Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tea and Scones

Having become bored with healthy food (see also the vegetable soup entry) and the recently-acquired-Halloween-oreos-with-orange-filling having also lost their shine, I turned today to one of my favorite cookbooks, The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion. This is a great book with a zillion recipes (maybe less) and lots of interesting facts and helpful advice.

A while back (like four or five months ago) I picked up some clotted cream while shopping at Whole Foods, with plans to make some scones for a brunch that was coming up. The scones never happened and during a recent fridge clean-out (actually, it was an emergency fridge clean-out, as a large jug of maple syrup on the top shelf spilled, right over the little shelf lip and down onto the rest of the shelves,)I found the clotted cream, which, luckily enough, had not expired.

So today, in a rare moment when everyone was either asleep or at work or such, I finally got a chance to make some scones, which, in fact, I've never made before--partly because I've never gotten around to it, and partly because I never really liked scones, as they always seem too dry. I settled on the Christmas Scones recipe because I had all of the necessary ingredients.
These scones have a nice buttery taste and a slightly rustic texture, due in part, I think, to the oat flour. They're very moist, too, and just a little bit heavy. The kids and I had a nice afternoon snack of Tea And Scones (and clotted cream.)
I altered the recipe somewhat, out of necessity and laziness. First of all, mine are nut-safe; I substituted 1 C chocolate chips for the pecans. I used oat flour, too, because I bought some for a recipe I never made and now am trying to get rid of it. Furthermore, I added two tablespoons of granulated sugar. It may somehow seem that I did this for a reason related to altering the recipe in a way that might better suit me and my family, but in fact I erroneously started reading the recipe on the next page and added some of those ingredients to the bowl. Luckily several ingredients overlapped, so only the sugar was extra. I didn't have any buttermilk around so I used this recipe: one tablespoon of vinegar and enough added whole milk to make one cup, let that sit for a few minutes and call it buttermilk.
Also, I hate hand-mashing butter into dry ingredients so I mixed all the dry stuff with my stand mixer and then added the butter, which I had cut into cubes, and once it looked like it should I added the fruit and chocolate. I also let the stand mixer mix the buttermilk but I was careful about the 20 second rule.
The recipe: makes 16 scones.
2 C unbleached all-purpose flour
1 C rolled oats or oat flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 to 1 tsp salt, to taste
1/2 C brown sugar, packed
8 tbsp butter, room temp
1.5 C cranberries cut in half, or 1 C dried
1.5 C pecans, halved
1 C buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
Mix the dry ingredients, including the brown sugar, together in a large mixing bowl. With a pastry cutter or your fingertips, gently cut or rub the butter into the dry ingredients until it looks like cornmeal. Mix in the fruit and nuts until they're fairly evenly distributed.
Stir in the buttermilk, taking only 20 seconds to do it. Turn out the dough onto a well-floured board and, with floured hands, knead gently 8 to 10 times, just enough to bring it together.
Cut the dough into two pieces. (Keep sprinkling on flour if you need to.) Form each into a disk and, with a floured rolling pin, gently coax each disk into a round about 7 inches in diameter. With a bench knife or sharp knife, cut the round into 8 wedges. Do this by cutting straight down through the dough so you shear the edges. If you saw the dough, you tend to press the edges together, which keeps the scones from rising as they bake.
Place the wedges on a lightly floured baking sheet (two pizza pans are perfect for this), turn down the oven to 450 degrees, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they just begin to brown. Remove from the oven and serve warm with butter or double cream.
It's a pretty easy recipe, and the dough's not difficult to work with. Enjoy!

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