It’s for cooking, too. Mama helped me make a new kind of scone today, using dried lavender flowers. As in other recipes, we first mixed the dry ingredients. I poured flour and sugar in the big bowl and then dug my hands in there. I felt the difference between how the silky, powdery flour coated my fingers and how the grainy, shimmery sugar slid through them. Mama added the other dry ingredients, and I tried to pick out the lavender flowers. (We got them from my friend Milo’s mama, who ordered them online, but you can get them at stores if you know where to look.) She let me whisk all of it together, but sometimes I used my hands to stir it up.
Then Mama thought it might be better if she mixed the wet ingredients. Because we didn’t have buttermilk, she showed me how to make “sour milk.” She first zested the lemon, since we needed it, then squeezed one-half of it into the cup of milk. That’s it! Then she showed me how to easily dice a stick of butter by using a bench scraper (a knife would work too). Then she gave me the butter cubes to put into the bowl, and I had to taste each one to be sure they were wholesome enough to go into these scones. (Mama tried getting a picture of me licking the butter wrapper, but I was too quick for her!)
After all the butter was in the dough—another new word I can say!—Mama showed me how to work the pastry cutter, a funny looking tool that has a handle. It was a lot of work, so I let her do most of it. (She told me scones can be done in the big mixer, then you don’t have to work as hard.) Then we played with the dough, smooshing the flour into the butter. Mama then poured in the sour milk and let me stir it all.
Then she took a handful of flour and threw it on the counter! It was wonderful. I spread it all over, and then some. Mama turned the bowl over, pulling the broken dough out onto the flour. She and I then squished and patted and pounded it until it formed one solid mass. Then we patted it some more.
Mama said we really shouldn’t be handling the dough so much because it’s the cold butter that makes scones rise and get all flaky, but we were having fun. (And buttery dough is quite tasty.) She cut the scones with the bench scraper (being careful not to get my fingers as I kept sampling the dough) and put them on baking sheets—not too close together, she warned, because they’re going to spread. She showed me how to brush the tops of the scones with more milk before dusting them with a little bit of sugar.
Into the oven they went. After 7 minutes, she rotated the trays so the one on top was now on the bottom, and she turned them around too, so the backs were now in the front. But silly Mama forgot a basic rule of cooking and baking, which is to trust all your senses. She was so busy making lemon curd (which she decided to do at the last minute since she had an extra lemon), that she didn’t keep an eye (or a nose) on the scones as they baked. When the timer went again after 7 more minutes, she took one look at the scones and knew they were overdone. Not inedible-overdone, just not the perfect level of golden she prefers. All that mattered to me was that I couldn’t wait to eat them. She placed a frittata in front of me for breakfast, but all I could think of were those scones sitting on the counter, cooling. They were right there!
Finally, the moment arrived. I took a sample nibble, and yes, they were good. But I’ve had enough scones in my 20 months to know that these were a wee bit overbaked. They should be fluffier in the center and less crispy on the outside. Still, I enjoyed dipping them in the lemon curd. They work just fine for that. Mama thought the scones were on the salty side, so she’d cut back to ¾ teaspoon, if not ½, next time. And the lavender flavor was very subtle—she thinks the dough could tolerate up to another ½ teaspoon. (But that didn’t stop her from eating a second one later in the day.) So even though these didn’t turn out perfectly, I still rate them a “Hit” because we had fun making them, and I could taste their potential. And I got to think about them again when I took my bath later in the morning.
(this is just a tiny batch)
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (if you get a good lemon and juice it really well, 1 should be enough)
small splash of vanilla extract
bit of sugar (less than ¼ cup, but really, you can make it as sweet as you like)
6 tablespoons room temperature butter, cubed
Bring the lemon juice and vanilla to a boil in a small saucepan. Meanwhile, whisk the egg and sugar until well combined. When the lemon juice is boiling, begin whisking the egg and slowly pour the hot lemon juice into the egg, constantly whisking. (This is called tempering, like we did with the soufflés.) Once everything’s combined, pour it all back into the saucepan, and whisk it gently over low heat until it thickens. You’ll know when it’s thick. It will be like lotion. Take the pan off the heat and start adding the butter cubes, 2 or 3 at a time, and whisk until they’re nearly melted. (I helped with this part.) When all the butter’s added, refrigerate your curd until cold and ready to use. Yum! Stored in a closed container, this will keep quite a while, but do you really want it to last that long?