“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” we are told. I, however, judge books by their covers all the time. I have a penchant for snagging old books with whimsical titles and covers at yard sales and antique stores and piling them up on shelves, tables, by beds and even on chairs. If you came to my house, you would see fabulously dressed books covering many surfaces.
The Little Minister, a beautiful deep blue tome from the early 1900s, has a place of honor on my mantle. The gilded cover of Lord Avebury’s Peace and Happiness rests contentedly on my coffee table. The whimsy of an old textbook from the 1950s called Distant Doorways, emblazoned with a drawing of a person reaching their arms up in bliss on some far-flung shore, sits next to pictures from my travels. A cheery yellow book called Getting the Most out of Life is sandwiched between a remarkable book of sonnets with a golden, swirling tree on its cover and an industrial looking Encyclopedia of World Travel, all nestled together in a woven rush cane chair in the corner.
Each of these books, swathed in lovely covers, speaks to a part of who I am, and I have no regret whatsoever for selecting them because of how attractive they are on the outside. At this point, you might be wondering if this week’s food column is only about digesting books, and will leave your tummy rumbling in regret. Fear not, friends, all of this talk about books does have a point.
You see, sometimes what’s on the outside IS most important; Certainly not with people, perhaps with books, and definitely with scones. If you were to make these cinnamon scones without their glorious sprinkling of raw sugar and cinnamon, then topped with a generous drizzle of vanilla glaze, they would be passable. They might even be delicious, with a texture within that is both buttery and fluffy. But they would never be as beautiful as they could be!
With scones, as with books, don’t be afraid to judge them by what’s on the outside. After all we eat, and read for that matter, with our eyes first.
Vanilla-Glazed Cinnamon Scones
Makes 8 scones.
For the scones:
2 cups self-rising flour (or all-purpose flour sifted with 2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda)
a pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick of salted butter, very cold and cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 egg yolk (save the egg white to top the scones)1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup half and half
For the cinnamon sugar:
2 tablespoons raw cane sugar (such as sugar in the raw)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
For the vanilla glaze:
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon half and half
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together flour (and baking soda and baking powder, if using), salt and cinnamon. Add cold butter and combine using a pastry cutter or your hands, working quickly, crumbling together until the butter and flour pieces are about pea-sized. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, honey, half and half and vanilla. Add to dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Your dough should not crumble apart, and should not be sticky. If it is too dry, add an extra drizzle of half and half. Roll onto a floured work surface (I put parchment paper down on my counter to make for easy transfer to the baking sheet.) Form into a ball and roll from the center outwards, until 1/2 inch thick. Cut into 8 large triangles as you would cut a pizza, to make large scones. If you prefer smaller scones, cut dough into three strips, and in a zigzag pattern, cut smaller triangles out of each strip. Transfer scones from parchment paper to a baking sheet (you can also just place them, parchment and all, on the baking sheet). Combine raw sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle generously (remember it’s what’s on the outside that counts!) on each scone. Bake for 15 minutes, until beginning to brown at the edges. While they’re baking, make the glaze by stirring together the powdered sugar, vanilla and half and half. If the glaze is too thick, add a tiny amount of half and half. Remove those gloriously cinnamon-crusted scones, let cool a few minutes and then drizzle with the vanilla glaze.
Share your beloved recipes with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rev. Whitney Wilkinson is pastor of Cameron Presbyterian Church.