I ate my first scone in either Oxford or Cambridge, England, with a cup of tea like a proper English gentleman. It was the summer of 1966, and I was enjoying a short vacation after my year of studies in Germany. Jerri and her friend Marilyn met me in London, and we spent time together in London, Oxford and Cambridge.
The Bodleian Library at Oxford and the University Library at Cambridge let me use their rare book rooms for a day while Jerri and Marilyn toured the cities. I think it fair to say that we liked Cambridge better than Oxford. Cambridge had more green space, which appealed to us midwesterners. We ate picnic lunches in the shade on the green and watched the crews practice on the Cam.
We thought that it was quaintly English to have horses grazing freely on the green among students and visitors until a large brown animal grabbed Jerri’s lunch bag and proceeded to eat her banana. Jerri was not the only victim. We learned from other picnickers with mangled lunch bags that the horses also liked apples and oranges.
I am not certain how the horses opened the lunch bags. I think that they just grabbed the bags in their big horsey teeth and smashed them on the ground until they found whatever it was that smelled good. A student explained that the horses would not take the bag from your hands, so our sandwiches survived our second day on the green as we traded stares with several hungry horses trying to catch us off guard.
Cambridge sticks in my memory for another reason. Finding a place to stay was a challenge. All the hotels were full, but the tourist information office helped us locate a room in a private bed and breakfast. I was traveling with two attractive young women, and our landlady, Mrs. Chillingsworth, almost refused to rent to the three of us. She looked like a character from a Dickens novel with a cold, suspicious eye and clearly suspected that we were hippies planning an orgy. We pleaded, and she finally relented after I promised to sleep on the floor.
The ladies went to bed. I went out to a pub filled with students who welcomed their “cousin” from the “colonies” and approved of my taste for two pints of bitter before I walked back to Mrs. Chillingsworth’s where I collapsed on the carpet.
Every afternoon we had tea and scones. The tea was strong, the cream was real and the scones were delicious. In the past fifty years, scones have become popular around the world. You can even buy them in New Richmond. A search on the Internet for “scone recipes” brings up over 100,000 pages, which tells me that lots of people are also making these biscuits or cakes at home today.
Our friend Rich likes them and decided he would make his own. He took ideas from several recipes he found on the Web to come up with his version. He uses 2% milk instead of cream to make a soft dough, adds dried cherries and drops the dough on a cookie sheet as if he were making dropped baking powder biscuits. His scones are tender and delicious. Here is how to make them.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (8 T) unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup dried cherries
Preheat the oven to 400º. Blend the flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Chop the butter into small pieces and mix them with the flour. Use a pastry blender or your fingers to cut the butter into the flour until it looks like coarse cornmeal.
Use a fork to blend the sugar with the flour and then stir in the milk until you have a stiff dough. Fold in the cherries. Be careful not to stir the dough too much.
Using a tablespoon and fork, drop eight or nine globs of dough on an ungreased cookie sheet. Shape the globs if necessary so they look nice to you. Sprinkle the scones with a little sugar and bake them about fifteen minutes or until they turn lightly brown.
NOTES: If you are using salted butter, use only a quarter teaspoon of salt. You can substitute currants, dried cranberries or raisins for the dried cherries but I strongly recommend the cherries. Rich uses 2% milk while I use 1%, but both make scones that are tender and delicious.