top the perfect biscuit? None.

But the Scottish-derived Scone provides its own incomparable pleasures.

DH loves to read Jane Austen, Jasper Fforde (Welsh, I know), and Dick Francis. He (very annoyingly) prefers the British pronunciation of “schedule,” “niche,” and “clientele.” And he adores high tea. He has said, and this is a direct quotation: “I would love to roll around in a vat of Devon cream.” (It must be my good fortune that the clotted stuff is terribly difficult to obtain state-side).

This morning we woke to rain. We couldn’t take our usual walk to Southern Village for croissants and coffee. And what’s more evocative of the British Isles than rain? So it was the ideal day to make my favorite scone recipe. I usually prepare these with dried apricots, but today I used dried cranberries. While plain scones are best served with loads of Devon cream and jam, these are sweet and fruity enough to eat on their own. Eat them warm from the oven. Then eat them later in the day, toasted with butter.

Cranberry Scones

(adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe)

2 cups all purpose flour

¼ cup packed golden brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces

2/3 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup dried cranberries

1 large egg, beaten for glaze

Brown sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix first five ingredients in large bowl. Add butter; rub in with fingers or pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Make well in center of mixture. Add sour cream and vanilla. Using fork, stir sour cream mixture into dry ingredients until dough forms. Turn onto lightly floured surface. Kneed in cranberries until incorporated (about 10 turns). Flatten into 8-inch round. Cut into 8 wedges.

Transfer wedges onto baking sheet. Brush with egg. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

So if your partner says, “Kippers for breakfast again, Aunt Helga?” in his “Bart Simpson-does-a-British -accent” (as mine does on a semi-regular basis), you can say: “Nope. But we are on schedule to satisfy the Anglo niche of our clientele. We have scones.”

*If I were British, I'd be included on this blog:

No comments: