Photo courtesy of Linnea Crowther

Nana's Scones

As part of's ongoing Recipe Vault series, food bloggers and network stars share how recipes connect us to those we’ve lost. Here, writer Linnea Crowther shares a recipe that helps her feel close to a grandmother she never knew.

I never knew my dad’s paternal grandparents, Nathan and Helen – but at the same time, I feel like I know them well enough to call them Nana and Pom-Pom, just like my dad and his cousins did. That’s what happens when you’re part of a tight-knit extended family, one that still finds time at least twice a year to gather all the second cousins, great aunts, first cousins once removed… and some whose family connection nobody can quite remember, but we all like them so they’re invited too. All the kids born after Nana and Pom-Pom died grew up hearing stories about them, and they’re as much family as our own moms and dads are.

My favorite story about Nana involves her legendary baking skill. Nana was already a mother when she emigrated from England to America in 1909, and with her came favorite recipes from her home in the industrial north. One of the very best – and that’s an opinion shared by several of my family members – is for classic English scones.

Just how good were they? Consider the story that my dad still likes to repeat, more than 60 years later. He was a schoolboy and his family lived near Nana and Pom-Pom in Chicago. He stopped by to visit Nana after school one day, along with one of his friends. Nana’s baking was a great motivation to visit, and true to form, she had a batch of scones just coming out of the oven when they arrived.

Now, a batch of Nana’s scones is no light snack. Each batch contains six big, dense cakes, almost twice the size of the scones sold by a certain famous coffee retailer, made even better and more filling by the addition of lots and lots of butter and homemade jam. They’re lightly sweet, crumbly on the outside and meltingly moist on the inside and all-around impossible to resist.

Well, Dad was a growing boy and so was his buddy, so they scarfed down the entire batch between them. Nana, tickled at how much they loved her scones, offered to make more. Quick as a flash, she whipped up another batch and baked them – and the boys finished that batch off as well.

The story has become a family staple, and so has the recipe, saved and proudly passed along by Nana’s descendants. It’s a recipe that I make regularly, especially when I have friends coming over – because I know they’ll eat them up just as eagerly as my dad did when he was just a kid.

Just as important as how good the recipe tastes is this: it’s one of the things that help me feel connected to an ancestor I never knew. I love hearing the family stories about Nana and Pom-Pom, but I’ve got more than stories. I have a living connection to the family members I never met, one that I can smell and touch and taste every time I pull out my recipe card and make a batch of Nana’s scones. And when my friends polish off an entire batch and ask for more? I feel just as delighted as I imagine Nana did all those years ago.

Recipe for Nana's English Scones

2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup raisins or currants (optional)

Rub the dry ingredients together, and then add the milk and optional fruit (Note: this recipe is much easier and just as good if you use a food processor. If you do so, mix the dry ingredients first, add the milk slowly, and add the fruit by hand.) Divide into 4 to 6 flattish cakes on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 425°F for 15-20 minutes.

Serve with butter and jam or lemon curd (Nana called it lemon butter).