Magical Ink Buttermilk Scones

Monday February 15, 2010

Ink is one of the oldest tools of magic. Whether needed to write a spell or symbol, magical ink can invoke or banish potentially dangerous beings. To make invisible ink appear, hold the paper over a candle flame to gently heat the paper until the writing appears. And beware of old journals found in the lavatory as with Harry Potter!

Recipes for scones made in centuries past contained no baking powder or yeast; the sole leavening was bicarbonate of potash, or saleratus, an early form of modern baking soda made from wood ashes, which gave scones a unique tangy flavor. Baking soda and small amounts of baking powder are the leavens used exclusively today. When making these ancient Celtic breads, I suggest beating the doughs in a “sunwise” (clockwise) direction, as per Druidic recipe instructions from the Middle Ages, to come as close to the authentic results as possible.

Eat your warm scones with butter, jam, Devonshire cream (recipe follows), and lots of India tea with milk in a china cup and saucer.

Makes 12 scones


  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or white whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 1/4 cups dried cranberries or raisins
  • 1 cup cold buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons sugar mixed with 1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice, for sprinkling


1. Preheat the oven to 400º.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and zest.  Cut in the butter with a fork or a heavy-duty electric mixer until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in the dried cranberries.  Add the buttermilk to the dry mixture and stir until a sticky dough is formed.

3. Turn out the shaggy dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently just until the dough holds together, about 6 times.  Divide into 3 equal portions and pat each into a 1-inch-thick round about 6 inches in diameter.  Sprinkle the tops lightly with the spiced-sugar mixture.  With a knife, cut each round into quarters, making 4 wedges.  The scones can also be formed by cutting out with a 3-inch biscuit cutter to make 12 to 14 smaller scones.

4. Place the scones about 1-inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake in the preheated oven until crusty and golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes.  Serve immediately with cups of hot tea and good company of friends.

Homemade Devonshire Cream

Yield:  1 1/2 cups


  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup cultured sour cream


In a clean mixing bowl, whip the heavy whipping cream with the powdered sugar until soft peaks form.  On low speed, add the sour cream and mix until just fluffy and well combined.  Scrape into a covered container and refrigerate until serving to spread on warm scones.

the jam and honey tray

Excerpted from The Best Quick Breads and adapted from Fig-Walnut Scones, by Beth Hensperger. (c) 2000, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.

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