Delia’s Scones

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Last spring, I co-hosted a big hanami (cherry blossom viewing) party at Hamamatsu Castle as part of an event committee I belonged to while living in Japan. Hanami parties are basically outdoor picnics with lots of food, lots of beer, and of course, lots of cherry blossoms. Typical food includes chips, peanuts, mochi, and other finger-food snacks that are easily available in conbini (convenience stores) and supermarkets. However, some of our friends brought some home-cooked dishes to share, including bruschetta that our Canadian friends brought, and delicious, freshly baked scones made by our friends from the UK.

Yesterday, I started feeling a little reverse homesickness for Japan and the friends I made there. With spring just around the corner, I realized this is the first spring where I won’t be hosting and attending hanami events all season long. No more visits to Kyoto. No more strolls through the castle park. There are a few cherry blossom trees within San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, but it’s not the same… 懐かしいなぁ…

To remedy this twinge of homesickness, I baked up a batch of Delia Smith’s Scones, the same recipe my friends used for the scones they brought last spring. I couldn’t find a digital scale in the kitchen, so I had to make do with roughly converted measurements. The recipe below makes five scones, which is just the right amount. I’ve read that scones taste best when enjoyed fresh out of the oven, and that if there are any leftover after baking, they should be stored in the freezer until ready to heat and eat.

Delia Scones

Delia’s Scones
Recipe adapted from Delia Online and BigOven

Makes 5 scrumptious scones.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp butter, room temperature, diced into 1/4″ pieces
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsb milk (+ extra 1-2 tsp if needed)*

* Delia Online calls for buttermilk, while BigOven calls for milk. I substituted milk with just a few drops of white wine vinegar to act as buttermilk.

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
  3. Add butter. Lightly rub the butter into the flour using your fingers until the mixture looks bread crumbs.
  4. In a small bowl, beat egg together with 2 tablespoons of milk. Add to the rubbed-in mixture.
  5. Mix with a palette knife or spatula until it begins to come together. Then use your hands to finish mixing the dough. The dough should be soft, but not sticky, and should leave the sides of the bowl clean. If it is too dry, add a little more milk, 1 teaspoon at a time.
  6. Shape the dough into a round and place on a lightly floured surface. Lightly roll out the dough, making sure not to roll it out thinner than 1 inch tall.
  7. Use a 2 inch round cutter (I used a drinking glass!) to cut out the scones. Continue doing so until you are left with the trimmings, then bring these together to roll out and form the last scone.
  8. Places the scones on a lightly greased baking sheet (or baking sheet lined with parchment paper).
  9. Bake for 10-25 minutes at 425 degrees F.

 

Kyoto Hanami pt. 6: Arashiyama

Hanami in Kyoto

After checking out of the 9h (nine hours) capsule hotel, we grabbed brunch at a café on the same street called Café Boléro. We were really stoked when we looked inside and found the interior design very similar to cafés back home in America, and that they sold a variety of real sandwiches. Not ham, egg, or tuna sandwiches on white bread, but real sandwiches on ciabatta bread, sourdough bread, French bread, etc. They also sold bagels, waffles, muffins, cookies, and a variety of coffee beverages.

Hanami in Kyoto

I ended up getting an iced coffee with a “vegetable ciabatta sandwich” and a white chocolate macadamia cookie (for later!).

Nick had the “ham and cheese sandwich” with a glass of blood orange juice.

Hanami in Kyoto

Hanami in Kyoto

Hanami in Kyoto

Before leaving the Higashiyama (eastern) part of Kyoto, we checked out the shops along Shijo and Teramachi streets. I discovered that not only is Lipton a common and popular brand of tea in Japan, but it is also a little bit upscale! (Lipton is just ‘meh’ back home, isn’t it?)

Hanami in Kyoto

I couldn’t resist buying a tin can of Lipton’s Extra Quality Ceylon Tea… because of the container! The color was just so cute! I love their packaging! I also ended up leaving Kyoto with some other goodies as well:

Shopping in Kyoto

I couldn’t resist!

Finally, we hopped on a train to Arashiyama for a hanami picnic lunch. We weren’t sure if there was going to be matsuri booths in the park, so we were really excited to find out… yes! There were! It was super crowded in Arashiyama – maybe just as crowded as Maruyama Park the night before. We followed the same strategy of gathering food, splitting off individually to get food for the group. I was in charge of getting corn, yakitori and yakiniku sticks. My friend was in charge of getting takoyaki and finding soft serve ice cream in waffle cones, and Nick was in charge of getting chicken karaage. After we got all our food together, we set up the picnic mat on the lawn underneath some cherry blossoms. It was a lovely day for a picnic!

Hanami in Kyoto

Hanami in Kyoto

Hanami in Kyoto

I don’t think I’ll ever get tied of eating matsuri foods! I’m sure going to miss this when I move away from Japan!

Hanami in Kyoto
Grilled corn

Hanami in Kyoto
Yakitori with green onions

Hanami in Kyoto

Yakiniku

Hanami in Kyoto

Hanami in Kyoto
Frozen coke slush

Hanami in Kyoto
Melon soda slush with vanilla soft serve; and sakura soft serve

Hanami in Kyoto

The food was great. The views in Arashiyama, even better. The sakura were in full bloom and the weather was lovely!

Hanami in Kyoto

Hanami in Kyoto

Hanami in Kyoto

Hanami in Kyoto

Hanami in Kyoto

Hanami in Kyoto

Hanami in Kyoto

Hanami in Kyoto

Hanami in Kyoto

Arashiyama Panorama
Panoramic :) What a beautiful sight!

Kyoto Hanami pt. 5: 9h (nine hours) capsule hotel

Hanami in Kyoto

9 h (nine hours) is a luxury capsule hotel in Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto. It is located on Teramachi Street near the shopping area along Shijo Street. The hotel aims for simplicity and targets travelers who are looking for a peaceful place to rest for one night. Guests can stay up to 17 hours in a single stay, but the general concept is that you can get comfortable rest in just 9 hours: 1 hour for shower + bathing, 7 hours for sleep, and 1 hour in the morning for freshening up before you take off. The price for one night is 4,900 yen (~$58 USD) which is more expensive than your standard capsule hotel. For this price, you can actually stay in a business hotel which would give you access to a full bed and a private bathroom. But, as I said, this is a luxury upscale capsule hotel. I was able to get the room for 4,500 yen because I had some points from previous hotel bookings on Jalan. The design is very sleek and modern. When we opened the door to our floor, my friend and I basically gasped, “OMG! It’s like a spaceship!”

Hanami in Kyoto

Hanami in Kyoto

The process of staying here is very straightforward. There are informational picture signage everywhere to help you move in the right direction. Some of the staff can speak English, so foreign tourists are welcome. Upon entering the hotel, you must remove your shoes at the genkan and place them into a locker. The reception desk keeps your key and returns it to you when you check out. You are given a pair of indoor slippers (white for women, black for men) when you check in.

Hanami in Kyoto

After receiving your keys, you move further into the hotel toward the elevators. Women and men use separate elevators because the floors are separated by gender. The women’s elevator is on the left, and the men’s elevator is on the right. The building is 9 stories tall:

  • The first floor is the reception desk + small lounge area.
  • The second floor is a women’s only lounge (it’s nothing special).
  • The third floor is the women’s shower + bathing area. There are lockers for personal items, private showers, and a shared bath. There are also several sinks, mirrors, and hairdryers.
  • Floors 4-5 are women’s sleeping areas.
  • Floors 6-8 are men’s sleeping areas.
  • The ninth floor is the men’s sleeping area.

Hanami in Kyoto

Hanami in Kyoto

Hanami in Kyoto

Female guests receive polyester sleepwear, which is similar to sport clothing. I preferred to sleep in my own clothes, but all other guests were wearing them. The men received traditional yukata style robes, though there is no mention of that on the website. The capsules were actually very spacious, clean, and comfortable. I was surprised! According to the website, the sleeping pods are designed with soft curves to promote comfort and good sleep so that you can completely rest your mind and body.

Each sleeping pod is also equipped with Panasonic’s “Sleep Ambient Control System”, which controls the capsule lighting to help you sleep and wake up naturally. To use the Sleep Ambient Control System, you program the clock with your wake up time and then press the “Sleep” button when you are ready to go to sleep. The lights remain on at first, but gradually dim to darkness. I chose to turn off the lights completely since I was already ready to sleep and wanted complete darkness, but Nick used the Sleep Ambient system for falling asleep and said it was helpful. In the morning, maybe 10-15 minutes before your wake-up time, the lights will begin to slowly fade back on. There is no sound alarm, because it can disturb people sleeping in the other pods. I was surprised to find that the wake-up system worked quite nicely!

Hanami in Kyoto

As far as bathing facilities, the shower floor is very clean. For those worried about privacy, the showers are private and have a small dry space where you can change your clothing without anyone else seeing you. There is a door that separates showers from the public bathing area. The hotel provides some basic toiletries, such as body soap, shampoo, conditioner, and a toothbrush/toothpaste set. However, you will need to bring your own face soap, lotion, razor, and cotton swabs. You can store all your things in a locker which is very spacious.

Hanami in Kyoto

Though it is a little more expensive than other capsule hotels, it is definitely worth a visit, especially if you are interested in trying Japan’s various stylish and boutique hotels. The hotel is still fairly new, opened in December 2009. Some of the features advertised on the hotel website were different than in our experience. For example, the amenity slippers on the website look like the disposable kind which you can take home. We received white and black ones with a 9h logo which were for reuse in the hotel by other guests. The website also states that guests receive 1 complimentary bottle of 9h water taken from the foot of Mount Fuji, and a paper toiletries bag for carrying your things between the shower floor and your capsule. We did not receive a paper toiletries bag nor did we receive a complimentary bottle of water. The 9h water was available for purchase from the reception desk for 80 yen. In the shower room, my friend and I noticed various shelving and empty trays and were unsure of their purpose. Looking at this December 2010 review on Randomwire, it looks like towels should have been available on the shelves, and additional toiletries in the trays. During our stay, 1 packet each of body soap, shampoo, and conditioner were found in our lockers, as well as one body towel and one face towel. I’m not sure why there is much difference between his stay and mine, as they were only about 3 months apart. Maybe they were being more conservative due to recent events in Japan?

Nonetheless, our stay at 9h was very comfortable and I felt very refreshed and relaxed! I’d definitely consider staying here again if I’m in the area.

Hotel Information:
9h ナインアワーズ 京都寺町
〒600-8031 京都市下京区寺町通四条下ル貞安前町588
588 Teianmaeno-cho, Shijyo, Teramachi-dori, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto, 600-8031 Japan
Telephone: 075-353-9005
Website: http://9hours.jp

Kyoto Hanami pt. 4: Heian Jingu & Maruyama Park

Hanami in Kyoto

Heian Jingu was built in 1895 to commemorate the 1,100th year since the Heian Capital was founded. Just outside of the shrine on the road leading to it is a large red torii (shrine gate), which is the largest in Japan.

Hanami in Kyoto

We were very lucky to see the shrine because the regular closing hours are around 5:00 pm. Last weekend, it was open until 6:00 pm because of the hanami season. We arrived with only about 20 minutes left to tour the place before closing. The staff were trying to ensure we all cleared out on time because there was a concert happening on site in the evening.

Hanami in Kyoto

Hanami in Kyoto

Hanami in Kyoto

Hanami in Kyoto

There are a few cherry blossom trees on the grounds of the shrine, and plenty more in the gardens surrounding the shrine. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to walk through the gardens. The trees inside Heian Jingu are different than the trees along Philosopher’s Path. Most of the sakura in Kyoto are white like snow, but Heian Jingu houses several weeping sakura which are more pink. You can also view these weeping flowers in Okazaki Park, which is just across the street from the main entrance to Heian Jingu.

Hanami in Kyoto

It was starting to become dark, so we decided to head to the Gion district. My friend had never been to the old streets of Gion before, so we walked through the district while also thinking of what we’d like to eat for dinner.

Hanami in Kyoto

In the end, we discovered there was a huge matsuri at Maruyama Park so we grabbed drinks at a crowded Lawson’s conbini and then entered the park through Yasaka Shrine.

Hanami in Kyoto

Hanami in Kyoto

Hanami in Kyoto

It was crazy packed!! Look at all these people in the premium section!! I think these tables were reserved for customers eating from restaurant vendors. The area was lined with cherry blossom trees. I was so jealous!

Hanami in Kyoto

Hanami in Kyoto

While looking for a good space for us to camp out with our picnic mat and towels, we started gathering food items from the matsuri vendors to eat for dinner…

Hanami in Kyoto
Delicious karaage chicken!

Hanami in Kyoto
Big sticks of yakitori!

Hanami in Kyoto
Yum! Okonomiyaki!

Then after weaving through the matsuri, we lucked out and found a spot on the ground just across from the park’s main centerpiece: a tall shidarezakura (weeping cherry tree), which gets lit up in the night.

Hanami in Kyoto

Isn’t it beautiful?

Hanami in Kyoto

So the three of us sat down with our matsuri food and enjoyed drinking in the park, making occasional food runs to grab something here or there. It was dark and crowded, and we were all a little buzzed, so I couldn’t take photos of the rest of our snacks! I enjoyed a custard taiyaki and a chocolate-dipped, sprinkle-covered banana-on-a-stick for dessert. I totally get why Maruyama Park is Kyoto’s most popular and most crowded spot for hanami parties. Night-time hanami in the park is especially relaxing and fun! The air was filled with a cool spring breeze, the smell of yakitori grilling, a sprinkling of sakura petals, and lots of laughter. Walking through the park, I saw one Japanese man pull out a small guitar and start to play a melody while singing. A young crowd was seated next to us and were playing with light-up yo-yos. All around good times.

I think I know where I’ll be doing hanami again next year. Hanami in Kyoto? Wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Hanami in Kyoto

Kyoto Hanami pt. 3: Nyakuoji Neko

Hanami in Kyoto

Along Philosopher’s Path are several other shrines and temples, including Nyakujo Jinja Shrine. We didn’t stop to check it out because we were on our way to Heian Jingu instead. However, we did get distracted nearby because hanging around Nyakuoji are many friendly cats!

Hanami in Kyoto

This cat had beautiful eyes, but always closed them whenever I tried to take a picture!

Hanami in Kyoto

Hanami in Kyoto

Hanami in Kyoto

Hanami in Kyoto

Hanami in Kyoto

Hanami in Kyoto

Hanami in Kyoto

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