Learning To Cook (Reluctantly): I Made You Some Goddamn Scones

1.5 pounds all purpose flour. (They sell it in 2 pound bags, don’t use the entire bag)
4 oz sugar, plus additional 3/4 tbsp for topping scones (1/2 a cup, this is about 1/2 a cup)
1 Tbsp baking powder (a fucking elusive substance, like gold)
3/4 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp of salt
9 oz of butter cut into walnut sized pieces (2 and 1/4 sticks)
1 1/5 cups of Buttermilk (Jesus Christ, just use the 1/4 cup. No one hates a tiny amount of extra buttermilk).

1/2 lb of dried, unsweetened cranberries (8 oz, they’ll say how many oz on the package. Probably 5. You should buy two packages).
4-6 apricot halves canned in light juice (heavy syrup will make the scones too soft and sweet).
Whipping cream to coat scone tops.

Heat the oven to 325 degrees.
Drain apricots and chop roughly. Set on paper towels to drain. Do not add them to the mixture until they become matte. You can blot off some of the moisture.

Sift dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Add butter using a paddle attachment to your mixer or a pastry blender manually. Combine until the butter is complete dispersed. Add fruit and buttermilk until dough forms. Drop spoonfuls (the size of a whole apricot) onto lightly greased and floured cookie sheet 2-3 inches apart. Press down until they are about 1 inch thick. Brush with cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until lightly golden, around 15 minutes.

Should yield 15 scones.

Okay, as you can perhaps tell from some of my notes the recipe originally had British units because – actually, I genuinely can’t remember if I got this during the phase in college when we were all trying to pretend we lived in England, or from an actual British girl. God, I hope it was the latter.

Probably not, though.

Anyhow! This makes translating the units borderline impossible if you can’t do math. Suffice to say, a pound is about 16 ounces. 8 ounces are about a cup. So a pound is about 2 cups.

It took me about half an hour to figure that out.

And I ended up using 5 oz of cranberries, because I did not figure out the conversations beforehand. I’m sorry about that. But they were very good, even with only 5 oz of cranberries!

Also, I forgot to buy whipped cream, because I wrongly thought the recipe meant that it should be used on the scones after they were made, and I figured I was going to a party where there would be cream and jam. That’s not what they meant! They meant it should be used to give the scones a delicious, glazed coating. They probably would have been better with one, admittedly.

Does this happen to everyone? I mean, are people following recipes perfectly all the time? No one is doing that, right? Because people are fundamentally lazy and somewhat churlish and inclined toward corn stealing?

Oh, here’s what the scones looked like:


My biggest problem though was how do you transport food like this? I took them to a housewarming, and didn’t want to carry them in a basket because 1) I don’t have a basket and 2) While the idea of skipping through the streets with a basket seemed charming, I had to ride the subway, and I worried that it would get jostled around and they’d fall out.

I ended up transporting them all in a Tiffany box that used to contain champagne glasses. It was “a decision.” It also worked pretty well, but sometimes I worry that when you do stuff like that, you’re pushing the Holly Golightly comparisons a little hard. So. Tupperware? Enormous tupperware containers for this purpose? What do you do?

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    • Ellen W.

      I go tupperware-knockoff from the grocery store in a bag. I have lots of bags- groceries, totes, free-with-purchase- so that’s easy for me. Don’t do the flimsy plastic bags from the grocery store though because they get caught on things/people on the subway and break and then the tupperware falls and the cookies shatter and you have to tell everyone that they started out looking good but broke on the way over.

      PS They look so pretty!

    • Cassie

      You could store them in one of these probably (with wax paper between the layers if you had too many to fit in one layer):


    • Sarah

      But Jennifer! A pound isn’t always 2 cups, because a pound is a measure of weight, and the cups are a measure of volume. The mix-up comes from fluid ounces (volume) and ounces of weight (like 16 ounces to a pound). 2 cups of cotton would weigh less than 2 cups of lead, they wouldn’t both come to a pound. My roommate bakes a lot and she has a small kitchen scale to deal with these british recipes. Might be a good thing to get if you are to continue this excellent “learning to cook” column? (Which is fantastic)

      • Jennifer Wright

        OH SHIT.

    • Em

      You can glaze scones with egg yolk, and you can make buttermilk by adding lemon juice to normal milk.

      I like substituting like this because I’m more likely to have eggs (maybe) and normal milk (probably) than cream and buttermilk. Which means less time in the often soul-destroying grocery store. And less dairy products going bad in my fridge. And tiny amounts of saved money to put towards awesome purses and/or shoes. And above all, the feeling that you somehow, very cleverly have made the recipe sit up and take notice of your amazing kitchen competence. You know, “Tell me what to do will you? I’ll tell YOU what you SHOULD have told me to do!”

      P.S. Congratulations on using a recipe that gives you amounts in weight. I hate that so very much!! Endless conversions=deal breaker. Which sucks, because I have a Nigella Lawson book that looks like it would be fantastic! Maybe there’s an online converter…like currency?

      • Meghan Keane

        Em, You have pointed out the most confusing thing about buttermilk – the easiest substitute is regular milk with lemon juice. Which is basically curdled milk? And then you learn that “buttermilk” is a rather inaccurate euphemism.

      • Em

        I know!! I remember being about 12 years old, and thinking, “What is this lovely thing they call buttermilk? Boy, does it sound tasty!” And then I found out that it’s just milk that’s gotten nice and chewy. Mmmm. Also, I’m told vinegar works well too, but for some reason adding lemon juice to make it curdle grosses me out less than vinegar.

    • MR

      So you’re trying to tell me British scones are better due to their cockamamie system? :) I like your box idea, it was very creative.

    • Simone G

      I always get american recipies and have to convert them to metric since I live in Brazil, but can live without the yummy food I had in my exchange, so to runaway from math I just use this http://www.convert-me.com/en/convert/cooking it’s amazing and no more kitchen math.

      • MR

        Como a cantora brasileira: “Caminhando”. :)

    • Heather P.

      I love your cooking thought process! It makes me feel like i’m not alone in my incomprehension of this whole cooking thing! I think I would add one suggestion:

      Baking Soda: Don’t use the box sitting in the back of your fridge or your baked goods will taste really old smelly plastic.

      Yeah, I learned that one the hard way…

    • m

      I live in Germany, and the idea of “a cup” as a measurement unit is hilarious. Complaining about pounds, converting pound to ounces and cups… grams are so nicely linear.

      30 grams? alright. 250 grams? okay! one unit for everything. EVERYTHING!

    • Sarah!

      Wtf what? Was the grocery store out of baking powder or did they not carry it at all? I find that hard to believe! I think you were talking to the new girl at the grocery store. I think you got punked.

    • Candace

      Also baking powder is just cornstarch and baking soda mixed (cream of tartar also if you have it- if not you can leave it out)