When Mum managed to procure a box of gorgeous strawberries (Rs. 110 at Kovai Pazhamudir Chozhai), I was excited. I imagined dunking them into my oatmeal, blizting a couple into a banana smoothie or simply eaten with a whipped yoghurt and honey dip.
And then I tasted one. Sour. Did I tell you that no strawberry bought in Chennai is perfect all around? Feeling a bit deflated, I stowed it at the back of the refrigerator and promptly forgot all about it.
A couple of days later, I had one of my baking urges. The ones that won't go away until I whip my hand mixer out and melt butter. Mum grumpily asked me to try making something that isn't "chocolate-loaded bitterness" (I guess that is what happens when you get older; your tastebuds die). Mmm. Chocolate-loaded bitterness.
Pastry can be very tricky and I didn't have the time for it. Strawberries, baking, not fussy?
The answer came to me whilst I was reading Enid Blyton on one of those rainy days. Scones, of course! Scones are one of those things I craved, reading Enid Blyton. (Her characters are always eating English breakfasts and packing picnic lunches consisting of the likes of tomato sandwiches, salted eggs and scones with clotted cream!)
And I've never come across a place that retails decent scones in Madras and therefore, resort to baking them at home.
Incidentally, I like British cuisine. Selectively. Tea and Digestive biscuits. Fish and chips. Shepherd's pie (meat, potato AND pastry. Jackpot), Chicken Tikka Masala. And yes. Scones.
I turned to the lovely Annie of Annie's Eats for a recipe. And modified it a little to suit the imported strawberries, lack of baking tools and my overall clumsiness.
1 egg (2 if they're small)
¼ cup thick yoghurt
½ cup milk
1 tsp. lime zest
2¼ cups all-purpose flour (maida), plus as required for kneading
¼ cup sugar, powdered
3 tsps granulated sugar for sprinkling
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold cooking (unsalted) butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup strawberries, diced
1) Chop the strawberries into chunks. Sprinkle sugar, toss them through, and let them sit.
2) In a small bowl, combine yoghurt, milk, lime zest and egg. Whisk with a fork until completely blended.
3)In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir to mix, briefly with a hand mixer (egg beater). Add in the butter and keep mixing it in until only tiny clumps are left behind (you want it to look like wet sand).
4)Toss the strawberries in the above flour mix to coat.
5) Stir in the egg mix into the strawberry-maida mix with a fork or a wooden spoon. Do not use the hand mixer, it would make a weird berry shake/dough. Try to shape it into a sticky dough ball with your hands, sprinkling in some maida if necessary.
6)Line a baking tray with foil. Sprinkle some more flour on it. Drop the dough ball. Flatten with your knuckles into a disc-shaped mass (20 cm diameter, or the thickness of a deep-dish pizza)
7) Slice into 8 triangles, sprinkle granulated sugar on top and transfer the tray to a freezer for 60 minutes. If your dough won't behave, try getting eight balls out of the dough, flatten into little discs, sprinkle sugar on them and freeze for 30 minutes to an hour.
Bake in a pre-heated oven (220˚C) for 15-20 minutes, until it looks brown and crispy on top. Don't let it crisp up too much, because it will burn on the bottom! Also, grease the foil a little bit with butter.
9)Take them out, serve them IMMEDIATELY. Glaze them with strawberry jam, or serve with a little cup of cream.
They come with just one stipulation: Please serve them fresh out of the oven. They taste like soggy, sad dough balls otherwise. Since I didn't need them immediately, I dropped the unbaked dough balls into a Ziploc bag and froze them for a couple of days. Took them out an hour before, thawed and reshaped them. They might need 5 or 10 minutes extra, but actually tastes better. Maybe it's because I learnt to share; served them for family brunch with tea and Spanish omelettes.
Perfect time to ask for that asymmetrical cardigan from Guess. If you can make scones in Madras, so can you rock winter wear. We have ways, we do.