It was pouring rain one recent Saturday (well, drizzling anyway or at least overcast), and neither Jackie nor I felt like pulling on our sou’westers and wading the four whole blocks to our nearest good pastry shop to buy the next morning’s breakfast. And when we have nothing store-bought in the house, there are two Sunday options: The easy one (toast) and the more complicated one (pancakes or French toast).
This time, we both felt like pancakes, and Jackie reminded me that we’d been meaning to revisit the British (or, more specifically, Scottish) drop scone — a pancake alternative for which she has fond childhood memories.
Drop scones are, in fact, akin to American breakfast pancakes. They are leavened with baking powder and use the same suite of ingredients but in different proportions: The good ones contain more egg and less milk (sometimes buttermilk). They are small — say, three inches across — and are eaten not with maple syrup, but with jam and butter. Jackie remembers eating them with her fingers at teatime, not for breakfast.
To save a moment in the morning, I combined the dry ingredients the night before, which is what I try to do for any breakfast pancakes or waffles. To make 12 to 14 drop scones (enough for four people, or three if you’re hungry), I whisked together 1 cup of all-purpose flour, a rounded teaspoon of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar. The next morning, I combined two beaten eggs, 2/3 cup of milk and 2 tablespoons of butter, melted, and thoroughly stirred this mixture into the dry ingredients. You want a fairly thick but not mortarlike batter. It should spread a little when cooking but mustn’t run all over the griddle.
Meanwhile, I heated a large skillet (I could have used an electric or stove-top griddle) until droplets skittered along the surface when I flicked a little water onto it. Even though the pan was non-stick, I added a little butter, then deposited heaping tablespoons of batter onto it. (There was room for five or six per batch.) Each spread into a roughly three-inch pancake; if the batter seems reluctant to do this, you can help it with the back of a damp spoon before slightly thinning the remaining batter with milk before proceeding. Even if you’re using a thermostat-controlled electric griddle, keep your eye on the temperature: You don’t want these to burn or to cook too slowly.
Cook them as you would any breakfast pancake — until bubbles begin to form on the surface and the underside is golden brown, about three minutes, more or less, depending on the actual temperature of the skillet. Then flip them and cook for another minute or so. If you need to do these in batches, as I did, don’t try to keep them hot; just pile them up on a plate to keep them from getting stone cold, because they are best eaten tepid. Leftovers can be gently reheated for an afternoon snack.
Smeared lightly with softened butter and topped (also lightly) with good jam (we had plum jam from this company), these were a treat — and more different from standard hotcakes than you’d imagine from the ingredients list. The extra egg changes the game: It adds great flavor and prevents that doughy interior that regular pancakes sometimes have. Just the thing for when you just can’t be bothered to go out and buy a couple of brioches.