Cure for the Common Cold

Two weeks ago I went to the grocery after supper, and when I came home, unpacked something I hadn’t intended to get: a head cold.

The last time I had a cold was so long ago that the Boxtops for Education coupon on the leftover box of anti-viral tissue had expired…in 2008. So I can’t really complain. As colds go, it wasn’t bad, maybe a 4 or 5 on 10-point scale, with 10 being “I Want to Have Died Yesterday.”

I attribute the relative mildness of the symptoms to many cups of tea and more ginger-date scones than I normally allow myself in a month.

I had already planned to make scones that week, and just that afternoon had measured out the dry ingredients, cut in the butter, diced the ginger and dates, and mixed everything together. With all the hard work done, it was just a matter of adding water and scooping out the dough after I staggered out of bed the next morning.

The scones, alas, did not last the length of the illness. When I’m not sick, a dozen scones last barely three days at my house, and this is when I’m being extremely disciplined and everybody else is gone.

I used to be able to buy ginger-date scones. They were wildly popular at Alterra, a local chain of coffee houses, but Alterra inexplicably discontinued them a few months ago, forcing me to search for a similar recipe. Nothing I found online was quite the same, but I combined the best of the bunch and accidentally produced a scone so much lighter that I no longer miss the convenience of being able to pop in and buy one.

When I made the second batch five days into my convalescence, I used dried blueberries because dicing dates seemed like waaaay too much trouble when I had to stop every two minutes to blow my nose and re-sanitize my hands.

Another happy accident: I discovered I like the blueberry version even better.

I’m still improving the recipe so I won’t reprint it, but if you search for “Ginger-Date Scone” you’ll find several. These are the changes that I made to a basic buttermilk ginger-date scone:

  • I substitute oat flour for half the white flour.
  • I use a full cup of diced candied ginger and a full cup of either diced dates or dried blueberries. Most recipes call for 1/2 cup or 3/4 cup. There’s a natural foods co-op in the neighborhood so I can buy in bulk; otherwise dried blueberries are so expensive they could be sold by the carat.
  • I am not above using powdered lemon peel instead of lemon zest.
  • I use a powdered buttermilk-skim milk blend. I used to use pure buttermilk powder, but lately I’ve noticed an off taste so I tried the blend, which works just fine. Also, after umpteen years of baking, I finally realized you can put the dry powder into the dry ingredients and add the water at the end. No more mixing and shaking!
  • I make drop scones instead of the traditional wedges. Clean-up is simpler, and the moister the dough, the lighter the scone. I no longer remember whether I increased the water by a tablespoon or whether the recipe I adapted was for drop scones in the first place.

The nice golden color comes from an egg wash brushed on just before baking. Dishwasher-safe silicone basting brushes are surely one of the most useful kitchen inventions of the past hundred years, right up there with the microwave, the slow cooker, and the programmable electric water boiler.

© 2012 Anne Bingham and Making It Up as I Go

5 thoughts on “Cure for the Common Cold

  1. I can’t remember if you feed a fever and starve a cold or the other way around. But I am impressed with your appetite for scones or for anything. I have none when I get a cold.
    However, we all benefit from yours. Great scone tips!^

    • Thanks, Mirka! I think it’s feed a cold/ starve a fever (meaning, lots of liquids but little solid food to keep the feverish person hydrated). Any medical professionals in our audience today who could weigh in on this?

  2. I don’t have a cold, but does a trees-are-budding sneeze count in order to make these? (I vote yes.) As for ginger, someone sent me ginger chip cookies for Christmas, substituting chopped crystallized ginger for the chocolate chips. Lovely. I would, however, use them in addition to the chocolate chips. Just saying…

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