Marilla’s plum pudding in Anne of Green Gables, madeleines soaked in a decoction of lime-flowers from Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, Agatha Christie’s Devonshire cream, Treacle Well from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – I could go on and on, really. Food in these books were dear to me as much as the characters. And so, today I am including a one-off column in my blog – Literary Lashings, where I will recreate both fictitious and real food and give them the undue importance they deserve.
As a baker, I live by a rulebook. Never go out of butter, flour and eggs. Keep the oven squeaky clean. Never mix baking dishes with cooking dishes. Bake when the world goes to sleep, in complete silence and solitude (and self-humming). Never, ever, ever, give the classics a miss.
Some recipes leave a mark that is imperishable. I look nowhere beyond my own country for example –Biryani. There are almost 15 different versions that adopt different cooking techniques, but there will always be that one variety, the first of its kind, the original classic, that very few people know how to recreate. If you like to play with fire and a wok, Biryani is not something you will easily skip.
With baking, there is a whole different repertoire of classics and I don’t know about you, but I shouldn’t call myself a baker if I don’t try them out. They are masterpieces that formed the timeline of baking. Some were created even before the oven was invented. They are what recipes are born out of. Some of them have had a very humble beginning, but today they have been polished off as contemporary and sit pretty in a pristine white plate, at a fine-dining restaurant for big bucks.
Classics are all handed down through generations, they form a colossal part of popular culture, in books, in films, they have been embraced by myriad cultures and put on different cloaks that today, we don’t even know if we are subject to authenticity. But we never seem to get tired of making them or eating them because all classics have a common thread – great taste.
So today, as an ode to classics, I give you scones. I didn’t have them growing up, they didn’t figure in my childhood in a “my nan and I would sit together and have some with tea” way. I am not British. But as a child, I would always envisage scones through the eloquent words of Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl, through the enchanting pages of The Lord of the Rings. For me, a scone was always a thing of literary enigma.
- 225 g all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 40 g butter
- 100 g cheddar, grated
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- 2 green chillies, finely chopped
- 150 ml milk
- Preheat the oven to 200 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Sift flour and baking powder together into a bowl. Rub the butter in and combine till you obtain a fine, sandy texture.
- Add half the grated cheese, mustard powder and half the green chillies.
- Slowly add 2/3 of the milk, little at a time. Knead until you obtain soft dough.
- On a floured, work surface, roll the dough out to about ¾ inch thickness.
- With a 3 inch round cutter, cut out circles and place on baking sheet.
- Brush the scones with milk. Sprinkle leftover cheese and chilli over each scone.
- Bake them for 15 minutes until risen and golden.
Adapted from Cake Magic by Kate Shirazi