When I was a preteen, little girldom was all about New Kids on the Block.
Yes, I know.
Anyway, I was right up there with the trend. I had their hit album (on tape - how quaint is that?), which I listened to on my pink radio cassette player while I made paper dolls in my room. I decorated my denim jacket with "NKOTB" and "I <3
JONATHAN" buttons. The buttons helped make my position clear when the post-ballet class little girl chatter turned to who was your favorite New Kid. Almost everyone loved Joey or Jordan. I could just point to my lapel and stake out my individuality. I would jump up and down with all the other kids over the possibility that their next concert tour might come through Jacksonville (and that somebody's mom might be begged or bullied into taking a car of hyperactive fourth graders into the worst part of town at night and then track us like Sherlock Holmes all over an enormous, crowded arena while unspeakably loud pop music bounced off the concrete walls). I spent my meager allowance on a slickly produced fan magazine with lots of pictures, which I dutifully studied. In fact, I still remember that said magazine reported one of the boys bought his mom a car with his filthy record lucre... but I can't remember which one.
That last sentence explains a lot. Truth is, I really didn't give a rat's rickey about the New Kids. I didn't like their music much at all (though I did enjoy doing that fist-wavey thing during the chorus of "Hangin' Tough."). None of them, Jonathan included, engaged my teeny-bopper romantic soul. But I wanted to like them. It was more than just a pathetic desire to hang with the cool crowd; I was sure that I was just missing something, and that the moment I caught on to whatever siren song captured the souls of the other nine year olds, I would be forever changed.
This is how I feel about scones now.
I really want to like them. But scones elude me. Why scones, when bread and cake exist on this mortal plane? Scones don't help their case with their tendency to come in two different types: dry and crumbly or soft and fluffy. The dry ones are just yech; seriously, I grew up near the beach, and I can eat a handful of sand for free anytime I visit my mother. The fluffy ones are just triangular muffins, and why wouldn't you just eat a real muffin if that was your druthers? When I tried to go full out, halls-to-the-wall dairy and egg free a couple years ago I didn't regret their absence from my life at all. But a small part of me was still intrigued. Many other people spend a great deal of time drooling over scones, cooing over them with clotted cream and jam, working out elaborate plans to veganize them. Obviously there was some allure that was escaping me, similar to the allure of boys who wore overalls and grooved in formation while they urged you to get on the floor and do the New Kids dance.
I just needed the right recipe. And in Good to Grain by Kim Boyce, I thought I might have it.
Strawberry barley scones is the name of the recipe. Barley flour is something I learned to love during my second diabetic pregnancy; barley has a low glycemic index and lots of fiber, so it's affect on blood sugar is a lot more balanced than that of a lot of other grains. I started blending barley flour into my other baked goods during that time, and I pleased to notice that it gives things a tender crumb and a pleasantly malty flavor. If anything could make a scone good, it would be barley flour.
This is a 50/50 mix of barley flour to all purpose. The rest of the ingredients were a snap to veganize; Earth Balance for butter, soured coconut milk for buttermilk, a sprinkle - like 1/16 of a teaspoon - of psyllium husk mixed into a tablespoon of water for the egg. I made a half recipe of the very sticky dough, then divided it into four rounds. One was filled with apricot jam, another with a mix of fig and strawberry jams (we have an affinity for preserves in this house, I'm afraid). The two remaining rounds sandwiched the filling, then I topped them with melted Earth Balance, raw sugar, and in the case of the apricot scones, chopped almonds. Eight miniscones were the final yield.
After fifteen minutes in a 350F oven, they were ready for a taste. The strawberry fig filling was the definite winner of the two. The crumb was delicate. They weren't dry and crumbly, nor were they muffiny. In fact, if I had to say they resembled anything, I'd have to say it was a slightly sweet, very light Southern biscuit.
I like biscuits.
I like biscuits.
But do I have an appreciation for scones now? Hope you didn't bet your acid-wash Levis on it, becase the answer is still no. I do, however, seem to have a new recipe for vegan buttermilk biscuits. So I won't have anything to talk about if I'm ever invited to the cool girls' next sleepover. But I'll still call this a win.