Unofficial guide to scones

Shake flour loosely into an average cereal bowl until it is about half-full.

I’ve always been a bit of a night owl. College fostered my nocturnal habits; having a full-time job as a night editor only adds to it. Night — after I’ve been in motion one way or another all day — is the time when I get creative. I read, write, catch up on my correspondence, listen to music, sing, clean, bake.

Add a pinch of salt, a smallish spoonful of baking powder and a splash of cinnamon.

During our last joint semester of college, my friends acclimate to my nocturnal schedule (of necessity, not choice). There simply aren’t enough daylight hours to complete our work in the time provided. Each week we knock back caffeine as we hunch over laptops in the library until the sun peeks through the windows. Then, hungry and slightly delirious, we stumble into the community kitchen in search of real food.

Slice butter — between a quarter and half a stick — into tiny cubes. Stir into the cereal bowl. Knead.

Strung out in various states of sleep deprivation, we band together against the post-caffeine slump and muddle up some survival foods. My contribution is always scones. Easy, messy, inexact, forgiving — the perfect baked good for the half-awake student. I carefully follow a recipe the first time I make them, but the next time — and every time after — I toss ingredients together haphazardly. Scones aren’t a science; they’re an art.

Pour milk into the bowl. Stop pouring before you think you should and stir the ingredients together until dough is evenly mixed. If you have chocolate chips, add them now.

We talk or don’t talk. A few verbal processors rehearse their presentations. Someone surveys the room and starts to crack zombie jokes; we’ve heard them before, but we laugh anyway. We compare the circles under our eyes. When the aroma of baking bread permeates the room, I pull the scones out of the oven.

Roll dough into two-inch rounds and flatten slightly. Place on a buttered pan. Dust each scone with milk and sugar, then bake at 350 degrees until golden-brown.

Someone serves up scrambled eggs; someone else offers fruit. The teakettle whistles. One of the hipsters is still grinding coffee beans. We reach for what we need, slowly coming awake. The sun beams full-force down the kitchen tables, reflecting into our eyes, warming our silverware. We trade compliments, cheer each other on. In twenty minutes the kitchen is empty. Some of us return to our laptops, re-reading or re-writing our work; others have set alarms and fallen asleep. A few with early classes have already left to turn in their work for inspection.

Serve scones while fresh and still hot. Best with jam and cream.

For the first time in sixteen years I won’t be going back to school. I’m so glad I’ve graduated — school felt like training, and I was ready to compete. But it feels wrong somehow to step into autumn without a heavy backpack on my shoulder and a working playlist cued up on my computer. I impulsively check out classics from the library; I put scones in the oven at 2 a.m. before I remember no one else is awake. I find myself researching literary theory just for fun in the wee hours of the morning and have to remind myself to sleep. I’ve lived in academia so long that I forget I’m already on the next page. I was lucky enough to find a job that incorporates my love of writing and my penchant for late nights — and let’s be real, I can fit the baking in on my free time. Study period is over; the exam has begun.

It’s going to be amazing.

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