Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Scone Guy

It started out simply enough, I baked Aaron some raspberry lemon scones to bring to work. I figured he and his officemates could use a treat. Heady on the train of requests and compliments that followed, more scones were suddenly in the works. Blueberry one day, lavender another... then came peanut butter chocolate banana, a batch of my original very vanilla bean scones, and, most recently, a double batch flavored with jewel-like dried apricots and slivered almonds. I'm not sure what's wrong with me, exactly, but somehow I just can't stop making scones. I could try making muffins, or cinnamon buns, or a banana bread but, to me, the scone is the undisputed king of the breakfast table. I'm soon going to have to declare a moratorium, as I don't want to just be known as "the scone guy." I'm so much more than that. Regardless, this week found me patting out the dough for scones again.

Habit-forming substances
The scone is a creation of the British Isles, common to their colonies and throughout the world. They were imported as a gentler counterpart to rapacious imperialism and make for a far more enjoyable legacy. While most Americans are familiar with the scone, pronounced like "cone" with an "s" at the start of it, the British (and especially Scottish) are far more likely to say "scone" to rhyme with "gone" or "con." The etymology of the word is murky and contested, some point to Dutch schoonbrood and Germanic schönbrot, both meaning "fine white bread," others to the Scots Gaelic sgonn, for "large mouthful," and still others to the Medieval village of Scone, once the capital Scotland and original home of the Stone of Scone  used in the coronation of ancient Scottish kings.

Raspberry zinger
The early scone was somewhat primitive compared to its modern counterpart, an unleavened oatcake cooked on a griddle. Also known as a bannock, this large cake would be sliced, giving us the traditional triangular shape. The bannock is still popular in Scotland and among various Medieval recreationists and Outlander enthusiasts, but my goal was a lighter treat. With the glorious advent of baking powder in the late 1800s, scones became the delicate, cakey mouthful we crave today. Drop scones are, in my opinion, a notable but distant cousin at best. Made by literally dropping spoonfuls of dough onto a hot griddle, these are typically more akin to pancakes and lack the delightful biscuity crumble of an oven-baked scone. Originally sweet, scones can also make an able home for the savory, as biscuits do. Feel free to experiment with bacon, herbs, and different cheeses.

Ready for infinite exploration
These incredibly soft, yielding scones feature juicy fresh raspberries lifted with a little zing of lemon zest. A base of chilled butter and heavy cream yields incredibly delicious, puffy, crumbling scones. Bright, slightly tart, and delicate, they satisfy a sweet tooth without being overpowering. Using fresh raspberries in the scone dough, however, is a bit if a challenge. All that juicy, bursting succulence explodes in your hands, creating a bloody mess that requires some intestinal fortitude and a great deal of extra flour to overcome. Frozen raspberries may actually be the superior choice here; they mean less mess as you fold them into the dough. The end result is worth it, though, as you enjoy moist, tender, cake-like scones laced with swirling veins of rapturous raspberry goodness. Pair these scones with strong black tea, served with cream and sugar, and enjoy for breakfast, afternoon tea, or depraved late-night cravings, as needed.

Breakfast is served
Raspberry lemon scones
Adapted from Very Vanilla Bean Scones

For a slightly prettier finish, brush scones with egg wash and sprinkle with sanding sugar before popping them into the oven. Makes 32 mini-scones or 16 regular scones.

3/4 cup heavy cream
1 lemon, zested
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
3 cup cake flour, plus more for dusting
3/4 cup granulated sugar
5 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound butter (2 sticks), chilled and diced
6 ounces fresh raspberries

Measure out the cream, then add the lemon zest, vanilla, and egg and beat lightly with a fork. Chill this in the fridge while you manage the dry ingredients.

The zest is best
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

Largish dice
Scatter the butter into the dry mix and use a heavy-duty pastry cutter to cut them together until the dough forms roughly pea-sized crumbs. A little extra dry mix drifting around at this stage is okay. Don't be afraid of a few largish chunks of butter, either, they contribute to the exquisite crumbliness.

Pour the flavored egg and cream mixture into the large bowl and stir with a fork until the dough is roughly mixed, with scant dry mix available.

Use a rubber spatula to scrape the dough out onto a floured surface and shape into a ball, flouring generously.

Cracks take your scones from crumbly, to structural disasters
Using more flour as needed to keep the outside dry and stick-free, pat the dough down into a round, roughly 1 inch thick, packing in the sides with your hand every so often to ensure a smooth, un-cracked edge.

Spread the raspberries out across half the dough, then fold over and press together. Continue to fold and press, adding more flour as needed, until the raspberries are evenly distributed throughout the dough.

Into the fold
Pack into a 1 inch thick disc again, fold in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour.

Slice the round into eight wedges, and then bisect these to yield 16 medium-sized scones. You may also cut them in half again, for 32 mini scones.

Easy
Place sliced scones in the freezer until very firm, about 1 hour.

Preheat an oven to 350 F and line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Arrange chilled scones about two inches apart and bake until fragrant, very lightly gilded at the bottom, and dry to the touch, 15-17 minutes.

Cool on the pan for about 10 minutes, then move to wire racks to cool completely.

Cheers!
 Also available in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette.

2 comments:

LCP said...

I am sure not even the Pillsbury Dough Boy could resist these!

James Pereira said...

Why thank you! If Pillsbury started marketing pop-n-fresh cans of premade scones, I think I'd develop an even worse scone problem.