My mother does not bake.
I grew up in a household with a kitchen that contained no measuring cups. Ground cinnamon and vanilla essence never once darkened our door. I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times we used the oven each year. When someone at boarding school told me about care packages, my first thought was that it would be rather silly for my mother buy cookies in Hong Kong and mail them all the way to New England.
The idea of receiving a care package containing homemade baked goods was more amusing than appealing. Other people’s parents might send them loaves of banana bread or batches of oatmeal raisin cookies, but not mine. I wasn’t particularly bothered by this state of affairs: it wasn’t unusual for an international student, and besides, my friends were willing to share.
My sister, on the other hand, feels the absence more acutely. Unlike her friends, Lucille does not get the benefit of regular parental visits. She views the lack of care packages as an additional disadvantage. And so, whenever I visit New York, I bake treats for Lucille.
I’ve brought her quiche with a bacon filling and a buttery crust. A murderous chocolate torte. Even bread-and-butter pudding, sweet with cherry jam.
I meant to bake a batch of berry scones for my latest visit, but I forgot that I’d used up the bag of frozen berries in my freezer. Instead, I turned to the pantry, and dug out a bag of walnuts. The maple syrup followed, and then it only made sense to add a little cinnamon.
The result is very much a scone in the American sense of the word, a sweet baked good complete unto itself, more suited to coffee than tea. I'd prefer a better name, but that detail doesn't diminish their appeal: fragrant with maple, filled with nubbly walnuts, and topped with a sprinkling of crunchy cinnamon sugar, they're quite a decent late-night snack.
So Lucille will have scones to nibble on after my visit is over. She can even share with her friends.
Maple Walnut Scones
(Makes enough to feed one hungry college student and a few friends.)
Preheat oven to 350F. Cover a baking tray in parchment paper.
Get out a big bowl. Dump in three cups of flour, a half-teaspoon of salt, and two teaspoons of baking powder. Take three-quarters of a stick of butter and cut it into the flour mixture until the largest lumps are pea-sized.
Add one-third of a cup of brown sugar and two cups of walnuts to the bowl; mix well.
Make a well in the middle. Add a dash of vanilla and a quarter-cup of B Grade maple syrup, then pour in one-and-a-half cups of milk. Mix together to form a soft dough. If it seems a little crumbly, add a little more milk.
Get out a small bowl, and mix together a quarter-teaspoon of cinnamon with two tablespoons of white sugar. Set aside.
Turn the dough out on the parchment-covered tray. Shape into a rough round. Cut the round into quarters, then eighths. If you'd prefer mini-scones, cut each eighth further in half.
Arrange the scones on the tray so that they have room to spread. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Transfer the tray to the oven.
Bake for thirty-five to forty minutes, or until the scones are nicely browned on top. Serve warm or cool with coffee.