A really thought-provoking topic came up on Facebook the other day: what does “authenticity” really mean when it comes to ethnic cuisines? I’ve gone back and forth, trying to define it in my own mind, and I think I found some answers as I worked on getting these Irish Blueberry Scones “right”.
I wanted to make some “real” Irish scones for St. Patrick’s Day, so I messaged my friend Kerily to see if her Irish in-laws had a recipe they loved. Within hours, her sister-in-law, Una, generously replied with hers. Right off the bat, I could tell I probably would not be able to perfectly replicate Una’s scones for a variety of reasons:
- Ingredients — “self-raising flour” in Ireland isn’t exactly the same as self-rising flour in the U.S. (different protein content, also U.S. self-rising flour usually contains salt) and European eggs look and taste different from those in the U.S. I do have Irish butter (Kerrygold keeps me well supplied!) so that much would be consistent.
- Culture — It’s no secret, I’m not Irish! I don’t believe someone’s ethnicity has to match the cuisine they’re preparing for the dish to be “authentic”, but I think they should know the culture rather well. I’ve neither visited nor lived in Ireland, and I haven’t stood beside someone Irish to watch as they mixed, rolled and cut out scones. When Una says to “add some milk” I can use my experience with preparing American biscuits to try and gauge how much is the right amount, but I’m just going by my own personal taste. I haven’t tasted scones that someone Irish has baked. I think all of that experience — and a lot of it — would probably go a long way toward true authenticity.
I baked these scones four times — tweaking the amount of milk (the recipe didn’t specify an exact amount), the baking powder (adjusting for the self-raising flour in the original recipe), the temperature (I took it up a notch, to help with the rising), the thickness (unspecified), the shape (also unspecified). And I finally got them to where I want them — tender, not too dry, with some rise, not especially sweet but good flavor, a nicely browned top.
Are my scones authentically Irish? Nope! Chances are, they come out a little differently over there for the reasons I mentioned. Are they delicious and in the tradition of Irish scones? YES! To me, the taste and texture are to my liking and, at the end of the day, that’s all I’m ever really after. I really wish I could share some with Una to see how they compare to hers!
- 1¾ cup (219 grams) all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced into pats
- ½ cup dried blueberries
- 5 tablespoons milk
- 1 egg, plus 1 more beaten to brush on top
- Heat the oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingers until it's all worked in.
- Mix in the blueberries.
- In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk the milk and one egg together. Pour the milk mixture in with the dry ingredients and gently mix until the liquid is fully incorporated.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough a few times and pat it into a disc about ¾" thick. Divide the dough into 8 equal wedges -- transfer the wedges to the prepared baking sheet, leaving space between each scone.
- Bake the scones for 15-20 minutes, until the tops are lightly browned. Serve warm with butter!