One morning last weekend, Saturday morning to be exact, some unexpected news changed our plans for the day. It was nothing thing earth-shatteringly important, only an errand that would take us away from what we'd planned to do, and where we'd planned to do it.

The agenda was tinkered and 20 minutes later, we were out and about. Once arrived at our destination, the errand took only minutes and were left at loose ends. We had gone too far afield to revisit earlier plans, so now what to do?

We agreed upon a secondary plan, but then that fell through due to circumstances beyond our control. Back to the car and the drawing board.

In the end, all was well, and as of two o'clock in the afternoon, we were walking in the winter sunshine along the bustling main of a nearby village. Fed and full, warm despite the cold - which is surprising, as I'm usually the first to complain of a chill - stretching our legs after lunch at the pub.

We strolled to the bookshop, one where the books are piled high on every available surface, including the floor. I got lost a few times, behind student editions of Kim and Anna Karenina, and between rows of Penguin classics dressed in their multi-colour jackets, with that cummerbund of cream around each of their middles.

Next to the teashop. A wall of teas in glass jars faces you as you enter, a brass bell above the door merrily announces your entry. Everything inside is tiny and twee in a way that's very Alice in Wonderland, but charmingly so. It's a place I've been before, with Mom most memorably, most enjoyably for their High Tea.

The Mad Hatter himself would surely approve of the party the ladies of the shop lay out, a balancing act of treats perched on dainty plates, fragrant teas steeping in individual pots, silver spoons and sugar cubes. Most memorable and most enjoyable of all though, are their scones.

A cream scone by the most classic definition, palest white and with only its edge tinged with tan. Buttery, of course, but it is the sweetness of the cream that comes through most clearly. They are dense without heaviness, which I realize makes no sense, but it is the only way I can think to describe what it is like to bite into one of those lovelies.

In my humble opinion, it is the simplest thing that is the nicest thing about their scones, and that is their sugary top. Fresh and hot out of the oven, the scones are covered in flurries of granulated sugar. It sticks, but doesn't melt, bestowing each and every scone with their own glistening crown.

On Saturday, stuffed as we were, we weren't stopping for scones. And a shame it was. Such the shame that scones were not far from my thoughts for the hours after our departure from the shop. But, all was not lost. Scones, those ethereal scones, were still a possibility.

Through my unabashed cross-examination of the staff I have come to know some of the super-extremely-absolutely-top-secret details of their recipe. From there I have read and baked and cut and compared and tasted my way into a home version that visits at least outskirts of the realm of deliciousness in which their scones reside.

And, since you've all been so kind and embraced our project with more enthusiasm than we could have hoped for, I would so like to bake you some scones, and set a nice table with a pot of Devon cream and a jar of blackcurrant jam. We'd use my Grandmother's china.

Everything the best I could do, because as far as I'm concerned, you're just about the nicest thing, too.

SUGARED CREAM SCONES

The closest I've come to approximating the scones from the tea shop in the village we visited. Since I don't know your schedule, and we've not set a date for our tea, I'll share with you my recipe in the interim.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2-3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, see note
  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces, 3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream, very cold
  • Preheat an oven to 425°F (220°C).

METHOD

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Whisk to combine, then chill in the freezer while you proceed.

Cut the butter into small dice, then chill it as well.

Line a standard baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly flour a work surface. Locate the knife of your choice. Assemble a food processor fitted with the metal blade, or get out a large bowl, a pastry cutter and spatula.

Put the dry ingredients into the bowl of the food processor, pulse a few times to lighten. If doing by hand, whisk or fork the flour mixture to aerate. In the processor, remove the cover and evenly distribute the cubed butter over the flour mixture. Replace the cover, and use short, quick pulses to bring the mixture to something that resembles an uneven meal. If by hand, toss the butter into the flour, then use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into irregular, pea-sized chunks.

With the processor, add about half of the heavy cream then pulse a few times. Add three-quarters of what's left, and pulse maybe three times more. Remove the cover and take a look - the dough should be crumbly and light, but if you pick up some and squeeze it in your hand, it should stick together. If it does, stop. If it doesn't, keep adding a few drops of cream, pulsing once or twice, then checking again. Don't worry if you don't use all the cream.

If working by hand, it is much the same process, but using a spatula to fold and turn the dough to incorporate the liquid. Again, judicious is best with the cream, you don't want a soggy dough.

Turn the dough out onto the floured work surface and knead, gently and lightly, until the dough is fully together; you should still see dots of butter here and there. Pat the dough out into a rough round, and dust with a bit of flour. Divide the dough into three, and shape each ball of dough into a 4" round about 3/4"-1" thick. Cut each round into four wedges, and place on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake the scones in the preheated oven until lightly golden at the edges and dry on their cut sides, around 12-15 minutes. The tops should be puffed and they will feel light for their size. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack set over another baking sheet. Sprinkle liberally with sugar and cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 12 smallish scones.

Notes:

• If you are serving the scones with something tart like a lemon curd, I would advise using 1/2 teaspoon salt. However, when paired with a heavier, sweeter accompaniment like devon cream and jam, I'm more generous in my measurement.

• Wanting some extra prettiness, I rolled the dough out with a pin and used a floured, fluted cutter to shape them. But, since scones are often finicky if over-handled, I usually use a 4-inch springform to form my them. I dust it with flour, then pat the dough into the pan, gently pushing it even. Pop it out, cut it into four and it's done. The springform gives the scones high, straight sides that cook evenly, and using a mold cuts down the handling and stretching of the dough.

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A warm nibble for the cooler days ahead; spiced pumpkin scones. Photos courtesy of Deep Media.

“Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils ..."

Sometimes I think I would really like to go back to school.

I could say that it was because I wanted to be surrounded by knowledge, or that I long for the daily exchange of ideas or that I crave an opportunity to stretch my mental boundaries. But, while all of that is well and good, I must be honest.

The thing that would most excite me about back-to-school would most likely be the stationery.

My love of lists is old news, I know. But it is a continuing, relentless habit. What you might not realize though is that the quirk is even deeper-rooted than the itemized collection of things to do; in fact, lists only scratch the surface of my fondness for writing things down, getting organized, and the supplies associated with both.

The whir of a label maker makes me happy. I have spread sheets detailing gifts given for holidays over the last five years. I was recently miffed to find out that Ikea had discontinued the glass jars I like for pantry storage. I have been known to colour code paper clips to best suit the subject matter they clamp. Seriously. And yes, I got made fun of for that one.

As you can well imagine, my level of commitment to eccentricity has led me down many an aisle of a stationery store. And so then you can imagine, I have bought enough stationery to be particular in my purchases. Rollerball, not ball point pens please. A mechanical pencil with no more than a 0.5 millimetre lead, thank you.

But back to the lists. My incessant scribbles need a home, and this brings me to my greatest love of school supplies - notebooks. Oh, how I adore a brand-new notebook. Whether tiny or fat, simple in its decoration or elaborate, a notebook smacks of promise and new beginnings. Some notebooks seem to make ideas flow easier; inspiring one to sit down and put thoughts to paper.

Throughout our house, our car and in my purse, you will find notebooks. Teeny tiny scratch pads for quick reminders are tucked in the junk drawer in the kitchen. On the desk is a thin, spiral bound notepad of my father's, containing a story about a squirrel I wrote in elementary school. A collection of journals line a shelf in the den, their contents spanning years of our lives. Innumerable recipes and food thoughts are jotted down on scraps of paper and tucked into random books and magazines, or take up books of their own.

It was in one of these (many) notebooks that I came upon a recipe for Spiced Pumpkin Scones and, as a bonus, a mystery. Reading it over, I realized that I had absolutely no recognition of the words whatsoever. Though in my handwriting, with notes and substitutions in the margin, I have absolutely no remembrance of where the recipe came from, or when I heard of it.

Mysterious provenance aside, I was charmed by prospect of lightly-spiced scones; perfect for the cooler weather forecast for the weekend. They were quick work through the use of a stand mixer. Butter is blended into dry ingredients, then liquids are added to that. Dump everything out onto a work surface, knead lightly, and you're done. All that is left is to cut the dough into the desired size and bake.

A scant 15 minutes later a tray full of proudly-puffed scones are yours to be enjoyed. The addition of cake flour helps to keep them tender, while the pumpkin purée adds moisture and pleasing saffron yellowness. Lovely on their own, even better with a smear of butter and a cup of tea. Simply delicious.

Wherever this recipe came from, I am so glad I had someplace to write it down.

Some of my favourite stationery sources are:
Russel + Hazel, See Jane Work, Etsy, and of course the classic, Moleskine.

Spontaneous moments often end up overshadowing the most stylized effort. While enjoying these little bites outside, the cooling rack was momentarily placed amongst the stones. I was so taken by the texture of the crumbly, crackled scones against the gravel, I felt compelled to include the image here.

Spiced pumpkin scones
Of unknown origin, but so tasty that I am tempted to claim them as my own.

Ingredients
2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground clove
1 cup (1/2 pound, 2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, diced
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup canned pumpkin purée (unsweetened)
2/3 cup 18% (table, coffee) cream, chilled
1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons of milk or cream, for egg wash
Granulated or sanding sugar, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Use parchment paper to line a standard baking sheet and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. On the machine's lowest setting, cut in the chilled butter until the mixture resembles course meal. The butter should be in small pieces approximately the size of peas.

Lightly whisk together the eggs, pumpkin purée and cream. With the machine running still on low (or stir), pour the liquids slowly into the flour and butter mixture, stirring until just combined. Small bits of butter should still be visible, but almost all the flour should be incorporated.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Working quickly, gently knead the dough, folding and pressing gently until fairly smooth. Divide the dough into four, and shape each ball of dough into a 4" round about 3/4"-1" thick. Cut each round into six wedges, and place on the prepared baking sheet. Once finished, brush each scone with the egg wash and sprinkle with granulated or sanding sugar.

Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until the the tops are lightly golden and the cut sides look flaky and dry. When fully cooked, they should feel light for their size and sound almost hollow when tapped underneath. Cool on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes. Best served warm.

Makes 24 medium scones.

Notes:

• 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice can be substituted for the individual spices.
• The scones can be frozen before baking. After cutting them out, place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze uncovered. Once firm to the touch, remove to an airtight container or a freezer bag and store. To bake, take the scones from the freezer and preheat the oven. Wait 10 extra minutes after your oven has reached temperature, then egg wash and sugar the scones. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until cooked through.
• These can be made without the aid of a stand mixer. Use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into the flour, then stir in the wet ingredients. Do not over mix, stir until just blended. From here, the method remains the same.
• If your kitchen is very warm, chill the cut scones for 15 minutes before baking for best results.