Celery Salad and a Getaway
Mark Bittman's Pumpkin Panna Cotta

The Cheese Board's Corn Cherry Scones


I may have mentioned before that I am somewhat of a pedant in the kitchen. I like to have the exact ingredients called for, and I don't like cutting corners, especially when I'm testing recipes. But even the most organized and type-A cook can get thrown for a loop when time is of the essence and the buttermilk-man still hasn't made his rounds to the grocery stores in the neighborhood. And so it went this morning, when while toiling away at the elliptical machine, I thought of making fresh scones for breakfast.

I had only a bit of time before going to work, so I scurried to one store to look for dried cherries and buttermilk. No dice. I bought dried cranberries instead of dried cherries, but had no recourse when told that the buttermilk hadn't been delivered yet. I sped on to another store, barreling down the street while the winds pushed back against me. This next store, however, had also not gotten their buttermilk shipment. So I thought, er, creatively, and bought a quart of kefir instead. I zipped home, grumbling at the thought of all these substitutions to contend with, and hating the fact that I'd wasted precious time trying to find the right ingredients.

Back at the ranch, things only got worse when I realized I'd run out of all-purpose flour on New Year's Eve and hadn't replaced it yet. I had to turn to a bag of organic pastry flour (that had, incidentally, expired in December - oogh). With a frown firmly planted on my face, I quickly set about making what I was convinced would be Total Failure Scones. I followed a recipe that the LA Times had tracked down for an eager reader back two winters ago, and which comes from The Cheese Board, a collective bakery in Berkeley.

The stiff dough came together quickly while the oven preheated. The kefir mixed in nicely, and the creamy yet sour aroma mimicked buttermilk quite well. I gently formed balls of dough, placed them on a baking sheet (forming 11 scones instead of 14), and sprinkled the tops with 1 teaspoon of sugar instead of the 2 tablespoons called for. I slid the sheet into the oven, then turned the heat down and ran off to get ready for work. 20 minutes later, the scones were burnished and golden. While still hot, they were cakey and soft. But as I walked to work munching on one, it cooled to a delicate crumbly state - just as it should. The cornmeal gave it a pleasing crunch, and the cranberries (of which there were not enough!) peeked jewel-like through the yellow crumb.

I found the scones to be a bit sweet for my taste - I like a scone to tolerate a goodly amount of jam on top, and this one wouldn't have stood up to that treatment. But Ben will love them, I'm sure, and I'll freeze a few for toaster oven warm-up later this week. As for my pedantry, I did breathe a sigh of relief when I saw a photograph of the original scones online that looked exactly like my own. But it didn't exactly free the ties that bind me to be exacting in the kitchen.