Jennifer Bailey: Super Scone Maker at Barefoot Market
By Hanna Schweder and Stef Godfrey.
Photos by Shannon Oteri.
Sometimes all you need is a good cup of coffee and a sweet treat to perk you up in the morning or afternoon. At OC’s Barefoot Market, this simple truth is their mantra. On a May afternoon, I walked through the door to meet up with owner Jennifer Bailey, who was going to teach me how to make her famous scones. I nearly passed out from excitement… if you’ve bitten into one of her fabulous fluffy, crunchy, soft scones, you know what I mean.
I’m not alone in my fangirl admiration. Jennifer opened her West Avenue shop in 2014 to a line of customers that led out the door waiting for her superior coffee and buttery scones. It was at her former shop Who’s on First where she noticed most customers wanted those two items. So when Barefoot opened, she kept things simple and gave us what we wanted and a few other tasty items. Yes!
A quick glance around the bright well-appointed shop and you’ll spy artisan cheeses, baguettes, cookies, to-go items, chicken salad sandwiches, and of course, her rich scones.
“I like getting up early by myself, getting a cappuccino, throwing the scones in theoven. Now I do it everyday,” Jennifer says.
You’ll find her up in the early morning making large batches of tens of dozens of scones alone. Not an easy feat as anyone who’s pulled out a batch of cookies looking like used coals knows. There’s an exact science to baking when you want consistent quality and taste.
As Jennifer pulled out her large, silver mixing bowl she taught me the steps of her recipe. She tossed in the flour, sugar and baking soda with quick ease, but these first ingredients were carefully measured.
As she began cutting in the butter, she said some of the mixing should be done by hand to break it up evenly. Jennifer’s scones are arguably one-of-a-kind for this reason; there are no machines.
“We try to keep it simple, we just crank it out by hand,” she said.
Pinching pieces of butter between her fingers she warned me about over mix
ing. Mix it too much and the scones wouldn’t have a fluffy center; it would cause them to be tough.
Next came buttermilk and more mixing with nothing more than a wooden spoon and her own womanpower. One of the final ingredients to be added more or less depends on the day of the week and customer cravings.
The idea to try her hand at scones hatched on the complete opposite side of the country. Jennifer tasted some made by a woman famous for making them in San Francisco and was inspired. When she was back on the right coast, she pulled out a cookbook recipe for scones and began making the golden triangles for her customers.
Today, as she pulled out a red composition notebook from a lower shelf of her stainless steel kitchen island, Jennifer explained that she and her staff try to give the customer what they want. Written in the notebook in parentheses next to various flavors and dates was the word “request.” Jennifer gets ideas from customers and tries new flavors to add to her repertoire of already established favorites such as the buttery, crumbly butterscotch. The notebook serves as a planner that becomes a record for the year’s recipes.
“I can look at this and tell what flavors we had for Mother’s Day last year,” Jennifer explained.
Favorites like Mexican chocolate, fig and brown sugar and butterscotch are proven favorites; but Jennifer likes to t
ry fresh ideas. There are currently about 20 scone flavors in rotation…and if a customer makes a special request for something that’s never been done before, she will do her best to make it happen.
On this particular afternoon, she tossed in a handful of butterscotch chips. Forming the thick dough into a flattened round on the counter, she halved the batch and eyeballed the proportions and cut again. Being skittish of baking myself, (too many rock-hard baked goods), I was impressed by how quickly she measured and mixed her batch. After the cuts, the recognizable triangles had formed. With the repetition of every morning scone making, Jennifer’s kitchen moves are quick, but calculated.
“In doing it by hand instead of using a mixer, it’s not all exactly uniform. That’s what gives it the homemade taste,” she said.
In their final stages, the scones are baked until the outsides are golden with a caramelized, crisp edge – their last stop before being scooped up by a customer. Paired alongside Barefoot’s La Colombe or Small World coffee – this is a simple delicious breakfast or anytime snack.
Between the smell of the bold, rich coffee beans and the fresh baked scones, stepping into Barefoot Market is like walking into your mom’s kitchen. It’s just comfortable and easy. Customers can ease into their morning routine with a strong coffee or enjoy a temporary getaway during a lunch break for a sandwich made with a fresh, homemade baguette, or, of course, a scone or two.
As for my baking anxiety, Jennifer assured me she didn’t start cooking until about my age (I’m in my mid-20s) and had some good advice for any novice baker.
“Don’t try too hard to make it perfect. Start with what you like until you see what works. Have fun with what you’re making,” she said. “If you have a love of doing it, it will turn out.” – Hanna Schweder and Stef Godfrey. Photos by Shannon Oteri.