I made pumpkin scones last weekend, refrigerating the dough on Saturday night and baking it on Sunday morning. I was skeptical; pumpkin is so moist, I thought the result would be pyramid-shaped pumpkin bread. And Husband, who gets really into the chemistry of all cooking and baking, called them “wedge muffins” before they were even in the oven. But the recipe worked, and yielded eight beautiful triangles of scone-ish texture that smelled like fall and possibility and happiness.
Then I had a dream that involved St. Michael, the Archangel, handing out pumpkin scones to thousands of people, including me. His foot, large and gladiator-sandaled, was on a rock, and under the rock was a giant slug of some sort. We were not at the gates of Heaven though; we were in the Target parking lot, and Saint Mike was pulling the scones from a lime green plastic bucket, like the ones kids use at the beach. And he was wearing Airpods, their white stems pointing down his cheeks like sideburns.
I’d been wondering, at the end of Mass that day, if there were any scones left at home, and the green bucket in the dream was exactly like the one in the garage at my dad’s house on the Maryland shore, where the kids and their cousins played in the “waves” (barely lapping tide) when they were small, their spindly baby-legs poking out from tiny swim trunks and ruffled suits. The Airpods made an appearance in the dream because one of the kids wants them for Christmas; the real ones and not a knockoff. Saint Michael was defending and protecting the masses (thus a Target parking lot and not a cathedral), and his foot on a slug symbolized good crushing evil. (I really hate slugs, and if I were a Renaissance painter I’d put slugs under the saint’s feet in my work, or maybe those beige, hump-backed crickets that terrorize suburban basements.) The bucket represented change and nostalgia. And the scones were the good, nourishing, happy gift he was handing out from God. But dreams are weird: I was wearing a tutu in the dream and my dream-self felt really awkward and chubby, and Carol Burnett was there and told me my house was a mess and I should really be getting home. I told her I needed to buy contact solution in Target so I couldn’t leave.
Still, it meant something, this dream. Saint Michael defends us in battle, and not just the kind soldiers and marines fight. We are all of us fighting some tiny personal demon or another, in addition to a virus that cannot really be fought. My college kids are in a battle daily with secular culture and very liberal professors who try to tell them America is bad and conservatives are dumb or evil. The younger kids are battling anxiety and ennui and a culture that doesn’t really care about faith and values and kids, and one of them is making some big decisions about what to do after graduation. And the quotidian battles that must be fought around the house (laundry, meals, housework) are no small thing, and then there’s the conflict between my need to eat scones and my need to fit in my jeans.
But these scones: they are good. If you can manage to have just one, they are life-affirming and a little bit astonishing. They smell like both autumn and winter, bridging the Thanksgiving/Advent gap nicely. I feel like they are the ammunition a person needs to fight battles big and small, and I’m making them again tomorrow. If there are any left, I might keep them in a bucket.
For the Scones
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter , cold and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp. canned pumpkin, chilled (save a Tablespoon for the glaze)
3-4 Tbsp buttermilk or homemade “buttermilk” (put a tsp of white vinegar in the milk for 5 min)
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
Whisk the dry ingredients together. Cut the butter in with a pastry cutter until the pieces are pea-sized. In a large measuring cup, whisk together the wet stuff (everything else.) Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet, then mix with a wooden spoon or baking spatula until combined, but try not to over-mix. Flatten to a disk a little over an inch high on wax paper or parchment and chill until you want to bake it. (Or bake; does not have to be chilled!) Cut into 8 wedges like a pie and bake on parchment-lined cookie sheet at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes. (If dough was cold; will cook faster if warm. Check at 10 minutes to evaluate.)
Mix up 1 Tbsp pumpkin, 1 Tbsp milk or half and half, ¾ cup powdered sugar, and ⅛ tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.
When scones are mostly cooled, put a sandwich bag over a cup or jar and fold the edges down, then spoon in the glaze. Close the end of the bag with your hand and snip one corner, and squeeze out the glaze in pretty lines across the tops and serve on a pretty plate.