The doors and windows were open from 5am but it had been 21 celsius overnight. The cushions lived out on the patio table, the stove stayed switched off, the oven was given a wide berth. The tap was ran till the water came out ice cold, fans whirred all day, Prune and Suzi panted in the shade. The strawberry plants were heavy with red fruit, the ground finally dry, we could wear good shoes to walk the dogs. In the middle of the day it was simply too much to sit in the sun, I'd sit in my room in front of the fan, reading a Jack Reacher and watching the curtains flap in the semblance of a light breeze. 2016. The year of the heatwave, though I think we were lucky enough to have three or four in a row.
Four weeks or so of proper warmth, no rain; no storms, no fog. My sister makes (beautiful) scrapbooks and she has a screenshot of the weather forecast from her phone; 27 degrees and wall to wall sunshine for the rest of the week. We'd been commissioned by our parents to paint the fence of the front garden and rather than the wet and wind we expected, we were blessed with cloudless skies in a technicolor blue. From the little orchard in the front garden, in the heat of the afternoon there was some kind of a hush. It was like something out of Huckleberry Finn, in the distance was the soft thump of a ball being kicked around by kids playing in the fields, a farm dog barking on a rambling country lane, the occasional cough of a caravan taking tourists to the sea, church-bells singing for the hour. Picking strawberries from the garden, making salads with feta and nectarines, eating dripping ripe peaches over the sink.
That real heat eventually petered out, leaving behind a sky that was light teal painted with streaks of gray, occasional rainstorms and temperatures that hovered vaguely in the mid-teens day and night. It was nature's transitional phase, as frustrating as waiting for a web page to open: wishing you'd not closed the tab in the first place, but since you had, willing the new screen to appear. Cars and rooms were still too hot but the wind was cool, it was too wet for most shoes but not cold enough for boots and some shops decided it was time to break out the Christmas decorations. The fall deserves some sympathy as a season, especially in Europe, where the trees take their time erupting into golds and ambers, storms pick up and the nights start drawing in. But when it arrived, this year it came with a bang. It was as if someone had opened the door of a very stuffy room, letting in a strong breeze that whirled right through us, throwing everything up in the air. It was the start of the new year, my first few days of university flew in as the leaves started to pile up. It was time for the supermarkets to retrieve the squash, for slippers in the house, for my warm glow in the corner of the kitchen. It was time for scones, time to preheat the oven again.
Scones! I didn't really 'introduce' my recipe in the last post for the loaf, but I thought I would this time. Rye flour isn't gluten free but is lower in gluten than whole-wheat flour, making these scones a bit delicate but it has such a nice flavor (and color). Dark chocolate and cardamom are an unlikely but amazing combination, slightly exotic and that smell. Just try them for the smell. And the fact that they're a lot easier than normal scones! There are some changes you can make to tailor them to various diets, they're in the recipe notes. I now establish how much I love scones, and hope you try them too. Lots of autumnal hugs xx
dark chocolate and cardamom rye scones
// dairy free. Makes 6 medium scones
1 cup (110g) rye flour
1/4 cup whole spelt flour (40g)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8teaspoon salt (that's a pinch)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons (30ml) maple syrup
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
3 tablespoons (45g) yogurt of choice (I used goat's milk yogurt)
2 tablespoons (30ml) milk of choice (or replace milk and yogurt with 1/4c or 60ml full fat coconut milk)
1 free range egg
50g/1.8oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (about a heaped 1/3 cup when coarsely chopped)
Preheat the oven to 180'C, 350'F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, salt and spices. Set aside.
In a smaller bowl, add the vanilla extract, maple syrup, oil, yogurt & milk; stir well to combine. Add the egg and beat till it's smooth, pale and creamy.
Add the wet mix to the dry mix and slowly, gently combine. It will be pretty thick and take some time to come together, that's ok, but if it's very dry add another tablespoon of milk. -As the dough starts to come together, fold through the chopped chocolate
Cover a work surface with parchment paper (or flour it pretty well) and gather the dough into your hands. Gently squash/shape it into a vague oval, about 9cm/3.5inches thick and 18cm/7in long. If there is any chocolate left in the bowl, push it into the dough (the more the better, right?)
Using a pastry wheel, divide the dough in two, then each half into 3 triangles to form 6 scones
Place on the parchment paper, well spaced, and bake for about 15-18 minutes, till the tops are golden. The skewer trick works for these too - if it's inserted into the middle and comes out clean, you're good. Cool on a wire rack. The scones keep in an airtight container for about 3 days.
I list yogurt and milk as ingredients and by all means, use dairy yogurt and milk, or plant based yogurt and milk. I also think that 1/4 cup (60ml) full fat coconut milk would work instead, the milk & yogurt give the tenderness that butter and cream would traditionally. I always use freshly ground cardamom and 70% dark chocolate. Try not to rough the dough around too much so they stay nice and soft and fluffy and amazing.