Friday, September 24, 2010

It's That Time of Year...

Since fall is approaching, I decided it's about time I began making scones again. I am not talking about that piece of cardboard that hides under a thin layer of icing trying to pass itself off as a scone, commonly found at Starbucks coffee shops.
These scones are amazing. Extremely tender with a wide variety of spices and dried fruits you can add in to create any scone you choose. I love to make them as a fall treat. If you leave out the special additions and skip the sugar these are quick and delicious biscuits that are wonderful paired with spicy sausage gravy for breakfast, or as a southern side with dinner.
The variations are amazing. Lemon-poppy seed and dried cranberry-orange are some of my favorites. The sky's the limit when it comes to these breakfast treats. You could substitute 1/4 cup of the flour for cocoa powder and drizzle them with ganache. Make apple cinnamon, sour cherry and orange, lemon-blueberry, dried apricots with toasted hazelnuts or toffee chip (mmmm!). A few simple ingredients and you have a delicious partner for coffee on a lovely fall day.
One scone that is a particular favorite of mine is the gingerbread scone. There is a delicious topping you can use made from apples, but I don't ever usually bother with it. I just drizzle the top with powdered sugar icing, or make a cream cheese frosting (see below). They are also divine when slathered with butter. They cook for 14-17  minutes in the oven and they come together in a snap in the food processor-how easy can it get?
Also, here is a little tip: If you don't have buttermilk (I highly recommend keeping a quart or half gallon of the cheap stuff in your fridge for amazing baked goods and presoaking chicken and onion rings before frying) but if you don't, microwave 1 cup milk for about 30 seconds until it is lukewarm. Stir in 1 Tbsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar. Works like a charm.

Basic Scones
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar, plus 1 tbsp for sprinkling
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick cold  butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup cold buttermilk
1 egg, lightly beaten (optional)

Preheat oven to 425F and position and oven rack in the center. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper or a thin silicone mat. Place the flour 1/4 cup sugar, baking soda and salt in the bowl of the food processor and process for 10 seconds to blend well. Add the cold butter pieces and pulse 5 times at 1-second intervals, or until the butter is cut into medium pieces. Add your extras now.
 Pour in the buttermilk and pulse another 20 times, or until the dough holds together in large, thick clumps. Use a spatula to scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently squeeze or knead the clumps together until they form a cohesive dough.
If the dough seems sticky, lightly dust your work surface with flour. Pat the dough in a circle about 1 inch thick and roughly 7 inches in diameter. Use a knife or pizza cutter to cut the dough into 8 equal wedges and transfer to a prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart.
If you would like too, brush the tops with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar. If you make a drizzle this step is definitely not necessary. Bake for 14-17 minutes, until firm to the touch and golden brown. Transfer to a rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

1/2 cup dried sour cherries and finely grated zest of one orange
1/2 cup dried cranberries and finely grated zest of one orange
1/2 blueberries and finely grated zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon poppy seeds and finely grated zest of one lemon
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots and 1/4 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries and 1 tsp finely grated ginger

For gingerbread scones: substitute sugar for 1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar. Add 2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves to the flour mixture. decrease buttermilk to 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp, and add 2 tablespoons light unsulfered molasses.

Cream Cheese Drizzle
4 oz cream cheese
2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup of milk, plus more as needed to achieve desired consistency

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