Oats: “A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.” — Dr. Samuel Johnson’s (1709-1784) ‘Dictionary of the English Language’ (1755)
Rolled oats as oatmeal drizzled with real maple syrup is my breakfast food of choice when it is not 90°F (32.2°C) at 7 AM. Steel-cut oats is my first choice for cooked oatmeal, when I have access to it. Doctor Johnson is correct as he defines oats in the first important dictionary of Modern English. Until the Oxford English Dictionary (starting in 1884) came along, Johnson’s Dictionary literally defined use and spelling of the English language. I have fed oats to horses, cattle, goats, sheep, and songbirds. Some people I have met over the years refuse to eat oatmeal or any oat product because they see it as livestock feed. I have met Germans who feel the same way about corn (maize). Oats and maize are the foods of folks living in poverty. Oats is a high fiber food and good for your physical heart, and I would argue, too, your soul on cold winter mornings.
The Oat Scone recipe is one I have wanted to try but was daunted by the instructions for incorporating the oat flour. Whole wheat flour is not something I keep on hand, either. My parents have a Vita-mix® and grind their own whole wheat flour for bread. While my father processed the wheat berries one evening, I thought “Hey, he could grind whole oats into flour, too.” So, he did. We processed rolled oats with the whole wheat flour, as called for in the recipe. I used freshly ground whole wheat and oat flour for the scones.
This scone recipe went together quickly. This recipe is probably the simplest of the scone recipes in this cookbook. I mixed the ingredients in order and made no changes to the ingredients. I did not cut in the butter into the flour until it resembled coarse crumbs but stopped when the butter was still what I would call chunky and thinking “Oh, that’s to big.” While watching a Julia Child episode with a bread baker from California, the baker guest convinced me you don’t want to cut the butter into small pieces or what I usually stop at garden pea size. Keep the butter pieces larger for lighter bread, if I remember correctly.
The wetness of the dough surprised me. Adding additional flour would have made a heavier dough and scone. The need to pat into a round and use a cookie cutter as directed was easy to understand once you handled the dough. Cutting into triangles would not work. The scones would not bake well as a triangle, you need a round structure and not one with corners (chemistry and physics at work). The dough was wetter than, and not as adhesive as I would have liked. The seemingly not adhesive quality to the rounds concerned me, but the scones baked well.
The scones baked to a pretty, golden color. They were light in texture, and not at all heavy and hard like I feared when I placed the wet, firm, cement-consistency rounds on the baking tray. When I put them in the over I predicted the outcome to be golden hockey pucks. They were sweeter than I expected with only three tablespoons light brown sugar.
The recipe includes an apple-pear butter which I also made. The apple-pear butter was very good. Apples and pears dehydrated or dried for this recipe were sweet with no added sugar and tasted good on toast and in peanut butter sandwiches. I could taste the pear which I was not expecting because pear to me has a very faint flavor except if you pick the past-ripe pears off the ground as the wind is blowing the pears off the tree. Beware of the falling pears if you should do that.
The scones I did not eat within a couple of days I froze and forgot about them. Mom pulled the sealed plastic bag out one morning when looking for a frozen orange juice can and asked: “What’s this?”
To thaw and heat from frozen I place a scone wrapped in aluminum foil in a cold oven and set the temperature to 400°F (204.4°C). Heat the scone for twenty minutes. Twenty minutes is long enough the scone to be hot and moist in the center but not dried out or over-brown.
I would describe this as an excellent autumn or winter recipe for breakfast, brunch, or with a hearty soup. The dehydrating or drying of fresh apples and pears for immediate use in the apple-pear butter intensified the flavors and sugars and compliments the sweet nuttiness of the whole grains. The scones freeze well, but freezer burn might set in if left in the freezer for more than 6 months.
The cookbook is available through your local library, an independent books store, or online through the publisher. You can also publish through your favorite online retailer. The cookbook ‘The Best Quick Breads: 150 Recipes for muffins, scones, shortcakes, gingerbreads, cornbreads, coffeecakes, and more’ by Beth Hensperger is full of recipes for every season and appetite.
The Oat Scone and Apple-Pear Butter recipe reviewed is from an edition published by The Harvard Commons Press in 2000. The edition the publisher sells on their website has a May 2012 date.
I am also including a link to Johnson’s Dictionary with his definition of oats which is great. In the Johnson’s Dictionary, he defines, with the 1755 spelling, oats as:
“A grain, which in England is generally given to horfes, but in Scotland fupports the people.”