Wordless Wednesdays

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Art of Owning a Scone

Over the years, I have learned with great shock that not every single person adores scones as much as I do. I can understand that. After all, what do most people think of when the word "scone" is thrown around? Some sad, woefully dry, rock-hard concoction involving some tooth-achingly sweet glaze  languishing in the glass pastry case at any given coffee shop. Appetizing? I think not! No, my friends; to experience a real scone, one must experience high tea (not to be confused with high tide) at an actual tea house of sorts, and depending on where you live, this can be quite a challenge. Short of hopping the next plane to England (which I'm not necessarily discouraging you from doing), the next best thing to a high tea scone is a good, honest scone made by yourself in your very own kitchen. I am in earnest here, because really; once you learn the art of making your own scones, you will never, ever, and I do mean EVER purchase one of those dry mouthfuls of wood shavings from any given coffee shop ever again. You may enter one of these coffee shops to purchase a beverage, but upon seeing that pastry case, you will scoff with such derision at the poor, unsuspecting hipster in front of you purchasing a blueberry scone (SNORT) and you will KNOW, you will KNOW that you have found the higher way. And other than your wild, maniacal laughter as you are escorted from said coffee shop, that poor hipster won't suspect a thing.

Or will he?

I'm sorry. I'm currently listening to David Bowie as I type this, and it's forcing my writing into wild overdrive. I'll try to remember that I'm actually writing about SCONES, for goodness' sake, SCONES. The epitome of high British society!! Get it together, Mary!


So, yes; make your own scones. I shall save you the trouble of finding a good recipe and post my own marvelous, wonderful brain-child of a scone recipe. If you do feel like embarking on a rather useless search of your own, all I can do is urge you to search for British or Scottish scones. Us Americans, well, we just really do not have the slightest clue when it comes to a successful scone. After all, we're the ones who came up with the coffee shop "special"!

Scottish Scones with Apricots and Vanilla Bean

-Adapted from Molly Wizenberg's "A Homemade Life".

This recipe is by far my absolute favorite homemade scone recipe. As Molly states in her original recipe, feel free to play with the flavorings in this recipe. Instead of 1/4 cup of snipped dried apricot, try 1/4 cup of another dried fruit, or play around with different citrus zests. Lemon! Orange! Lime! *GASP* If going the citrus zest route, the original recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of zest, so keep that in mind. I usually make these as lemon scones, but a vision came to me as I was texting my sister Megan (this is not uncommon), and I knew I had hit upon a combination to kill for. I had found my scone. I was OWNING this scone.  

2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 heaping tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup dried apricots, snipped quite small (think the eraser head of a pencil)
1 whole vanilla bean (Smell it. Right. Now.)
1/2 cup half-and-half, plus more for glazing
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Using your hands, rub the butter into the flour mixture, squeezing and pinching the butter (this is very therapeutic) until the mixture resembles a coarse meal and there are no butter lumps bigger than a pea. Add the sugar and dried apricots, and whisk to incorporate.
   Pour 1/2 cup half-and-half into a small liquid measuring cup (I usually use my 2-cup measuring cup) and add the egg, whisking well to combine. Using a small, sharp-tipped knife, split the vanilla bean down the middle, then scrape out the seeds (tip: flip the knife around to use the dull side for scraping out the seeds, press down on the bean, and in one, smooth motion, move the knife from top to bottom. The seeds will gather on the blade of the knife.) Place the vanilla seeds into the cream/egg mixture, and once again, whisk well to combine. This will smell just wonderful. Pour the cream mixture into the flour mixture, and using a fork, mix until just combined. Turn the dough out onto a kneading surface (it will look like a dry, shaggy mess. Don't be alarmed!), and using your hands, squeeze and press the dough into a rough mass. Continue to gently press, gather, and knead the dough until it JUST comes together (Molly suggests kneading no more than 12 times. I have never disobeyed her. Sorry; I am a second born child. I always do as I'm told.) There may be some excess flour that is not absorbed, but that doesn't matter. As soon as the dough holds together, pat it into a rough circle about 1 inch thick. Cut the circle into 8 wedges.
   Place the wedges on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Pour a splash of half-and-half into a small bowl, and gently brush the tops of the scones with a thin coat to glaze. Bake for 10-14 minutes, or until pale golden. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool slightly, and serve warm, with butter, or clotted cream, or lemon curd, or strawberry jam, or nothing at all, if that is what your heart desires.

Note: These scones freeze remarkably well. To freeze, allow the scones the cool completely, then transfer them to a freezer bag. To reheat, allow them to thaw in the fridge overnight, then heat for about 10 minutes in a 300 degree oven just before serving.

Make these, and prepare to be the envy of all the hipsters who frequent those ironic and sad coffee shops, searching for perfect scones and who knows what else. And with that, I will most likely never mention hipsters again on this blog. Good night to you all.