Traveling the world through cuisine

Scones at 3rd Coast Café

3rd Coast Café, Chicago

Back when I was 18, I felt like life was just beginning for me. I was freshly out of high school, not old enough to drink, but old enough to enjoy many wonderful evenings here in Chicago. Among the many clubs, events, and other adventures I took in my youth, I'll always remember this quaint little café called 3rd Coast.

The café is located in the heart of the Gold Coast neighborhood here in Chicago, and while it's a nice little local spot, the sentimental value to me was in how it was my first real café experience. For an 18 year-old, it was a wondrous adult place with a semi-elegant decor, quality coffee, and late hours (since bars were not an option). Even more, I remember their scones.

If you've never had one, the best way I can describe a scone is like you mated a biscuit with a cookie. It has a texture similar to bread, but yet crumbly like a cookie with a mild sweetness. They come in a variety of flavors, usually either chocolate chip or different fruit variants similar to what you would find in muffins. When I'd order a scone at 3rd Coast, they would warm it up, and serve it to me with condiment options such as whipped cream, butter, and jelly/preserves.

The idea of the scone has existed for centuries, with the first mention of the name in 1513. They originated in parts of Scotland and the Netherlands, mainly to describe pieces or small amounts of quick bread they made. Over time, they made their way from the villages to high society, noted as an ideal treat with coffee or tea.

In my experiences, scones have come in two forms. If you visit any Starbucks, you’ll see them as triangular-shaped and more smooth, taking its form from the Scottish origins. At 3rd Coast, they would go more Dutch with spoon-dropped mounds of dough baked into a rougher, more crumbly texture.

The recipe I have for you today can honestly go either way, it really depends on how you form your scones before baking. The recipe is so easy you can use this for most flavors you want to try. The photo was of chocolate-chip scones I made, but I’ve also used this recipe to make blueberry and cranberry/almond scones.

Bake yourself up a batch for those moments with a hot cup of happiness.

Scones

Scones

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of baking soda
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 stick of butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 cups of buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • 1 cup of your “flavor of choice”

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 400°. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour with the sugar, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.
  3. Add in the butter pieces and mix well with your hands or a spoon.
  4. Using a second bowl, combine the buttermilk with the egg and vanilla.
  5. Slowly stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with a fork.
  6. Stir gently until the mixture is moist and no residual liquid remains.
  7. Add in your “flavor of choice”, stir gently.

For Dutch-style scones:

  1. Drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto your lined cookie sheet. Make your scones roughly 1/3 smaller than the final size you desire.
  2. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes, or until outside is golden brown and the scones pass the toothpick test.
  3. Allow scones to cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

For Scottish-style scones:

  1. Place the entire mixture on your table or surface.
  2. Wet your hands with a little water, and shape the mixture into a round cake roughly 2 inches in height.
  3. Cut the shape into triangle-shaped slices as if you were cutting a cake or pizza.
  4. Place the triangles on the cookie sheet and brush them with some extra buttermilk, regular milk, or melted butter.
  5. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes, or until outside is golden brown and the scones pass the toothpick test.
  6. Allow scones to cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

Quick Notes

When I speak of “flavor of choice”, I mainly mean whatever flavor you wish to add to the scones. It could be a cup of berries, chocolate chips, or a combination of fruit and nuts.

If you use fresh berries, dredge them in flour before adding, or else the juices will color your scones. I actually like to avoid the juice/color problem by using dried fruit.  I'll first soak it in water for an hour to hydrate it, then dry them on paper towels a bit.

Do not overmix the batter. We want a rough consistency for that ideal texture. You just want the wet to mix fully with the dry. Use a spoon, fork, or your hands, but refrain from using electric mixers.

Variations

Variations can be all over the place. I mentioned fruits, nuts, chocolate chips. You could season them with a little cinnamon and/or nutmeg, or even go savory by reducing the sugar down to 2 tsp, and then trying ingredients such as bacon, cheese, rosemary, or chives.

Healthy It Up

I generally like to use lowfat buttermilk in my scones to reduce the fat. I'd also suggest smaller scones if you're watching your calories.

Serving Suggestions

Scones are best served warm with hot drinks such as coffee, tea, or cocoa. If you wish to reheat scones that have cooled down, use your regular oven or a toaster oven to maintain the crisp of the outside.

Tags: Scottish, Scandinavian, scone, biscuit, cookie

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