Back on the scone hunt

And boy has it intensified. It has been very long – too long – since I last posted on here which is not okay. However, this has not been due to a lack of scones. Quite the opposite especially recently. Here is some math and a picture to reflect the high quality of friends I have found:

9 scones Sunday + 8 scones Monday = 17 scones in 2 days

img_6273

img_6263

Basically, two of my good friends here gifted me 17 scones. What more does one need in life?

And now, here I am happily munching on yet ANOTHER scone that I purchased from Caffe Nero because I’m a fiend and can’t control myself. And because my roommate and I decided to study here. Here’s the rundown.

img_62771Not going to lie, I’m pretty proud of my artsy angle on this picture. I included the coffee in there, but let’s be real, who’s paying attention to it anyway?

img_62781Did I actually buy 2 scones? Of course I did. Left is peach pecan and right is chocolate chip.

img_62791The scone’s innards.

Initial impression: I was waiting in the rather long line (and by long I mean 4 people but it just seemed long because the place was so small that the line took up a lot of space relative to the size of the cafe) and of course, my eyes scanned the baked goods section. I saw the usual cookies, muffins, danishes (more on danishes/tarts/pies in another post), and brownies and honestly wasn’t expecting to see scones. And then, peeking out from behind the display of (honestly who knows what and who really cares) croissants (?), I see some round scone-looking things. At the moment, I couldn’t get a good look at them because all of the people in front of me were in the way (and I’ve realized that I really turn into a grouch when I’m trying to get to scones). I was going to ask one of the very busy cafe workers whether they were scones and, if they were, what kind of scones they were. To my great fortune, the girl in front of me asked and I eavesdropped into the cafe worker’s response. Spinach and something (I don’t really give salty scones the time of day because that’s what biscuits are for now aren’t they?), chocolate chip, apple walnut, and peach pecan. And also to my great fortune (because there was only one chocolate chip scone remaining), the girl decided NOT to buy a scone and instead went with a muffin (her loss). When the line moved forward, I approached the scones to get a better look. They looked a bit like bread rolls with a crunch texture on the top. Imagine those packaged bread rolls you get on the plane that are always cold. And in case you don’t know what I’m talking about…

airplane-dinner-roll

Of course it didn’t look exactly like that, and luckily it didn’t taste anything like that either but the appearance of the scone was eerily similar to that bread roll. The size (about 3 inches in diameter and 2 inches high) is a little sad though I think my expectations for size are a bit over-exaggerated (for me, the bigger the better). But I’m willing to look past it.

Texture: The outside texture is a bit odd. It’s crunchy but in a powdery way. So when you bite the outside, it crumbles into a million pieces in your mouth. The best comparison I can make is that the outside texture is like the texture of Eet Sum Mor biscuits which I believe are British. I know, really obscure. Also, why am I comparing this scone to a strange cookie that no one has heard of and where did I ever encounter such a thing? When I was in Tanzania over the summer, I think I had one really long 10-week craving for scones (I had just been in Chapel Hill where I was able to enjoy TPS for an entire week). Typically, when I have a craving and I don’t want to give in to my craving, I eat around my craving until I’m so dissatisfied with everything I have eaten that I end up eating what it is I was craving in the first place. Of course, this was not possible in Tanzania as they don’t have scones (I was hopeful that they would and maybe they do because they were a British colony, but they definitely didn’t have any in the small town where I was). So my solution was to eat around my craving and the closest thing I could find was cookies (I know, how convenient). So I spent much of my time in Tanzania eating cookies and all types of cookies including these Eet Sum Mor biscuits. In the process, I discovered the wonders of reduced fat Digestive Cookies. Anyways, returning back from the long aside. The inside texture of the scone is pretty good. It has the perfect moistness to dryness ratio though the perfect texture on the inside is slightly disrupted by the crunchy powder outside.

Taste: The taste is pretty much on point. The chocolate chips are small so they don’t overwhelm the taste buds. The dough part is slightly sweet but not too much so which marries well with the sweet chocolate chips. (Also, I just ate a piece of only inside and while there was no outside to disrupt the texture, it was very odd to eat such a soft piece of scone.)

Overall rating: 6/10

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Moja

I found another hidden gem here in Dodoma, and I am so excited to tell you about it. However, I will say that I read over my last post (Rock Bun), and it came off a little…shall we say haughty. I’m afraid to say that I am bordering the line of being a scone snob, and that is not my intention. I appreciate all scones in whatever form and with whatever taste. So as per my kind friend’s suggestion that I “decolonize” my scones, from now on I will be sensitive to the scone-making culture of wherever I am and try not to use TPS as the absolute standard of comparison. On with the subject of the day.

The Crouton Scone.

I found this scone, again, walking around the market in Dodoma. But I have come to learn that the market where I’ve been walking around isn’t the main food market. It’s mostly a market for clothing and electronics (which I have noticed, but I continued going there for lack of any better place to shop). The real food market is just a little farther of a walk, but they have fruits and vegetables galore and, I imagine, baked goods. One of my colleagues drove by there and showed it to me, and it seems like a happening place so I’ve put that market at the top of my list of next destinations in Dodoma. (Also, side note about Dodoma: This process of someone telling me about something is generally the way knowledge is passed. There is really no way to know how to pay for your electric bill, how to call a taxi, where to find a grocery store, etc. without knowing someone who knows how things work in this city. So basically, if you come here and don’t know anyone, life can be really hard at first until you figure out how to survive, but if you know someone, you can temporarily use them as a crutch for all of the life things you need. All which is to say, thank you Dodoma colleagues.)

I ordered the Crouton Scone (not its given name but the name I gave it which will make sense in a second) by pointing to the scone and saying to the guy behind the counter (who clearly did not speak English), “Moja” which is Swahili for “one”. I felt pretty proud of myself for using my newly-learned Swahili until I realized that the guy didn’t understand what I said. So I just pointed to the scone with my one finger and then held that same finger up in the air to indicate ‘one’. At least I tried.

Anyways here it is, the crouton scone…

Tanzania Crouton Scone (1)

…whose name is evidenced by this next picture.

Tanzania Crouton Scone (7)

Now you all know that when I eat scones, I like to break them into bite-sized pieces and eat them piece by piece. Well, this is what happened when I tried to do that with the Crouton Scone. It actually hurt my fingers a little to break it (I know, my poor fingers). Clearly the Crouton Scone does not agree with my way of scone consumption.

Initial impression: It felt hard just like the rock bun (I can’t lie, I was periodically feeling the scone in the bag on my way back home), but the color looked great and there were even some sugar crystals on top.

Texture: In my previous post about the Rock Bun, I described the Rock Bun’s texture as hard without crossing the line of crispy or crunchy. The Crouton Scone crossed the line. It was almost exactly like the texture of a crouton, but with fewer air pockets so a little bit more difficult to bite. I eventually had to take bites into it because I couldn’t break off small pieces without sending an explosion of crumbs all over the floor (and I’ve already killed 3 humongous cockroaches since I’ve been here and am not eager to kill any more).

Taste: The taste was fairly scone-like though I couldn’t really get past the crunchiness. It wasn’t all too sweet which is how I imagine authentic scones taste. I think if it were less crunchy, it would taste really great with jam or butter.

Overall rating: 3/10 (if given a choice between the Rock Bun and the Crouton Scone, I think I would choose each one an equal number of times)

In other news, I will be traveling to Zanzibar (an island off the coast of Tanzania) this weekend, and I have discovered that they have scone-selling cafes!

Tutaonana, rafiki!

Rock Bun

You thought I was on a hiatus (and so did I) while I am in Tanzania, but that myth has been quashed!

Update: I am currently in Dodoma, Tanzania (central part of the country, map for your reference) doing a research internship for my masters program. I’m looking at factors that affect dietary diversity to see if we can find ways to modify these factors to make it easier for people to eat a variety of foods and get the wonderful essential nutrients they need.

Of course I should I have known that because Tanzania was once a British colony that they would have scones here, but for some reason, I just assumed that coming here would be one big and exciting sconeless adventure. However, when I mentioned to some of my colleagues about my love for scones (and yes, the words “scone blog” did come up), they gave me a consolatory pat for my naivete and proceeded to inform me that there ARE scones in Tanzania.

So this got me excited and thinking of my impending quest for scones. But not just any scones…Tanzanian scones. Which makes me think that I should keep my mind wide open because we are not just talking about scones from different bakeries or different states; this is an intercontinental blog now. How we’ve come so far in such a short period of posts.

Maybe now is the right time to mention that I haven’t actually found any scones here, but I think I came very close with this. And now, on with the rock bun.

The rock bun. Looks pretty much like a scone and sold in a bakery that looks like it would make scones. I’m sure in Swahili its name sounds much more poetic than it does in English, but regardless it is a very accurate description of what it is which is…not a scone. But I still got very excited (probably scaring the person I was with) about finding something that even resembled a scone.

Initial impression: The quickest way I knew it wasn’t a scone was the firmness. With a name like “rock bun”, you have to figure they named it this way for a very good, very logical reason, and this reason, I found, is because it is hard as a bread rock. Think of the toughest bread you can think of and that bread is probably not as hard as this bun. I suspect that this is the hardest a piece of bread can be without crossing the line of crispy or crunchy. Despite its unusual firmness, the smell is distinctly bready (i.e. flour-y and slightly smelling of butter).

Texture: The rock bun does not crumble which is a nice quality. It means I can eat it in bed without having ants crawling everywhere by the next day (though eating anything in bed or near your bed is really not advised as I experienced with the stash of snacks on the desk next to my bed = ants). It has a springy texture but not in the “spring back” type of way but in the “old rubber band that’s lost most of its elasticity” type of way. The texture throughout (top, sides, bottom) are all pretty much the same. Biting into the rock bun is like eating a really stale scone as if the scone has become angry and resentful for not being eaten soon enough and has knotted its insides in angst. Eating one small handful-sized piece is really all that is manageable because it requires so much chewing and saliva-generation.

Taste: The taste is actually not bad once you get past the texture. It has no other flavoring, just a plain not-scone. Not too buttery or anything, but the texture is pretty hard to ignore.

Overall rating: 3/10

I highly appreciated finding this hidden gem. While not like the scones I have had and imagine in my head, this gave me a lot of spiritual joy. I can’t wait to see what else Tanzania has in store for me!

I AM GOING VEGAN

…just for today and just for this scone. Almost.

TODAY, I am writing a blog about a scone that I am eating right at this moment. As you may know, my birthday was a week and a half ago. In a post that will be published next time, I talk about a girl in my program who made me chocolate chip scones for my birthday (she normally makes cookies or brownies for other people’s birthdays but she made me scones because she knows I love them). Today, another one of my classmates with whom I traveled to India in January just gave me a 90% vegan scone that she made (and an accompanying card because I love them). This absolutely made my day because it was so thoughtful and unexpected. Being a publicly-declared scone lover really does have its benefits. (Also I’m writing this in class because she gave it to me in class.)

She explained that this scone is almost vegan but that she used Trader Joe’s chocolate chips. For me it doesn’t make a difference since I’m not vegan, but I do applaud her accomplishment. It came wrapped in aluminum foil with a gold ribbon bow on top. And if you’re interested, she gave me a card folded as a paper airplane and wrote Hindi letters all over it (this was something we bonded over while we were in India). Anyways, on to the main feature:

90% Vegan Chocolate Chip Scone
Lacey’s recipe

(Left) The little scone individually wrapped in foil with a gold bow. (Right) The best piece broken off the triangular scone (aka the top corner).

Initial impressions: I’m not all too familiar with vegan baked goods or vegan food in general since I am not vegan, but this scone is rather solid. It is not squashable (I assume because it doesn’t have eggs) but appears to be the right color (which is a tan-ish, chocolate chip cookie-like appearance). It actually looks like a chocolate chip cookie bar. I should also mention that I have written up until this point without taking a single bite, and it is one of the more difficult things I’ve done in the last month (normally I can’t help but take a bite immediately upon receiving or buying a scone). Also, the scone is triangular which I am willing to overlook as the gesture was so kind, and it’s vegan. I don’t know what it being vegan has to do with the shape, but perhaps it’s more difficult to make round scones if they’re vegan…or something.

Texture: This is very dense as I expected. I don’t think it would be fair to compare this to TPS because there are limitations to this scone, so I will try my best to judge this objectively as a vegan scone. The texture is a little grainy. It’s chewy like a hard Fig Newton. It doesn’t have the lightness of a pastry which I appreciate. The denseness is unlike any texture I’ve had in a baked good. I wonder what is in this…and by that I mean I’m sure it’s vegan butter, but I wonder what is in vegan butter.

Taste: Not particularly sweet. You definitely taste the flour in the dough. I wonder if she put sugar in it.

Something that kind of drives me crazy: There’s a sugar coating on the outside that makes my fingers sticky every time I eat it. Just because of my upbringing I hate any moment when my hands are dirty. However, the aluminum foil is too loud to wrap around the scone and eat that way. Also, I don’t enjoy biting into scones all too much.

Overall rating: 5/10 (not bad for a vegan scone)

I need to try those vegan chocolate chip scones I saw at Whole Foods the last time I went.

On an unrelated side note, I had a vegan chocolate cupcake yesterday and it was absolutely amazing.

Hoarding scones

I came back late from school and roamed to Whole Foods to pick up a few groceries and of course found myself over by the scones. I was a little doubtful that they would have scones at this hour (it was around 9pm), but lo and behold there were at least 5 scones! I spotted the chocolate chip and cinnamon scones sitting next to each other and picked up one of each. I naively thought that I was finished with my sconing for the day and then my eyes shifted over to the left and I saw three raspberry scones sitting in the display. I HAD to take one of those as well. And then I looked up and saw a vegan chocolate chip scone and was so so tempted to take one but I refrained mostly because three scones fit perfectly into the wax brown bag and adding another would have been a bit troublesome. Otherwise I would have taken one in a flash. So I splurged on three scones today even though I still have two scones from back home in Chapel Hill currently in my freezer. I am a scone hoarder.

Whole Foods (River St) 2Sometimes I am too impatient to take a picture of my scones before I take a bite into them. That’s a lie. I don’t bite into them I break off pieces and eat the pieces.

Raspberry Scone
Whole Foods (River St) – Cambridge, MA

Texture: The top is nice and crunchy but the scone as a whole is not as hard as I typically prefer. It looks like whoever made this scone put egg wash across the top because it has a shininess to it. The inside is muffin-y but a bit drier, and a little spongy; it actually looks like a sponge on the inside (but it sure doesn’t taste like one!). The bottom texture is average. I separated the top and bottom and ate each part separately, and I definitely prefer the top. It’s like the difference between the muffin top and muffin bottom. (On a random side note, I encountered someone today who eats muffins from the top down as in he takes a bite out of the top and works his way down. I was intrigued by the atypicalness of it. Normally people eat muffins from one side to the other side or they pick off pieces from the top and sides. I destroy the muffin by breaking the bottom from the top and eat the bottom first then the top. While this leaves me the best for last aka the muffin top, it also makes me incredibly vulnerable to people coming by and asking for a piece [and who am I to say no to sharing?] and then getting the best part of the muffin without having had to do any of the work. And by work I mean eating the muffin bottom. I acknowledge that similar to this person I encountered, my way of eating a muffin is also not very normal, but it struck me as very odd. Okay, enough of this longer than anticipated tangent.)

Taste: Surprisingly good because it isn’t too sweet. My idealized scone is pretty sweet since it’s chocolate chip and even more so because of the glaze on the top, but the taste of this scone is still pretty good because the lack of sweetness gives you a taste of the other flavors. There aren’t any raspberry pieces, but the flavor of raspberry is very apparent. It’s made with some sort of wheat flour because the dough is dark. The non-sweetness of the scone actually makes me more likely to consume a normal amount of scone in this one sitting because I’m not left with a craving for more sugar.

Best part: The edge corner – crunchy and delicious

Bonus points: It wasn’t triangular.

Overall rating: 5/10

Welcome to my blog about scones!

My name is Megan, and I am a girl in search of the world’s best scones!

I wish I could say that I’m starting today because I just purchased and consumed a scone and then got inspired to write about it, but unfortunately that is not the case. I have been a “sconer” (as one of my classmates so nicely put it) for just about 2 years. I am actually obsessed with all baked goods (with a tendency towards the creamy, chocolate-y, nutty flavor profile as opposed to the fruity, herby flavor profile) but MOST obsessed with scones.

It all began two fateful years ago. I have the great fortune of living (or growing up living) near a Whole Foods that sells AMAZING scones (I call it the perfect scone – or TPS as I’ll refer to it in this blog – but there are some scones out there that have come pretty close). This Whole Foods has several flavors that I have seen including maple walnut, cinnamon, dried fruit and chocolate chip. Two years ago, scones didn’t even blip on my radar. I have always loved baking, but I had never explored scones before. My parents tend to go through food fads; that is, they discover some delicious treat (usually discovered via free samples at Costco or other grocery stores), and, as most people do with things they enjoy eating, they buy that thing consistently for some period of time. To my great fortune, this happened with Whole Foods scones. I came home from college one break, and my mom had bought a maple walnut scone from Whole Foods. Being the food curious individual that I am, I tried some and liked it but did not become immediately obsessed. It took a couple more rounds of buying these scones and one instance of buying the chocolate chip scone which is BY FAR the best for me to really take a liking to them. The chocolate chip scone comes with this delightful glaze (I understand it’s just sugar, but a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down…or a spoonful of glaze makes the scone that much more wonderful). I have tried several times to replicate this scone with no real success.

Interestingly, although this scone is found at Whole Foods and not in one of those cute bakery shops. Despite it coming from a chain grocery store, I have NEVER been able to find these scones at any other location (and my family and I visit Whole Foods wherever we travel to in the States). Even the scones at the Whole Foods in the next town over (which is only 20 minutes away) sells scones that are completely different (think more muffin and less scone).

(I also acknowledge that in their authentic form, scones are not supposed to contain chocolate chips or be all that sweet at all. However, as I have yet to try real scones in the United Kingdom or wherever they may be, I will enjoy the authenticity of TPS to my heart’s content. And hopefully in my description below, I will be able to relay to you its perfection.) I present to you THE PERFECT SCONE.

IMG_4374TPS: You can’t see any chocolate chips in this image, but take my word for it that it is chockful of yummy chocolate chips. This does however illustrate how the glaze is deliciously drizzled on top.

IMG_4505To that wonderful time when I came home for the holidays and my mom had three TPS waiting for me in the bag. The color of the scones in this picture is more accurate to their actual appearance. Plus you can actually see the chocolate chips AND the glaze.

The Perfect Scone (Chocolate Chip with Glaze)
Whole Foods – Chapel Hill, NC

Texture: Crunchy-ish (but I wouldn’t even use the word crunchy…solid may be more appropriate) on the outside and dense-ish on the inside. The dough is not too dry but not too moist. The shape is circular (you’ll hear more about my particularities on scone shape in future blog posts). Hard to the point where it may hurt if someone threw this scone at you (and also large enough that it would hurt from sheer weight).

Taste: Sweet sweet sweet. Made all the better by the glaze on top (I’m pretty sure it’s just a basic sugar glaze, but together the combination of scone and glaze is DIVINE). The dough excluding the chocolate chips has this deep, rich grain flavor.

Overall rating: 10/10 (This isn’t really all too fair because I am using this as my standard of judgment and what would a standard be if it weren’t perfect. But for the record, it is THAT good and my friends who have tried it can vouch for its perfection even after I sufficiently raised their expectations of it.)

And so the scone adventure begins!