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Almost better than pencils

A warm nibble for the cooler days ahead; spiced pumpkin scones. Photos courtesy of Deep Media.

“Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils ..."

Sometimes I think I would really like to go back to school.

I could say that it was because I wanted to be surrounded by knowledge, or that I long for the daily exchange of ideas or that I crave an opportunity to stretch my mental boundaries. But, while all of that is well and good, I must be honest.

The thing that would most excite me about back-to-school would most likely be the stationery.

My love of lists is old news, I know. But it is a continuing, relentless habit. What you might not realize though is that the quirk is even deeper-rooted than the itemized collection of things to do; in fact, lists only scratch the surface of my fondness for writing things down, getting organized, and the supplies associated with both.

The whir of a label maker makes me happy. I have spread sheets detailing gifts given for holidays over the last five years. I was recently miffed to find out that Ikea had discontinued the glass jars I like for pantry storage. I have been known to colour code paper clips to best suit the subject matter they clamp. Seriously. And yes, I got made fun of for that one.

As you can well imagine, my level of commitment to eccentricity has led me down many an aisle of a stationery store. And so then you can imagine, I have bought enough stationery to be particular in my purchases. Rollerball, not ball point pens please. A mechanical pencil with no more than a 0.5 millimetre lead, thank you.

But back to the lists. My incessant scribbles need a home, and this brings me to my greatest love of school supplies - notebooks. Oh, how I adore a brand-new notebook. Whether tiny or fat, simple in its decoration or elaborate, a notebook smacks of promise and new beginnings. Some notebooks seem to make ideas flow easier; inspiring one to sit down and put thoughts to paper.

Throughout our house, our car and in my purse, you will find notebooks. Teeny tiny scratch pads for quick reminders are tucked in the junk drawer in the kitchen. On the desk is a thin, spiral bound notepad of my father's, containing a story about a squirrel I wrote in elementary school. A collection of journals line a shelf in the den, their contents spanning years of our lives. Innumerable recipes and food thoughts are jotted down on scraps of paper and tucked into random books and magazines, or take up books of their own.

It was in one of these (many) notebooks that I came upon a recipe for Spiced Pumpkin Scones and, as a bonus, a mystery. Reading it over, I realized that I had absolutely no recognition of the words whatsoever. Though in my handwriting, with notes and substitutions in the margin, I have absolutely no remembrance of where the recipe came from, or when I heard of it.

Mysterious provenance aside, I was charmed by prospect of lightly-spiced scones; perfect for the cooler weather forecast for the weekend. They were quick work through the use of a stand mixer. Butter is blended into dry ingredients, then liquids are added to that. Dump everything out onto a work surface, knead lightly, and you're done. All that is left is to cut the dough into the desired size and bake.

A scant 15 minutes later a tray full of proudly-puffed scones are yours to be enjoyed. The addition of cake flour helps to keep them tender, while the pumpkin purée adds moisture and pleasing saffron yellowness. Lovely on their own, even better with a smear of butter and a cup of tea. Simply delicious.

Wherever this recipe came from, I am so glad I had someplace to write it down.

Some of my favourite stationery sources are:
Russel + Hazel, See Jane Work, Etsy, and of course the classic, Moleskine.

Spontaneous moments often end up overshadowing the most stylized effort. While enjoying these little bites outside, the cooling rack was momentarily placed amongst the stones. I was so taken by the texture of the crumbly, crackled scones against the gravel, I felt compelled to include the image here.

Spiced pumpkin scones
Of unknown origin, but so tasty that I am tempted to claim them as my own.

2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground clove
1 cup (1/2 pound, 2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, diced
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup canned pumpkin purée (unsweetened)
2/3 cup 18% (table, coffee) cream, chilled
1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons of milk or cream, for egg wash
Granulated or sanding sugar, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Use parchment paper to line a standard baking sheet and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. On the machine's lowest setting, cut in the chilled butter until the mixture resembles course meal. The butter should be in small pieces approximately the size of peas.

Lightly whisk together the eggs, pumpkin purée and cream. With the machine running still on low (or stir), pour the liquids slowly into the flour and butter mixture, stirring until just combined. Small bits of butter should still be visible, but almost all the flour should be incorporated.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Working quickly, gently knead the dough, folding and pressing gently until fairly smooth. Divide the dough into four, and shape each ball of dough into a 4" round about 3/4"-1" thick. Cut each round into six wedges, and place on the prepared baking sheet. Once finished, brush each scone with the egg wash and sprinkle with granulated or sanding sugar.

Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until the the tops are lightly golden and the cut sides look flaky and dry. When fully cooked, they should feel light for their size and sound almost hollow when tapped underneath. Cool on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes. Best served warm.

Makes 24 medium scones.


• 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice can be substituted for the individual spices.
• The scones can be frozen before baking. After cutting them out, place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze uncovered. Once firm to the touch, remove to an airtight container or a freezer bag and store. To bake, take the scones from the freezer and preheat the oven. Wait 10 extra minutes after your oven has reached temperature, then egg wash and sugar the scones. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until cooked through.
• These can be made without the aid of a stand mixer. Use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into the flour, then stir in the wet ingredients. Do not over mix, stir until just blended. From here, the method remains the same.
• If your kitchen is very warm, chill the cut scones for 15 minutes before baking for best results.

Reader Comments (14)

I'd go back to school for the structure and being told what to do and when. Seriously, those days were when someone else was in charge have a lot of appeal I didn't recognize when I was there!

And, if the cafeteria had your scones and double shot lattes, I'd be a happy and committed student.

September 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDana McCauley

OKay - that is one of my favorite quotes about fall: I have always wanted to received a boquet of freshly sharpened pencils, and if it came with some hot apple cider and some personalized stationery, that wouldn't hurt either. ;)

September 29, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermscleaverchronicles

I love scones and the fact that these are made with my favorite orange food, make them even better!

September 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMevrouw Cupcake

dana, I have to admit, these were a bit influenced by my love of Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Lattes; so we're evidently on the same page. I have to further agree, there was something rather nice about having the day scheduled into manageable little compartments, no?

mscleaverchronicles, I do believe I would swoon if my dear husband presented me with a bundle of Standard No. 2s!

mervrouw cupcake, if you love orange and scones and pumpkin, I do hope you try these!

October 1, 2008 | Unregistered Commentertara

I really enjoyed reading your post. Not only was it beautifully written, but it made me smile.. maybe because I saw a little of myself in your words.
All of my organization has always been scribbled onto molesking notebooks.. and the problem is now where to put them all!

October 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChocolate Shavings

I love scones - these sound perfect.

And that photo on the stones really is beautiful! Thanks for including it!

October 7, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterkimberleyblue

Oh, yay, I love anything with pumpkins. Was going to make pumpkin muffins but maybe I'll try your scones recipes instead.

October 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDiana

Who would have ever imagined two of my favorite things - stationery and scones - woven together in the same post! Lovely and delicious job.

October 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMarilyn

Stationary and notebooks are nice indeed but it is a fresh box of crayons that gets me giddy in the Fall. In fact I still buy a new box nearly every year.
Wish we could sit near those stones together and enjoy your scones.
Lovely post.

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

i absolutely adore stationery as well, Tara. having returned from London, i performed my yearly pilgrimage to Smythson of Bond Street for that duck-egg-blue leather diary for scribbling down thoughts, recipes, numbers, the works. as for the pumpkin scones, something i crave all year round, not just in the Autumn. thank you for sharing your notebook contents with us :). x shayma

January 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commentershayma

your scones are nice! I love pumpkin

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarve a pumpkin

How many ounces of pumpkin puree are you using?

September 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

LOVE love love, the, "You've Got Mail" reference!! Can't wait to try the scones. First a trip to the score for some clotted cream.

June 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaria1963

I just made these scones, they kinda taste like nothing. I'm going to make a cinnamon vanilla icing to try and jazz them up. Texture is nice though.

November 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteph

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