Sunday, April 19, 2009

Still Waiting for Spring


When I was a little girl my English mother would take me home every other year to see my grandparents.

We would sail from New York Harbor to Liverpool on a Cunard White Star liner, the M.V. Britannic


- the last ship that took eight days instead of five to cross the Atlantic - and it was on that lovely ship that I first became aware of how much I liked food.

The meals were all delicious. We had breakfast in the dining room; then elevenses on deck. Next was luncheon, followed by the evening meal. We ate freshly baked hard rolls with sweet butter. Fried eggs and rashers of Irish bacon. Leg of lamb and peas cooked with mint. The stewards wore white gloves and served in the French manner, using two spoons to plate the food we requested.

I ate caviar for the first time when I ordered it off the menu for myself while sailing home after having learned to read - and I mean really read, not Dick and Jane - while I was enrolled at The Rock Ferry Convent School during my stay in England. I was five years old.

The steward got a funny look on his face, and my young and beautiful mother looked at him and said in her most imperious English accent, "As she eats olives and anchovies," (which, by the way, she found extremely odd) "I imagine she will eat caviar. Please bring it to her as she requested." It came on a plate with little pieces of toast and tiny cubes of aspic, which turned out to be only a decoration. My mother was right. I loved the salty caviar on the dry crunchy toast.

At my grandfather's house


the food was wonderful too. We ate beautiful, crumbly, pale orange Cheshire cheese, and Hovis bread sliced thin and buttered. Eggs boiled softly after being plucked from under the bottom of a reluctant hen. Green onions (scallions) and red radishes. Chicken pies. And in the kitchen there was always a Victoria sponge cake and a plate of triangular current scones, not too sweet and perfect with a big cup of tea when I got home from school.

Last week, just when I thought I couldn't stand another miserable day, sure enough, Easter Sunday in the country dawned cold and dreary. It seemed more like Thanksgiving than Easter.



It started to rain and stayed gray, and bitter - the type of weather that comes as fall is heading into winter, not the type of weather you expect when winter is heading into spring. And I couldn't imagine that anyone in the City was thinking about putting on a new hat and patent leather shoes to parade along Fifth Avenue.

But I could imagine a big cup of tea and a scone right from the oven, which was perfect since David - over at Cooking Babbo - had suggested that my next recipe from Zuni should be the Orange-Currant Scones. And it was.

Orange-Currant Scones
Desserts & Pastry, Page 479
(A do-ahead recipe; see Addendum below.)

I got everything ready to make the scones.



I zested the orange.




I combined flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, cut in butter, and added currants and orange zest and mixed well.



I whisked eggs with milk.




I added the egg-and-milk mixture to the dry ingredients in the bowl



and mixed just until the flour was absorbed into the dough.




I followed Judy Rodgers' instructions to pat, roll, and cut the dough into triangles and put the triangles on a half-sheet pan lined with parchment.



I baked them in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes




until they were golden and orange-flecked, studded with currants.




They were delicious with a perfect texture and crumb.




They are so good that I am not surprised that Judy Rodgers "no longer bother(s) making special pastries for Sunday brunch..."

I know that currants are traditional, but I think these would also be wonderful with dried cranberries. A nice treat for Thanksgiving morning before the rest of the feasting begins!



Sylvano

Addendum

When I made these scones, I froze some of them in quart-size freezer bags. I took two of them out of a freezer bag and put them right into the toaster oven. They toasted beautifully; I split each one in two and lightly buttered the halves (but you don't even have to split them; just butter the toasted tops.) To gild the lily, serve them with this orange/elderflower marmalade available at Ikea. It's delicious.




9 comments:

David said...

I'm glad you tried them and liked them!

foodhoe said...

oh we wished too hard over here and now have a heatwave... never happy... I enjoyed the story of your precocious tastebuds on the cruiser, what fun memories! The scones sound vibrantly delicious too

Maggie said...

Yum! Love scones, and this looks like a great recipe!

EB said...

Oh Vic. I love the story. Of course you ate caviar at 5. Of course.

Michelle said...

I just found your blog last night at work and read the whole thing at once. Your posts are exceptionally well written. The photos are lovely. I had already planned on learning to make scones this week and am glad to have seen this latest entry, it inspires me to get over my irrational fear of baking and just do it. Most of all I want to thank you for reminding me of my favorite cookbook of all time.

Charles G Thompson said...

What a great remembrance of great ocean liners and sailing days. I have another friend who learned to eat and about food as a child sailing on ocean liners. Reminded me of his stories.

dishinanddishes said...

I tried to click on the link "Judy Rogers" that you had highlighted...was it supposed to link to the recipe? It wouldn't work for me

Victoria said...

dishinanddishes -

Sorry to confuse you. I don't post Zuni recipes. I just put Judy Rodgers name in red to highlight it; it's not a link.

racheleats said...

I loved reading this. As we thought, we have much in common in our food histories...