There’s been a week’s intermission from blogging and from France, but I can offer you some pear, chocolate and hazelnut scones as compensation, dear reader.
I don’t look like a French native. My cheeks are almost ruddishly pink – something even my dad pointed out recently in a fairly critical manner (‘why are your cheeks so pink?’ I don’t know Dad, you tell me) – and my skin is the shade of a crisp sheet of printer paper, my eyes are blue and my hair is dark blonde (with the occasional sparkle of silver under certain lighting. I now only use the bathroom by torchlight).
Even if beyond all that you still thought I was French, or someone French stopped in me in the city centre of Toulouse where I now live and asked for directions or something, it wouldn’t take long for you to realise that I’m in fact not.
‘Parrredon, mon fruncay nay pah tray bon.’
The Englishness is blatant by then.
I sunburn, I freckle, and throughout my life I’ve had a much better track record for attracting mosquitoes than lustful and sexy eligible bachelors. I get tongue tied over the French liaison and, oh god, how much I desperately want to say ‘j’ai 30 ans’ when asked, not ‘je suis 30 ans’, but by then my tongue is wrapped itself into a knot and the incorrect ‘je suis 30 ans’ spills out anyway. And those pink cheeks turn even pinker.
So this week, I gave myself some time off. I returned to a drizzly Angleterre.
The first thing that hit me as I landed was the ease of communication – I could ask questions! Without needing to practice them first! I could understand… everything! How freeing, and how crazy is it that I used to it for granted.
I left Toulouse to a heat wave and embraced my waterproof coat and the splash of raindrops on my glasses. I also embraced my parents in tight koala hugs and together we enjoyed hearty pub lunches and the Downton Abbey film which made me weep a record of four times, we took walks along canals, and sheltered under trees to picnic in the rain. We also baked. As always.
My mum turned out this beautifully golden marmalade bread and butter pudding puffed up like an inflatable mattress, then my dad rustled up his speciality of a fruity crumble, and I baked pear, chocolate and hazelnut scones.
Please excuse these somewhat Christmassy photographs, I am aware it’s mid-May. My bed at my parents’ flat – or should I say my sister’s bed which I borrowed – is covered with a decorative tartan blanket. Combine that with the deep twilight outside (meaning I had to photograph these scones toute de suite to have any light at all), and also that it had been raining, naturally, so there is a decidedly cosy air to these scones.
My family are fans of rustically plain scones. A couple of years ago I deemed myself daring enough to add strawberries and raspberries to the recipe which worked a treat, and so now pear, chocolate and hazelnut scones didn’t seem too daunting. The pear was juicy and ripe which is essential if you want that sweet fragrance – unlike a pear I bought recently which genuinely made me think I was eating a raw potato for all the flavour and pleasure I was getting from it. Peeled and diced, the pear is tossed into the buttery crumbs of flour, along with chunks of chocolate and crushed hazelnuts.
How to describe these scones? Well, I came back home late the following night after baking them, and eager for a snack, searched the kitchen for the plastic tub of scones. It was nowhere to be found. I’d eaten one. My parents had eaten six between them. So I think they were a success. Once baked and steaming, the scones can be sliced open revealing molten pools of chocolate, speckles of nut, and soft, tender chunks of pear. I spread mine with clotted cream, I am English after all, and once cool, the crumbly texture firms and stays intact long enough to reach your mouth.
Give me scones and clotted cream along with these pink cheeks and I can tackle anything France throws at me – even ‘j’ai 30 ans’.
Pear, chocolate and hazelnut scones
- 225 g self-raising flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 60 g cold unsalted butter
- 30 g sugar
- 1 ripe pear
- 50 g milk chocolate
- 30 g hazelnuts
- 100-130 ml milk plus extra to brush on the tops
- Oats for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/430°F. Pour the flour into a bowl along with the baking powder. Slice the butter into cubes and add to the flour, rubbing it all together gently with your fingertips. Once finished, stir in the sugar.
- Peel, core and dice the pear. Chop the chocolate into small chunks. You will probably eat some. I don't blame you. Just replace what you've eaten with more from the packet. Crush the hazelnuts with the flat side of a knife. Add everything to the buttery flour, and stir to combine.
- Pour in half the milk and bring it all together into floury clumps. Slowly add the rest of the milk, you won't need it all. Once it's a big doughy ball, tip it onto a clean work surface sprinkled with flour. Bring it together into a cohesive flat circle, about 5cm thick, then stamp out your scones with a cutter or a glass.
- Lay the scones on a baking paper lined tray, brush with milk and sprinkle with oats. Bake for 15-20 mins, until the scones are golden. Rotate the tray for the last 5 minutes if you notice some have more colour than others. Once cooked, risen and smelling incredible, remove from the oven and leave to cool before eating. Of course I know you won't, so eat one warm and spread it with butter or clotted cream.