Tag Archives: Beth Henspergen

Recipe Review: Oat Scones with Apple-Pear Butter in The Best Quick Breads (2000) by Beth Hensperger

oat scones fresh from the oven

oat scones fresh from the oven

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.”


Recipe Review of Dried Apricot-Pecan Bread, in The Best Quick Breads (2000) by Beth Henspergen

Apricots are important icons to several cultures around the world. The stone fruit is as important as olives to other cultures. Like olives in some places in the Middle and Near East, intentionally destroying an apricot tree is such an extreme insult over which people that are willing to kill. The apricot we know today may have been developed in Armenia up to 8,000 years ago. Apricots have been identified as cultivated in India 5,000 years ago. Spanish Missionaries carried apricot seedlings west across North America as they carried the Gospel and sought golden salvation in the Mediterranean-climate of California. The pale orange fruit dries into a golden bronze coin when not treated with preservatives. Apricots were an important commodity in along the Persian and Silk Road trade routes. Today, Turkey is the largest producer of dried apricots.

Two loaves of Dried Apricot-Pecan Bread from The Best Quick Breads (2000) by Beth Hensperger

Two loaves of Dried Apricot-Pecan Bread from The Best Quick Breads (2000) by Beth Hensperger

The recipe for Dried Apricot-Pecan Bread is one of my favorite quick bread recipes. I shared it at work several times a year. My English and Irish co-workers called it a wonderful tea bread. I considered this the best critique available. It is best served cool and sliced thin with a very sharp knife. Sweetened butter is best.

I need to first say I love this cookbook, but that does not mean the recipes do not need to be tweaked to bake the best bread.  I have been using the cookbook for over ten years and each recipe has its own adjustments.

I recommend the Turkey apricots over the California apricots. I use kitchen scissors to cut the dried fruit into not quite match stick size, but maybe two match sticks wide pieces. When you hydrate the 12 oz chopped, dried apricots, you can use 8 oz water, or orange juice, or orange liqueur.

There is nothing special to the mixing of the dry ingredients. Use the best flour you can afford. It really does make a difference in the finished bread. The 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour which the recipe called for and I used in the photographed loaves here was ground by my father from wheat berries he purchased from King Arthur Flour at their office in Atchison, Kansas in a Vitamix food processor. My family takes flour quality very seriously.

The recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar which is included in the first step when you marinate the apricots. I used a half cup of finely granulated sugar and in this batch I think that was to much. The surface of the bread was much to brown, in my opinion. That said, I had a nice center crack on one loaf, which indicated good expansion during baking. The recipe calls to allow the dough to rest 15 minutes before placing in the pre-heated oven. I allowed the dough to rest 20 minutes before baking.

It has been suggested if I want to avoid the quick bread from cracking on its top surface I need to allow the dough to rest before baking. I think this is important especially when dealing with quick bread recipes that rely on baking soda for expansion, such as this recipe. The 4 oz plus a little orange juice added at the end provides the acidity to trigger the baking soda and any expansion that occurs before and during baking.

When combining liquids, mix the two eggs with the 4 oz orange juice, then add to the rest of the ingredients. I do not recommend substituting orange liqueur. You need the orange juice acidity to interact with the baking soda.

My main complaint about the recipes in the cook book is that they consistently do not call for enough liquid to adequately combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients. I have had the best results in hand mixing this recipe. It is very important to not over-mix but the dry ingredients do need to be evenly moistened. Add more liquid, here orange juice, a tablespoon at a time until the flour does not stick to the mixing bowl. The recipe calls for 60 minutes baking time, but this recipe is done, provides a clean toothpick when inserted into the top of each loaf, right at 50 minutes.

Dried Apricot-Pecan Bread is wonderful at a brunch, on a picnic served with paper-thin slices of honey ham and a small amount of marmalade, or as a mid-afternoon snack with cream cheese. This quick bread can be as sophisticated or as simple as you desire.

The recipe book I use is The Best Quick Breads: 150 Recipes for Muffins, Scones, Shortcakes, Gingerbreads, Cornbreads, Coffeecakes, and More published in 2000 by The Harvard Common Press. ISBN: 1-55832-171-3  It appears the book was republished in 2012.