From Scones to Ancestors

Yesterday, I made scones, and they weren’t quite the success that I had hoped they would be. As the pictures below indicate, they grew in width rather than height—I can sure identify with that!—and they ended up looking like cookies. I used Alton Brown’s recipe.

Even so, they were surprisingly good—sweet, but not too sweet; tender, even though they were flat; and nicely crisp on top. Not complete failures. Just not what I wanted.

So, to my blogging friends who are familiar with scones: Do you have any idea where I went wrong? I did not overhandle them, but did I cut them too big? Should they have been taller and more narrow? Hard to troubleshoot from afar, I know, but please do feel free to offer suggestions.

On a happier note…I learned some interesting family-tree news from my cousin Carol. Her father and my father were brothers, and on that side of the family, our 7x great-grandfather was a German Jew named Hanss Semele. He was born in 1590 and came to France sometime in the 1600s.

As far as I knew, my family on all sides was French right back to the caveman days, but Carol’s genetic testing proved that this is not so. You never know, do you? (Phew, am I ever glad we didn’t find a plantation slave owner on the family tree. Unlikely, given our French Canadian ancestry, but, as a friend pointed out, this has happened to some people.)

Both Carol and I were tickled by the discovery of Hanss, and in Outside Time, the current YA fantasy book I’m working on, there will be a character named Hanss, in honor of our 7x great-grandfather. When I mentioned this to Carol, she replied, “Isn’t it funny how how close you feel to them once you know they existed?”

So true! Of course, we don’t know what kind of person Hanss was, but in my story, he’ll be a good guy.

39 thoughts on “From Scones to Ancestors”

  1. I believe Hanss was a good man just like all the men that came after him.

  2. Shalom Laurie and Carol! Somehow I am not totally surprised…. Laurie’s love of books and food should have made me suspicious before now…..

  3. I can’t help you with the scones Laurie, but what a wonderful discovery about your 7x great-grandfather Hanns! It will be exciting to research the period of his travels more closely πŸ™‚πŸ’– xxx

  4. Fascinating to find out you have a Hanss as a relative in amongst all your French ancestry, and how interesting that you have a Hanss in your book…I have found a few surprises in my family history, and interesting coincidences too.

  5. Your scone look just fine, Laurie! I rtied making them once, but it didn’t come out right either. The ones from back east I loved the best were blueberry-oatmeal, and looked like giant slugs. They were so good with tea!

    Congratulations on finding your 7x grandfather!

    1. Thanks, Lavinia. What a treat to discover Hanss! I will try making scones again, next time setting them closer together to bake as was suggested by blogging friend Lisa.

  6. I checked the recipe and it looked fine, though I might substitute buttermilk for the cream for a higher rise. I roll pretty thick biscuits and set them close together to bake. That way they can’t really spread out, just up, so you get a higher lighter one. Regardless of your dissatisfaction, they looked good to me and sounded fabulous. As Tootlepedal said, try again. As for your ancestor! What a discovery! And yes, you do feel closer to people you know existed. Sometimes there’s paper on them and you can learn more. Believe me, the French have records…as would the British.

  7. Funny how many people turn out to have Jewish ancestors they were unaware of. So I assume your Jewish connection was forgotten until this recent discovery?

  8. Fun discovery! Looking forward to meeting Hanss in book 3. As to the scones, mine don’t rise too high either, though they taste fine. But it maybe we need more baking powder?

    1. Thanks, Eliza! Good point about the baking powder. Next time I make them, I will try baking them closer together, as blogging friend Lisa suggested. Then I’ll go from there.

  9. The scones look really good. I always use milk not cream and often substitute the milk with buttermilk or soured milk/yogurt which makes them less indigestible.
    My recipe is – 8 oz/225 g plain flour
    pinch of salt
    half a teaspoon cream of tartar
    half a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
    1.5 oz/40 g butter or margarine
    1 oz/25 g caster sugar
    50 g sultanas (optional)
    approx. quarter of a pint/150 ml buttermilk or soured milk
    milk for glazing
    Sift flour, salt, cream of tartar, bicarb of soda into bowl. Cut the fat into the flour and rub to a breadcrumb consistency. Mix in sugar, sultanas. Stir in sufficient liquid to give a soft manageable dough. Not necessarily all the liquid as the dough shouldn’t be too wet. Knead lightly on a floured board until smooth. Roll out lightly until about 0.5 in/1.5 cm thick and cut into rounds with a 2 in/5 cm cutter. The trimmings can be made into a big round and quartered. Put the scones on a floured and warmed baking sheet. Brush the tops with milk. Bake in a preheated hot oven at 230 C/450 F for about 10 mins.
    The cream of tartar will help to make the scones rise more. I’m not sure of the measurements in cups – I hope you’ll be able to try this recipe one day.
    xo πŸ™‚

  10. Oh, excitement about your family tree, Laurie – I’m sure there are all sorts of surprises out there. It’s fun that you can honor him in your next book. I love how Simon’s talk of scones has prompted you to go on your own quest. Are you pronouncing them properly? I still say it wrong in my head about half the time – lol

    1. Thanks, Jodie. Alas, I still pronounce scones the American way. I’m going to try again this weekend. I’ve gotten a few tips from various readers. Onward, ho!

  11. Taller and more narrow for the classic look – they don’t rise as much as you’d expect. We’d call these drop scones and would eat them as happily as any other.

    The Guardian has an article on how to make the perfect scone, but I’d swop any richly fruited scone for any plain scone, no matter who made it!

  12. Sorry it’s taken so long to get here. The scones look nice and light inside, so the handling was ok. If they taste good there’s no problem because there are no rules on how they should look. πŸ™‚

    However, a reasonably stiff dough and 2″ cutter would probably give you a more traditional shape. After a few problems with baking powder I tend to use recipes with self-raising flower.

    1. Thanks for the advice! We just ordered new cutters as the one I am using is plastic and chipped. Time for a replacement. I an going to try adding a bit more flour to the dough, which is very sticky. I will keep you posted.

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