Real Irish scones are not just a fantasy. Although my story does begin, once upon a time, a nice Jewish girl married a red-headed Irish-American guy. Maybe their lives weren’t totally centered around food – after all there were kids, jobs, a house, etc. But if one listened to their conversation or noticed what they enjoyed, it certainly did appear that food and enjoyment of great meals their was a major theme in their marriage.
She taught him to love hamantaschen and latkes. He provided the recipe for Sister Mary’s soda bread and made pizza, a talent he learned working in a New Jersey boardwalk pizza joint, where he worked when most guys his age were surfing or playing whack-a-mole. She took him to Israel (with her mother, of course) and he took her to Ireland. At home they ate simple breakfasts on weekdays. And on weekends, it was scrambled eggs, waffles or maybe pancakes, served with lots of coffee, newspapers, and NPR (Car Talk, followed by Wait, Wait.)
But on vacation they enjoyed full tilt breakfasts. The Israeli ones were divine feasts of salads, hummus, hard-boiled eggs and bread. And those Irish breakfasts! Eggs and bacon or sausage and beans and best of all, scones.
At a magical place called the Lovin Spoon, their Irish dream breakfast came true. Although they weren’t the scones she was used to – square not round or pie-shaped and less sweet, grilled on one side instead of simply baked, she was smitten. After a bit of cajoling, the proprietor dictated the scone recipe to a lovely server, who wrote it down on a yellow sticky note.
Back in the US, the scone part of the dream came to a rough, “real world” ending when she (better known as Laura, not-to-be-dissuaded-when-she-is-on-a-mission) discovered that the recipe couldn’t be right; the proportions seemed wrong and it left out leavening. Ah ha, she moaned, like many who value their recipes, the proprietor didn’t want his to get out.
Being determined to taste the Lovin Spoon Irish scones once again, the scone-lover set to work. Though it’s probably not 100% accurate, this is a pretty good approximation of those wonderful treats. For the real deal, visit the Lovin Spoon in Dublin on Frederick Street North, just a block away from the Writer’s Museum on Parnell Square.
Apricot Raisin Scones
Servings – on 8-inch square pan makes 9 large or 12 small scones Cost – $4
- 3 ½ cups flour
- ½ cup + 1 tablespoon sugar, plus more (or raw sugar) for topping
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled – cut 6 tablespoons into small chunks
- 1 cup yogurt mixed with ½ cup milk (I used fat-free yogurt and full fat milk)
- 10 dried apricot halves (2 ounces) but into quarters
- ½ cup raisins (2 ounces)
- 3 tablespoons orange or apple juice/cider
- 8-inch square baking pan line with 2 strips of parchment paper
- Food processor or whisk and knives or pastry cutter
- 3 Bowls – 2 small and 1 large
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- Large fork
- Pastry mat or waxed paper
- Pastry brush
- Knife or pastry scraper
- Metal spatula
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Heat the juice (I microwaved it for 30 seconds on high) and soak the chopped apricots and raisins in the heated juice for at least 5 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- In a food processor or in a bowl with a whisk, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder.
- Add the 6 tablespoons of butter cut into chunks to the dry ingredients by processing in pulses or with knives or a pastry cutter, until the dry ingredients become pebbly. Don’t overmix. If using a food processor, dump the ingredients into a large bowl. Mix in the dried fruit and the juice with a fork. Add about 1 cup of the yogurt and milk mixture, combining it with the dry ingredients using a fork first, then your hands at the end. Add a bit more liquid, by tablespoonfuls or so, until you have a “ragged” dough. Try not to overwork the dough. My last photo isn’t great – it looks too worked over and with not enough liquid. Chalk it up to my photography and the difficulty of baking and photographing. (Let’s not even talk about how to keep flour off the camera!)
- Press the dough into the parchment-lined pan. Brush it with the remaining yogurt and milk mixture, then sprinkle with sugar. I prefer to use raw sugar for the topping, but “regular” white, granulated sugar is fine too.
- Bake for about 20 minutes, turning the pan halfway through, until a toothpick or skewer poked into the middle comes out clean. Let the scones cool in the pan. Once cooled, cut them into squares. To grill them, coat a pan or griddle with part or all of the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, slice the scones in half and grill them for a few minutes, pressing the halves down with the metal spatula, until they are browned on the grilled side.
These pretty much real Irish scones are not too sweet and fabulous on their own or with jam. They are best eaten the day they are made, although you could freeze them and defrost, warming and then grilling them later.