Wednesday, March 27, 2013

a time for baking, a time for blogging.

Although I have done less blogging (ahem, no blogging) over the past few months, I have baked more than ever. I started making muffins, scones, granola bars, and various other breakfast-y items for the divinity school's weekly coffee hour back in September, and I've tried dozens of recipes, from walnut date bread with brown butter (YUM) to blueberry-buttermilk "biscones" (yum) to chocolate oatmeal flaxseed muffins (un-yum).

As much as I love whipping up three or four new baked goods each week, I keep going back to one scone recipe that consistently delivers. No matter how you embellish them, these scones are divine--rich but delicate, with a crumbly brown exterior and a soft, light interior. You can make them sweet and/or savory, add dried fruit, chocolate, nuts, or cheese, break them open and spread them with butter and jam or eat them as-is.

The scones pictured here have about 1/2 cup of oats replacing the same amount of flour, with about 1/3 cup of blue cheese and 1/3 cup of chopped dates mixed in. If that combination doesn't appeal to you, here are a few other options for mix-ins:

1/3 c white chocolate chunks + 1/3 c dried cranberries
1 c fresh blueberries + 2 tsp lemon zest
1/3 c chopped pistachios + 1/3 c chopped dried figs

1/2 c grated parmesan + 2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1/3 c chopped cooked bacon + 1/3 c gruyere, topped with cracked black pepper
1/3 c grated cheddar cheese + 1/3 c diced apple (okay, this one straddles the line a bit)

simple cream scones
adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book
makes 8 scones

2 c (10 oz) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp sugar (for sweet scones only)
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces and chilled
1/2 - 1 c mix-ins (optional)
1 c heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 450. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

Whisk together the flour, sugar (if using), baking powder, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in any mix-ins you are using.

Form a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the cream. Using a rubber spatula, stir together just until combined. If there's a bit of excess flour, incorporate it into the dough using your hands, but try to handle the dough as little as possible! (If you knead it too much, the scones will be tough.)

Lightly press the dough into a round cake pan and cut into 8 wedges. Place wedges on the prepared baking sheet, and bake until they are light brown, 12-15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through if you remember.

Transfer the scones to a wire rack and let cool for as long as you can stand it (at least 5-10 minutes). Serve warm or at room temperature.

P.S. - If you don't want to bake eight scones at once, these freeze well. Once you've cut them into wedges, just place them on a baking sheet and freeze until firm (at least 3-4 hours). Transfer to a freezer bag, and they'll keep for at least a month.

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