March can be unpredictable when it comes to North Texas weather. One day, the sun is shining, it feels like spring has arrived, and my menu features salads of just-picked baby field greens and tender spears of asparagus.
Then a cold front blows in, and all I can think of is how comforting a steaming pot of homemade soup would be. For one who cooks by the seasons, this month can be a challenge in the kitchen.
One thing I can predict is the arrival of St. Patrick’s Day on March 17.
This holiday was first celebrated in the 17th century to commemorate Ireland’s patron saint.
During the American Revolutionary War, Irish soldiers fighting on American soil held the first St. Patrick’s Day parades. As more Irish immigrants came to America, they embraced and expanded the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day to hold onto the cultural and food traditions of their homeland.
I’ve always regarded St. Patrick’s Day as the perfect fun-filled holiday. This sentiment started when I was about 8 years old when my sister Lynn added food coloring to the mashed potatoes. She and I burst into hysterical laughter when our mom removed the lid from the serving dish and discovered green potatoes.
I may be only Irish in my heart, but once I became a mom, I injected that same sense of holiday fun into our mealtimes by decorating our St. Patrick’s Day dinner table with green placemats, napkins, and paper shamrocks. It’s an easy, no-fuss way to transform what could be an ordinary meal into a family celebration.
My Irish Buttermilk Scones are a melt-in-the-mouth, tasty addition to this year’s holiday celebration. Scones are one of my favorite quick breads, so I’ve been making them for years. During an autumn cruise with my mother from Quebec City to New York City on the Queen Mary II last year, I happily sampled every scone I could find. The traditional recipe is a simple mixture of flour, baking powder, salt, a bit of sugar, butter, and cream or buttermilk. The secret to a good scone is cutting ice-cold butter into the flour mixture, adding the cream, and stirring just until it comes together, so pieces of butter remain in the dough. When baked, the dough puffs and yields a scone that’s crisp on the outside and tender inside. In this month’s recipe, I’ve added freshly squeezed orange juice for a zesty citrus scone that’s scrumptious for breakfast or dessert.
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 eggs, divided use
1 orange, rinsed and zested
3 tablespoons squeezed orange juice
3 tablespoons buttermilk
1 tablespoon sparkling or granulated sugar, for garnish
1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar, for glaze
1 ½ tablespoons milk, for glaze
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and baking powder until they are well blended. Using a hand-held pastry blender, cut the cold butter into the flour mixture until the butter is pea-size.
In a small bowl, whip 1 egg with a fork and stir in the orange zest and juice. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture, add the buttermilk, and stir just until the mixture comes together. Turn the dough out onto a floured pastry cloth or counter and knead it several times until the dough is smooth.
Roll out the dough into a 13-inch by 4 ½-inch rectangle with a 5/8-inch thickness, tapping the edges with a metal pastry scraper to keep them even. Cut the dough into triangles with a sharp knife and transfer the scones to a lightly greased cookie sheet.
In a small bowl, whip the remaining egg with 1 tablespoon water to form an egg wash. Brush the egg wash over the tops of the scones and sprinkle them with sparkling sugar. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Remove them from the oven and transfer them to a wire rack to cool.
When they are cool, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and milk in a medium bowl to form a thick glaze. Drizzle the glaze over the scones in a zigzag pattern and set them aside until the glaze has dried.
Yield: 10 scones
Visit christyrost.com for more recipes and entertaining tips from public television chef Christy Rost, a lifestyle authority and author of three cookbooks, or follow her on Facebook and Twitter @ChristyRost.