Last week, I went to visit one of my best friends from grad school, Lyz, in Santa Barbara. Lyz is a native Californian, and she spent four years before grad school living in Santa Barbara. When we were in school together, she would describe the beaches and culture to me, and it all sounded idyllic. I’ve never been to California and I’ve always wanted to visit, and I hadn’t seen Lyz since we graduated last fall. So, I thought, what’s stopping me from going?
It’s hard to say that you fall in love with a place as universally hated as LAX, but that’s sort of what happened to me. From the minute I stepped off the plane, I knew that I had landed in a place that I was meant to visit. Lyz tells me that people call LA “hell-A,” and I can see how it has its downfalls. The traffic is crazy, and everything seems pretty congested. But still, I could immediately see a marked difference in culture. People were more laid back, and not afraid to be bold–two qualities I strive for in my own life.
It was dark out when Lyz drove us back to Santa Barbara, so I didn’t get to take in the city in all its glory until the next day. It would be an understatement to say that Santa Barbara is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. From the mountains to the ocean to the woods, all you have to do is turn around and there’s something magnificent to take in. I can see why celebrities flock there, and why Lyz wanted to go back as soon as we finished school.
I ate some delicious things during my trip, including vanilla-dipped French toast, a “California Benedict” with avocado and spinach, and more guacamole than I’ve ever consumed in a 48-hour window. But one of the best thing I ate in Santa Barbara was a fig, rosemary and walnut scone from a local bakery. We went there for breakfast in the morning, and I polished it off with a cup of chocolate chai.
Now that I’m back in D.C., I miss Santa Barbara and Lyz, and I found myself craving the scones. So I decided to recreate them tonight. I used a baseline recipe for fig scones, and then I added a handful of chopped walnuts and a spring of rosemary leaves. I sprinkled some sugar on top, brushed the scones with cream and popped them in the oven.
While I wouldn’t be so bold as to say my scones matched the ones in Santa Barbara, they came pretty close. It’s a dangerous game to try to recreate a food memory, because in food, as in life, some things are better left gilded over by time and place. But as a runner-up to the “real thing,” I think my scones did their job.
I wish I could go back and visit again tomorrow, but for now, I’m trying to find little pieces of California in D.C. And apparently, I don’t have to look too far because I found a small reminder on my walk home from work yesterday.
Rosemary Fig Scones (adapted from Pretty. Simple. Sweet.)
2 cups (280 grams/10 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (75 grams/2.6 ounces) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (115 grams/1 stick) cold butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 large egg
1/2 cup heavy cream, plus 1 tablespoon (for brushing the tops)
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 – 1 cup chopped figs, fresh or dried
1 sprig rosemary
handful of chopped walnuts (or more if desired)
Granulated sugar, for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 400F/200C degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender or your fingers. Alternately, you can pulse the ingredients in a food processor or mixer. Mix until mixture resembles coarse meal. Having uneven pieces of butter throughout is OK. Gently stir in figs, walnuts, and rosemary until coated with flour.
In a small bowl, whisk together egg, 1/2 cup heavy cream, honey and vanilla extract, then add to the flour mixture. Gently toss with a rubber spatula or mix until dough begins to form. Don’t over mix. Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead gently, about 5-6 times, until a ball forms. The dough might be slightly sticky. Pat the dough into a 9-inch (22 cm) circle, about 3/4-inch thick, and cut into 8 even wedges.
Place scones on prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with a bit of heavy cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes.