September 22, 2015
I'm sitting here smelling the scones I just removed from the oven. This olfactory drug permeates the house. And I know few things that smell better, by the way, than fresh baked goods. I remember back in my boyhood home town (Enid, Okla.) when we would sometimes drive by the local bread bakery (was it Bond Bread? I think so), and the aroma would work its way inside the car, and I would somehow think it would be a good time for a peanut-butter sandwich (Peter Pan, smooth; nowadays, I'm a Skippy Super Chunk guy).
(BTW: On eBay I just found this Bond Bread cookbook. Didn't buy it.)
And even now, Joyce and I sometimes go home from Chapel Hill the "back way," north along Main, then Newberry Streets, a route that takes us by Schwebel's, from which there often used to emanate that I-think-I-want-a-peanut-butter-sandwich aroma. A couple of years ago there was a news story about the imminent closing of the bakery (link to story), but the last time we were along there, we saw that the outlet store was still open--and there were some large delivery trucks parked, as usual. So I'm not sure what's going on.
Back to scones ...
I'm not sure when I started eating them--certainly not back in my Bond Bread days. Perhaps on one of the trips I took to England in the 80s and 90s? Hard to say. I do remember buying them at Starbucks and at the Great Lakes Baking Company, the wonderful local bakery right next door to the coffee giant.
I started baking them only a few years ago, deciding I'd like to have one for breakfast every day (which I do). I had an early disaster (they were flat as shingles--and about as tasty), but since then, they've turned out pretty well most of the time.
I've tried various varieties but find I've zeroed in on a personal favorite: maple-pecan. I use Ohio maple syrup (plus a bit of a zap from some pure maple extract--sharpens the maple flavor I love), and I use organic pecans I get at Mustard Seed Market. They ain't cheap. But I've learned that Hunger trumps Economy.
Every now and then I'll change up--and will do cherry (or cranberry)-walnut or blueberry or whatever. But I end up back with the pecans and the maple syrup.
I have some personal history with pecans, you see. For a little while in the late 1940s and early 1950s we lived in a rented house, 1709 East Broadway Ave. in Enid, exactly a block away from my maternal grandparents' house. And we had a pecan tree in the back yard. Here's an image of that house I just copied from Google Maps street view. Is that a huge pecan hovering in the back yard? I hope so.
When the nuts fell, they had, for me, two purposes: weapons (yes, I would whip them at my brothers) and snack food. My mom (and grandmother) also made fantastic pecan pies that I can taste right now. I remember little dishes of them, some metal nutcrackers lying handy ... Pecans were a bit of a mess to deal with. But the rewards were immense. The picture shows the kind of nutcrackers we had.
I remember when we came to Ohio (summer 1956) that we were all surprised that pecans were so expensive--considered, even, some sort of delicacy. Hell, they'd been all over the ground in our back yard. Instant ammo for boyhood skirmishes. Unforgettable in Mom's and Grandma's pies. Impossible to forget as I stir them into my scone mix.