After a beautiful wedding weekend filled with everyone we love, we are also recently back from 10 days in Spain (Barcelona -> Mallorca -> Madrid). I still can’t really get over how beautiful that country is. We ate and biked all over Barcelona. Then we flew to Puerto de Pollenca, Mallorca, and chilled out by the beach for a few days. Madrid was the last stop, and man, that is a pretty and delicious city!
New York is just as hot as we left it, but there is an excited energy for fall. I’m definitely looking forward for the leaves to start changing along with the temperature. Until then I’m savoring the last days of hot summer days with lots of stone fruit. I made these particular scones with nectarines, but you can substitute any stone fruit, which goes out of season soon!
These scones were inspired by two paintings that I saw at the Prado Museum in Madrid, The Extraction of the Stone of Madness by Hieronymus Bosch and The Extraction of the Stone of Madness (also called The Surgeon) by Jan Sanders van Hemessen.
Both pictures show the same scene: a bizarrely-dressed doctor pulls a stone out of the skull of a tormented patient, as others look on. It refers to a popular urban legend at that time, where the extraction of “a stone of madness” from a patient’s skull would cure them of mental illness. Bosch’s picture was completed around 1494 and is pretty simply composed. A funnel-headed surgeon is at the center of the action, extracting a stone from a patient while two others look on – a bored-looking woman balancing a book on her head and a man, busy chatting with the supposed doctor. A gold inscription around the edges says something to the effect of “Please get the stone out quickly, I am not very smart.” Not one to beat around the bush, Bosch also shows a tulip sprouting from the patient’s head, another reference to his low IQ; in the 15th century, the Dutch referred to stupid people as “tulip heads.”
Jan Sanders van Hemessen’s work is darker, larger in scale, and more animated, but lacks all of Bosch’s jokes. In the center of the picture, an ill-looking patient suffers as a “doctor” pulls a nectarine-sized pit from his head. two women look on to the left, and a man stretches to the right. As in Bosch’s work, we know that this doctor character can’t possibly be someone who practices medicine for a living. During the time depicted in this scene, a group of charlatans came around claiming that they could cure mental illnesses and other diseases. This work warns of false knowledge; don’t be so quick to trust something or someone.
These scones on the other hand, you can definitely trust that they are amazing! They are juicy and sweet with an unexpected tartness from the cornmeal. The buttermilk keeps them rich but light. Good luck trying to limit your snacking on these!
Corn and Nectarine Scones
2 cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
2/3 cup sugar + more for sprinkling
2 sticks unsalted, cold butter, diced
2 cups nectarines or other stone fruit, diced
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
Preheat your oven to 400ºF and position one of the baking racks in the center of the oven. Prepare a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat.
Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter, mix the diced butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly and combined. Add in the buttermilk, and stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Gently stir in the stone fruit, and only mix until the dough looks done and seems to have a reasonable fruit : dough ratio throughout.
Transfer the dough to a floured-surface, and gently form the dough into a small mound. Roll the dough down a bit and pat smooth. Using a sharp knife, slice the dough into 12 pie-sized pieces, and arrange on a cookie sheet with about an inch room between. Bake for about 16 minutes and let cool before eating.
PS. For those of you who followed my goal of 200 miles by the wedding, I am psyched to say that I made my goal, and actually beat it by 5 miles 🙂
Recipe adapted from Sweet by Valerie Gordon, makes 12
Featured art: Hieronymus Bosch, The Extraction of the Stone of Madness, c. 1494, oil on panel
Jan Sanders van Hemessen, The Extraction of the Stone of Madness, 1555 oil on panel