So your invitation to the royal wedding got lost in the mail, too? Don’t fret. Live coverage of the April 29 nuptials is to commence in the wee morning hours for most of the United States, which is a fine time to settle in front of the telly with a basketful of freshly baked scones.
Really. Traditional British cream scones come together in minutes (you can even measure the ingredients the night before). They bake in the time it will take an attendant to fasten all the buttons on Kate Middleton’s gown.
Scones are Scottish in origin, but quickly caught on throughout the British Isles, and the subsequent Empire. Their delicate, not-too-sweet character welcomes the addition of dried fruit such as the traditional currants, but also raisins, dried cherries or even our own colonial invention, dried cranberries.
Having said that, don’t let the presence of currants persuade you that scones in any way contribute to your two to four daily servings of fruit.
The truth is that scones are a bit naughty, since the best are made with cream. If consumed willy-nilly, they’re not conducive to wearing the sort of sheer frock that Kate once modeled for a charity fashion show, rendering the prince officially smitten.
Successful scones are the essence of simplicity, relying on two important concepts: One, thoroughly whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt to avoid any pockets of bitter baking powder once baked. And two, stir in the cream until everything is well-moistened, but don’t overmix.
Because of their tendency to spread while baking, scones go into a hot 400-degree oven for a few minutes to set the dough, then finish baking in reduced heat until they’re just golden. With a pot of tea — or, let’s face it, at that hour of the morning coffee is acceptable — you’ll be set from the arrival of the carriage to the waves from the balcony.
A final note: The word “scone” does not rhyme with “Sloane” (as in Ranger) but with “gone,” which is what these quick breads will be before you know it.
CREAM SCONES WITH CURRANTS
Note: Scones without the currants make a terrific base for strawberry shortcake.
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ cup currants (or other dried fruit)
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
Milk for brushing
Decorative, or sparkling, sugar
Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place rack in middle position. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or spray with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, thoroughly whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in currants until evenly distributed. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the cream. Stir until everything is moistened and a soft dough is formed.
Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured counter and knead a few times, shaping it into a fat log about 8 inches long. Cut in two, then gently shape each half into a smooth disk about 1 inch thick. With a sharp knife or bench scraper, cut each disk into four pieces.
Arrange the 8 scones on the baking sheet, leaving as much room as possible between them. Brush with milk, then sprinkle with sugar.
Place in the oven and bake for 7 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 15 minutes longer. Let cool a bit on a wire rack, then serve.