When I was living in New York, I worked for a time at a licensing and design company in the garment district. One afternoon, as I was walking back from an appointment near Macy’s, I saw a sign in a deli window: The Best Cup of Coffee in Town! How could I resist? Mind you, this was pre-Starbucks, and a good cup of coffee wasn’t always easy to find.
I went in and ordered some coffee, and as I was paying, I asked, “Is this really the best coffee in town?” The guy behind the counter looked at me and kind of frowned and raised his eyebrows at the same time.
“The sign, ” I said, “in the window. You know, ‘The Best Cup of Coffee in Town?'” I waited for him to acknowledge it, to agree even, and to tell me how great this particular cup would be.
“Nah.” He snorted dismissively. “That’s just a sign!”
In case you were wondering, the coffee was indeed NOT the best cup of coffee in town. In fact, it may have been one of the worst. The only reason I remember that day is because – call me naïve – I think if you’re going to advertise something, you should deliver it. This was a blatant case of false advertising, and to make matters worse, it was about food! That really got my goat.
About 9 years later, in Vermont, I opened my café, Eat Good Food. I purposely chose the word “good” because I didn’t want to make claims that I couldn’t back up. I thought, if I can make the food good, that should be good enough – not gourmet, not pretentious, just food that you want to eat. What more could you ask for with food?
On the very first day, I made apricot scones, in the hopes that people would like them. Every morning for the next five years, we made fresh scones for breakfast – currant scones (probably the most traditional), coconut scones, cranberry scones, ginger and chocolate scones, scones that I can’t even remember anymore – but we always had to make these apricot scones as well. Customers would wait for them if we didn’t get them finished before they had to leave for work. They would call to reserve them, or ask for a dozen for the weekend. In anticipation, we doubled and then tripled the batch so sometimes we had leftovers, and people would want to buy the day-old scones too.
I think it’s fair to say that these scones were a hit. Still, I won’t make the claim that they are the best ever. But they are certainly the best in this little house, and hopefully they will be the best in yours.
My Best Apricot Scones
Makes 8 regular or 16 small scones
I’ve been in Devon over 6 years, and I have yet to see a hand-shaped, triangular scone. This got me wondering if, in fact, these scones were scones at all. So I did a little research, and apparently, the shape is irrelevant. There are drop scones (similar to American biscuits) and flat scones (kind of like a pancake) and rolled and cut scones (like a fancy American biscuit) – the list probably goes on and on, depending upon the region or household you are in. But all it takes to make all these baked goods into scones is some baking powder for the leavening, and some cold butter for the fat, and voila! You have a scone.
Now that that’s settled, the biggest question is whether to put the jam or the clotted cream on first (clotted cream in Devon, jam in Cornwall). I know which one I think is best!
- 300g (2 cups) flour
- 50g (3 TB) sugar
- 1TB baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 100g (6 TB) butter
- 200g (1 cup) dried apricots, chopped
- 240ml (1 cup) double cream
- 1 small egg, beaten
If you have a food processor, the first thing to do is chop the apricots to about the size of a currant. Then put them in a large bowl and set aside.
Back in the food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter, until the whole mix looks a bit like coarse bread crumbs. (You can also do this by hand, rubbing the butter into the dry ingredients; it works just as well, but will take a bit longer.) Tip the flour mix into the bowl of apricots and stir them together with a fork.
Continue stirring with the fork while you slowly add the cream. Note that you do not want a cohesive dough, just a vague mingling of ingredients. Now turn the mixture out onto the countertop and use your fingertips to continue mixing it together. Press lightly and pull the scraggy ends in, and keep doing this until it all pretty much holds together. This is a hard thing to describe; you do not want to press down too much on the dough and make it heavy, so my best advice is to gently press, then stop and press a different spot, until all the bits have more or less come together into a disk about 6-7” wide and 1” high (for the regular sized scones) or two disks about 5″ wide (for the small scones). Brush the top generously with the egg.
Cut the disk(s) into 8 wedges*, and lay the wedges about 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 190C (375C) for about 20 minutes, or until the tops of the scones are a deep golden brown and the sides do not easily push in when you poke them with a finger. Remove the scones from the baking tray and cool on a rack.
When you are ready to serve them, you could have them plain, or with butter, or you could eat them the Devon way, slathered with clotted cream and then strawberry jam. If you do not have hordes of hungry people at your house, you should be able to keep these for about a week in a tightly covered container, although they really are best eaten the same day you bake them. Then again, the clotted cream will make up for any age-related dryness…
*You could freeze the scones at this point, then pull them apart to bake from frozen. You can also freeze them once they have cooked, in which case defrost them thoroughly before unwrapping them.