Worship: A scone story.

When I was very little, my family sometimes went to church on Sunday mornings. It was a Catholic church, and that was kind of weird. I still have some small memories of those trips to the old Saint Matthias on Boston Post Road. High, vaulty ceilings, the stained-glass faces of saints, a little old lady playing  a pipe organ all tucked away in a dark corner. Prayers and things. A basket passed around to collect coins for the poor. Church stuff. Unpredictably (or perhaps, rather, predictably), the spot is now home to a hair salon, and the the congregation has long since moved down the road to a bigger, more accommodating space. I haven’t been there in over ten years.

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My sister and I, one Easter Sunday morning before churchgoing. (I’m the evil one.)

There’s a reason that I have begun this way, but it doesn’t have too much to do with being Catholic or going to church. I suppose this is one of those six-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon stories. My Catholic upbringing — these ritualized mornings of “get up and pray,” followed by other, more carefree, lively things —  recall for me a specific sense of what it meant to be a child on a Sunday, of what I hope, to a certain extent, it still means today.

Those Sundays — just after the Gospel readings, the sermon, the clicking of coins — my family would stop by the still-thriving-today Flanders Bake Shop for some pastries. Flanders is an old standby in the shoreline Connecticut community in which I was raised — a business 40 years old with a reputation for having just about the greatest donuts a donut lover could ask for. It’s a simple place. Here you will find nothing lavender-scented, no treats topped with chocolate-laced bacon, nothing trendy or curious. They do have powdered sugar, though, and lot of rainbow sprinkles — not to mention the obligatory round, button-holed pudge balls upon which to eat them. They also have the very best traditional, can’t-go-a-Sunday-without-one, honeywheat glazed donuts that you could ever dream of.

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The only problem was that, particularly as a child, I didn’t love donuts. I know. First I go on and on about church, and then I tell you I’m not into donuts. Who am I? But… I don’t know. I just didn’t love donuts. I didn’t dislike them, really; I think I just suspected from an early age that the pastry family had a lot more to offer me. And so, while I waited in queue at the bake shop with my family post-prayer each Sunday morning, I couldn’t wait to get up to the glass display case, to ceremoniously press my smudgy little fingers upon it, and discover what sorts of un-donut opportunities awaited. Most weeks I would end up with some kind of muffin — blueberry or corn. Or I’d drink the Kool-Aid after all and get one of those glassy, honeywheat bundles. But one week, one good and glorious week, there was something different hidden among the usual spread. Something curious, unknown. Unbidden.

It was a scone — a cranberry one — and it became mine. And it has been mine ever since.

In the context of this story, one could say that my discovery of this “new food” was a a religious one. I had gone to church, had prayed for good things, and good things had been delivered. It was a benediction. The scone was my City Upon a Hill.

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To this day, I still big-heartedly love scones. Perhaps appropriately, I worship them. There is something so substantial about them, about their texture, their taste, their not-quite-muffin-ness. They are not sweet, unless they are in the mood to be sweet. But they can be savory too. So savory. Exhibit A.

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My scone story takes yet another turn, though, because now, as an adult, my body and gluten are not friends, thus further complicating my strained relationship with all things pastry. Even so, since going gluten-free last year, I’ve made (and devoured) many a wheat-free scone. And you know what? I still love them. Adore them. Some things just don’t change — can’t change.

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The scone I share with you today uses almond flour (sometimes called almond meal), a lovely, dark-magic ingredient that is basically just pulverized nuts. The texture is different than your standard scone — less dry and crumbly, but holy and divine in its own way. Despite it being Thursday, I’ve dressed up these scones in their very best Sunday regalia — some handsome, super bitey blue cheese from Great Hill Dairy in Marion, Massachusetts, as well fresh thyme and chopped walnuts. A handful of dried cranberries could also bring a lot to this party, but they’re not invited today.

——-

Herby almond flour scones with blue cheese and walnuts {gluten-free, grain-free}

Yields: 8 scones

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 2 fresh eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk or almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Method:

  1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and preheat the oven to 375 degree Fahrenheit.
  2. Start by mixing the dry ingredients (almond flour, baking soda, and sea salt) in a large bowl, making sure to smooth any lumps. In a second bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients (eggs, milk, and oil). In a third, smaller bowl, combine the tasty junk (thyme, walnuts, and cheese).
  3. Incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet, then add the tasty junk.
  4. Using your hands, roll the dough into eight small balls, about 1/3 cup each. Place them on the baking sheet and then flatten slightly with your fingertips.
  5. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until slightly browned.
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