Fig and Fennel Scones

lorettas bday

Birthday mania around here.  We had 25 people in our 800 square feet yesterday.  Why do I clean before parties?  What is the point?!  I suppose it's for that first guest.  They can walk in without tripping over a pile of shoes, and I can lay their coat on an unrumpled bed. After that, trying to maintain any sense of order would just be inhospitable.

Whenever my kids' birthdays roll around, I think of the street kids I used to work with.  We made big deals out of birthdays. I'd be in my office above the drop-in center, and someone would bound up the stairs and holler, "Anyone that wants to sing Happy Birthday, come on down!"  We'd leave whatever we were working on to gather round some pierced, tattooed, bashful kid, and we'd sing at the top of our lungs.  Often, they'd never been sung to before.  I always teared up watching them blow out their candles.  Now that I'm a mother, I'm a basketcase when I think about any child, anywhere, who might not feel loved and celebrated the way my children do almost every day of their lives.

Emily and the birthday girl

I ordered a big, hideous cake for Loretta's breakfast party.  She said she wanted a rainbow, sun, and clouds. White cake with raspberry filling, absolutely laden with frosting.  For the adults, I made a frittata and these scones.  There's already a few variations of this recipe floating around In Praise of Leftovers.  These are my favorite so far--packed with oats, candied ginger and dried figs (sorry-can't keep myself from using them), and a hint of fennel (which kept the kids away from them--perfect).

fennel and fig scones

Fig and Fennel Scones
This is a variation on Nick Malgheri's  tried and true Oatmeal Raisin Scones.  You could certainly leave out the fennel, figs, and ginger, and just sub raisins or another dried fruit.  I use a food processor to make mine. You could do it by hand, too. Predicatably, the point is not to overwork the dough.

1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 c. rolled oats (not instant)
1/3 c. light brown sugar
1 Tb. baking powder
1/2 ts. baking soda

1/2 ts. fennel seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle
1 ts. salt
8 Tb. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
1/4 c. finely chopped candied ginger
1/2 c. coarsely chopped dried figs

1 c. buttermilk, plus more for brushing tops
1 Tb. turbinado or regular sugar


Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 450.

Combine dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse 5 times.

Cut the butter into 12 pieces, add to the bowl, and pulse 12 times, until the mixture resembles fine meal.  Add  ginger, figs, and cup of milk and pulse 3 or 4 times to form a very soft dough.

Generously flour your work surface, turn the dough out onto it, and fold it over on itself 3 or 4 times, until it is less sticky.

Pat dough into two discs, cutting each into 6 wedges.  Brush top with buttermilk and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake scones for 15-20 minutes, until they are golden and firm.  Be careful not to overbake.