I know, I know, my previous two postings have contained birthday greetings of a sort. And now here’s another. What can I say? Maybe I have a thing for people born in August. I promise to stop...after this one.
Today is my mother-in-law Gladys’s birthday – 98 years young. And as I am now a mother-in-law-in-waiting (one of my sons is engaged), I’ve been thinking a lot about the lessons she has taught me.
She doesn’t get to visit us any more, as the travel is too hard, but when she did, she always looked for a way to help. Setting the table, chopping vegetables, mending anything or sewing on buttons. (Sewing would be the least of my skills – once when I offered to put a button on for one of my sons, his eyes opened wide as he said, “You can do that?”) The best was that she’d make up our bed every day – what a treat! And while I’m sure she must have occasionally despaired at my inability to get dinner ready on time, she kept all those thoughts to herself.
I learned what a blessing she would be early on, when our first son was born. I was a mess – exhausted with the demands of new motherhood, recovering from a Caesarian delivery and a mildly disastrous visit from my own mother. When Gladys arrived, I had struggled just getting downstairs to say hello. But I wanted to be polite. “Let me get you a cup of tea,” I offered.
“You sit right there,” she said. “Let me get one for you.” And I know it seems like nothing in the telling, but I just about collapsed with gratitude at that simple gesture.
Gladys is a terrific baker, though she doesn’t do much of that either these days. I don’t ever hope to replicate her genius with apple pies, but she taught me the trick of rolling out dough between two pieces of floured waxed paper, and she gave me her mother’s recipe for scones. Their family had emigrated from England – of the five children, Gladys and her brother were the only ones born in the U.S. – and her mother kept a very English household. So these scones are the real thing. They’re easy to make, great for breakfast or a mid-afternoon snack (tea, anyone?), and they freeze wonderfully – just split the frozen scones, smear a little butter on the cut face, and toast lightly. Jolly good. This recipe makes 8 large scones or 12+ small ones.
Kitchen Goddess note: The scones pictured are made with raspberries instead of raisins. It's a very flexible recipe as regards the fruit. I also sometimes use candied ginger, which is yummy!
⅓ cup butter
⅓ cup sugar
2 eggs, unbeaten
⅓ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup raisins (or other dried fruit)
Topping: 2 tablespoons sugar, ½ teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 400º.
Mix together butter, sugar, and eggs.
Combine milk with vanilla. Separately, combine flour with baking powder and salt. To the butter/sugar/egg mixture, gradually and alternately add the milk/vanilla and the flour/baking powder/salt. Finally, stir in raisins.
Drop tablespoon-sized mounds onto a greased cookie sheet. (The Kitchen Goddess hates the mess of greasing cookie sheets and always uses baker’s parchment instead. No muss, no fuss, no cleanup.) Sprinkle sugar/cinnamon mixture on top. Bake 10-12 minutes in the top half of the oven. Serve warm with butter and jam, or clotted cream if you’re feeling terribly English.
Kitchen Goddess note: When making scones or muffins or cakes, whipping the butter and sugar together until the color turns very pale adds air to the batter and will make the end product lighter.