Nearly two years ago, and when the world was first locked up, and as mother survived, I had to confront the very real possibility that I might have to actually bake something. Probably bread. I wasn’t ready. The entire process from the kneading to the proving and everything in between, terrified me. I’m also (if you didn’t already know), I’m a bit Scottish: I have great difficulty chucking things out. Quite a conundrum. However, with nothing but time and the greatest resource in the world, the interweb, I couldn’t get away with pretending I didn’t know. I needed to start with something simple.
I found a recipe for biscuits. I don’t recall whether or not there was a picture. It doesn’t matter because when I save recipes, I do save the URL, but I save them in text form – to save paper. Or I don’t even print them. I scribble them on a scrap of paper…
When one discovers a new interest, there’s always a learning curve. So it was, and continues to be, with sourdough. For example: sour dough is actually not sour. One allows the bread dough to
sour ferment. It’s during the fermentation – the first and often long proving – that the dough sours. Mother, aka the starter, is not a dough. She really is just the host for the wild yeast that she’s collected from the atmosphere. The flour and the water that I feed mother feeds the yeast that grows. That’s what makes mother outgrow her clothes. So to speak.
If baking bread isn’t on the agenda, the “overflow” is the “discard”. I learned that by osmosis (my preferred way of learning) and when I was looking for
beginners’ easy recipes with sourdough. I wasn’t at all sure about the kneading, proving, resting – and stuff. My prerequisites during my research when I scanned recipes were that there shouldn’t be much kneading and proving.
Eventually I chose a recipe. For biscuits. Or so I thought.
You know what Thought did?
That was one of my father’s favourite questions. Of course, we all know the riposte to that childhood
…planted a feather and thought a hen would grow…
One of the things I love about the blogosphere is its cosmopolitan nature – a virtual Babel. I am not talking about the miscellany of languages, but specifically about English. My entire working life demanded that I pay attention to the English language. Bar a short stint in corporate, and during which I mastered Chamberese a version of bureaucrat-speak to which I can revert if the need to be
pompous formal arises, and with aplomb great ease, I either wrote for people whose home language was not English or for an international audience. It made me pay even more attention; it also fed my fascination for words – and where they come from and how they are used.
I think, too, it’s a fascination that was fostered growing up in a home where neither parent had the same accent. Nor were their accents those of the country in which I was growing up and now live – South Africa – also the home of ten official languages other than English. My English mother hated it that I
might would grow up with a regional accent and constantly corrected my pronunciation. She wasn’t aware, and I never told her, that when I started “big” school, I realised (was probably told) that I spoke funny differently from my peers. I didn’t like being different; I concentrated on mimicking my peers so that I spoke more like them. I still switch accents. It’s subconscious – until I hear myself. Even then, I can not. I gather it’s a thing that’s been studied…
Then there are words
English, as is any language, is a living, evolving thing. English communities around the world have their own versions of the language and I have a blog pal (@dandays) who always addresses me using my ubiquitous social media handle and follows it with the parenthetical comment: with a U.
Then there are biscuits and scones. I grew up with both. I’ve written about the latter which were much my father’s domain. Literally and figuratively. My mother never made a scone that I can remember. I always understood them to be either of the potato or flour version or dropped. The last, drop scones, the English (and South Africans) call Flap Jacks; the Americans call them pancakes. In South Africa, a pancake is a crépe.
Confused yet? Welcome to my confusing entry into “sourdough world”.
The chosen one
The recipe I found, said I would be making biscuits. I understand biscuits as flat, often brown and always crunchy sometimes savoury, often sweet. Yes, they have a lot of butter in them, but no raising agent. I’d heard about biscuits ‘n gravy but hadn’t really bothered to investigate. Anyhow, in my
travels web search, I came across this site and found a recipe for yes, you guessed it, biscuits.
I set about making it. There was no kneading, and no proving. Just mixing, rolling and cutting. Followed, of course, by a short stint in the oven.
The result. Not biscuits, I tell you, but in my ken, scones!
I admit to having been delighted. Scones are to me, a whole lot more versatile than crummy biscuits. I have subsequently made them a few times and they were a hit at our first ever in lockdown
slightly illegal essential get together with friends. It turns out that these biscuit scones are excellent with savoury or sweet toppings and spreads. They also make great bases for canapés if one adjusts the size.
Buttery Sourdough Oven Scones
- 1 cup plain flour 120g
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ¾ tsp salt omit if using salted butter
- 8 tbsp unsalted butter, cold 113g
- 1 cup sourdough starter unfed/discard
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C) – best towards the upper third of the oven.
- Grease a baking sheet, or line with parchment.
- Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt if using. Rub/cut the butter into the flour until the mixture is resembles bread crumbs.
- Addt he starter, mixing (pulse if using a food processor) gently until the dough pulls together.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently pat it into a round and then roll gently to about 2,5cm thick.
- Use a sharp 6 cm biscuit cutter to cut four rounds, cutting them as close to one another as possible. Gently push and pat the scraps into a rectangle. Cut two more scones. Finally, pull the last scraps together into round; the final scone will probably be slightly smaller than the others
- Place the scones onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 5cm between them because they spread as they bake.
- Bake in the upper third of the oven until they're golden brown (20 – 25 minutes)
- Servewarm. When they’ve cooled and store atroom temperature for several days
- They freeze well.
- Freshly baked using a smaller cookie cutter, these make 12 fabulous canapé sized scones to serve with savoury or sweet accompaniments.
Moral to the story?
I’m not sure there is one. Since that first effort, Ursula’s approaching two years’ old, and come July, I’ll have been baking buns and bread (yes, you read right) for the local market for two years.
I promise I’ll share those recipes next.
The learning and the journey continues.
Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa
If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:
- re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
- and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.
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