Monday 3 April 2023

Worst scone in The North

In about 1985 I emphatically threw in the towel on buying bread in, like, bakeries; and started making the family's bread myself. For many years, I bought dried yeast as industrial ½kg tins although recently I've been pitching into Polskie Sklepy on the regular for 100g of fresh. But I wouldn't be Irish if I didn't make soda bread occasionally and I can knock up a batch of scones before unexpected guests have shed their top-coats and galoshes. A key trick I learned from YT a tuthree years ago is to put the dough through several cycles of roll and fold à la croissant: each fold gives an extra loft of lightness.

Croissant?! Hat-tip to Felicity Cloak of the Guardian whose croissodyssey round France I read and reviewed two years ago. Travel books need a trope to hold the narrative together and also a ruthless editor to prune away the boring bits. Cycling (if you have an leather arse) round France (if you have a smatter of french) in search of the perfick croissant is a project with which I could get along.

Starting before Cloak but finishing later - because her project was comprehensive rather than a sample - Sarah Merker [L] has been on a journey to try a scone at every National Trust tea-room in England, Wales and Norn Iron. Anyone finger wagging about the planetary burden of all that excess travel can cast their mind back to 2013 and reflect on their own carbon footprint when Merker started her project. 20/20 hindsight is a piffling talent. Her sconodyssey was picked up by the Press Association as Merker closed in on the last few NT scone outlets. When she finally sat down at The Giant's Causeway, the story was picked up by the Guardian and other media, achieving 15 hours of fame. Really you could think of far worse ways to spend your leisure time. There is a book.

I dipped into this rich confection to taste the State of the British Scone and liked the recipe of logistics, taste-test and local history. But when every scone in the nation seemed to score 5/5, contrary me dug in to find the worst scone in Northern Ireland. Years ago, we were in Avondale House, Parnell's gaff in Co Wicklow, because the grounds are full of fresh air and big trees. It was, literally, grand; but tea-time was a big disappointment because the café had no scones and the yoghurts were 4 days beyond their sell-by - harumph!. It turns out that that the scone at Carrick-a-Rede merits only 4/5 "The scone was unfortunately dry - I don't think it was fresh, but I've been wrong about that before - and the cream helped to alleviate things". Obvs we shouldn't condemn an outlet on a sample size of 1 and 4/5 is 80% or a 1st Class Honours Degree mark. But I'll gripe by proxy at "there was a choice of fruit or raspberry and white chocolate" wot-the-scone!? what ever is wrong with serving a good plain scone [I like a shake of coarse wholemeal in the mix]? It's like when The Fərmentary overcooked a batch of their croissants and confessed they might be able to save and serve by covering them with icing and almonds. The best cooking is not fancy gimcrack; it is simple ingredients in perfick combination.

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