I’ve been making scones since I was a little girl. My parents were born and raised in Ireland so making scones was a weekly event. During the Lenten season, scones were a definitive staple on the dining table. My father worked for Trans World Airlines so traveling back and forth to Ireland during our summer holiday was a yearly event. Watching my grandmother make bread/scones was always mesmerizing to me. She used a huge ceramic Mason Cash bowl, and mixed everything by hand. None of the ingredients were measured very carefully. She would pour leavening ingredients into the palm of her hand before throwing them into the mix. She used an old china teacup to measure flour for the mixture. The teacup would be placed back inside the bag of flour for future use. The flour that she used was of a course, whole wheat texture. The hearty aroma and flavor were like none other and can’t easily be duplicated with our traditional American flour selection. I’ve often thought of purchasing the flour from available on-line sources but I can’t justify the cost. Hence, I offer this recipe as an alternative. Is it exactly the same as the old country flavor? Well, no…. But, it’s a close second and my family enjoys the hearty flavor of these beautiful scones. Served with a heaping helping of butter and homemade jam, this recipe is a winner.
Hearty Irish Scones
2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup old fashioned oats + 1/4 cup for topping
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
10 Tablespoons (5/8 cups) butter or margarine
1 3/4 – 2 cups buttermilk
1 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift together flours, baking powder, baking soda, brown sugar and salt. Stir in oatmeal. Cut in butter with your fingers or with a pastry blender. Add raisins and mix; then add buttermilk and mix/ kneed just until dough comes together. If dough is too wet, kneed in extra flour; just until dough becomes less sticky.
Transfer dough to a floured work surface and gently shape into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle. Cut either into 2-inch circles with a biscuit cutter. Transfer to baking sheet. Sprinkle tops with extra oatmeal; lightly pat oats into surface. Bake 15-18 minutes, until browned on the bottom. If desired, you can flip scones to bake 2 more minutes to further brown the bottoms. Let cool or serve warm.
As we begin the new year, the brutal Midwestern winds and the lake effect snow machine are both working hard to bring us record low temperatures and extreme weather conditions. Many local schools/businesses are closed again today and I am anticipating a difficult commute to work this morning. As the sun comes up and the traffic begins to build, I will be keeping an eye on the posted travel alerts as I may, very well choose to work from home today.
While everyone is still tucked warm in their beds, I’ve decided to get an early start and begin baking a few items as we may be hunkered down indoors for a while. The warmth of the oven will certainly help to heat the chilly kitchen. It seems the heater is working double time to try to keep up with the thermostat.
Recently, I saw a post for Irish Soda Bread that caught my eye. You can find it posted as Irish Raisin Bread at “If I Only Had A Time Machine”. The recipe included many ingredients that I don’t typically add to my mother’s traditional recipe. With a few variations, I made the loaf for my family on Monday night. Boy, everyone certainly enjoyed the new flavors and textures of this recipe. Last night, I sliced up the last of the bread and vowed that I would soon make a few more loaves.
So, along with a pan of baked oatmeal, I think I’ll be making another batch of bread this morning. I’m sure the warmth of the oven and the smell of freshly baking bread with help to shake of the winter blues as we have many more months of this crazy weather ahead of us. (I just looked it up… we have 70 days and twelve hours left until the arrival of Spring.) Bundle up and stay warm!
Sweet Irish Soda Bread (Adapted from If I Only Had A Time Machine)
5 cups Flour
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Salt
1 tablespoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
1/2 cup Butter or Margarine, cold
2 cups Raisins
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Rum Extract or Irish Whiskey
3 Eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cups Buttermilk or Sour Milk
2 tablespoons Old Fashioned Oats
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two round cake or pie pans.
Combine first seven (dry) ingredients in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly. Cut in butter or margarine until the texture resembles course crumbs. Add raisins. In a separate bowl mix remaining (wet) ingredients. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ingredients forming a soft dough. Place dough onto a floured surface and knead well. Form into round cakes, place in prepared pans. Slice a light cross down the center of the loaves and sprinkle with oats. Bake for 40-50 minutes.
My family has been making these scones for as long as I can remember. As a young girl, I used to watch my mom make batches of these buttermilk scones without having to use a recipe. She would mix everything up by hand, then swiftly kneed and cut triangular shapes from the rolled dough. During the Lenten season, Mom would make several batches as we would have scones and tea for Friday dinner.
These days, I regularly make scones for my family. I, too, can make them without the recipe but I use a biscuit cutter to uniformly cut the soft dough into circular shapes. We often top the baked scones with homemade strawberry-rhubarb jam.(Although, J and M prefer to top them with gobs of peanut butter.) After removing a batch from the oven, it isn’t long before they’ve all been eaten and everyone is asking for more.
When I was a young girl, my family used to travel to Ireland every year for our summer holiday. My father worked for TWA (Trans World Airlines) and we had a great travel benefit that we regularly used. My mother was born and raised in County Clare and my father from County Kerry. Our wonderful trips into Milltown Malbay, Spanish Point or visiting Ballybunion always bring the fondest of memories.
Oh, the stories I could tell of the laughs we shared as a family. We would load our tiny rental car up with 8 kids, two adults, and lots of luggage. Relatives would meet us at Shannon Airport and take on a portion of our luggage as we headed toward Milltown.
One of my most vivid memories relates to my grandmother, my mother’s mom. She would get up early to milk the cows and feed the chickens. Then, she would come indoors and bake the most amazing bread. Now, this bread was like nothing I had ever tasted before. Sure, my mom and all the aunts baked their own version of Irish Soda Bread or scones but this was different. The bread was a hearty, textured loaf made with whole wheat flour. She would mix it up by hand, in a huge stoneware bowl (maybe a Green’s or Mason Cash Brand).
I have tried on several occasions to replicate the recipe and this is as close as I have come to the original. If any of you would like to share your recipe for your version of Irish Brown Bread, I would so appreciate it!
If you’re a fan of Irish Soda Bread, check out my family recipe for Mary’s Irish Scones here.
Just like Grandma’s Irish Brown Bread
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons cold butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in butter until mixture forms fine crumbs. Stir in whole-wheat flour and oats. Add buttermilk; stir mixture gently. Turn dough onto a lightly floured board and knead 5-10 times to make a ball. Set on a baking sheet. Pat into a 7-inch circle. With a floured knife, cut a large X on top of loaf. Bake until well browned, about 30-35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.