Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Perfect Scone

In order to further endear myself to my new co-workers, and prove in these tenuous times that I am the Indispensable Employee, I brought fresh-baked scones to work today. Success. Happy hands and mouths joyfully proclaiming that these are the best scones they have ever eaten. Natch. Just wait till you try my Blueberry Scones. Or my daughter's favorite, Apricot-Cream Cheese Scones.

Before I reveal the recipe, I must give credit where credit is due. This is based on Mean Chef's Buttermilk Scones, although I changed the quantity of liquid and the mixing method. Mean is the resident curmudgeon of Cookstalk, the forum for readers of Fine Cooking Magazine. And he's one heck of a cook and baker as well. The buttermilk gives them a tender texture and a slight tang. If you can find the wonderful full-fat buttermilk at the grocer's, by all means use it. The texture is even more sublime, and the lovely orange buttermilk specks freckle the scones.

The second key is to rest the scones after shaping. The shaping is detailed in this post. In order to make these for breakfast, I make the dough the night before, shape and chill the scones so they are oven-ready in the a.m. When I get the coffee brewing, I preheat the oven, pull out the scones and brush them with a quick wash of dairy, a sprinkle of non-melting sugar, and Bob's your uncle, in the oven they go.

Mean's Buttermilk Scones
3 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup unsalted butter, frozen
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
half and half or milk or cream for glazing
demerara or sparkle sugar for glazing

1. In a batter bowl, mix dry ingredients together. Using a microplane grater or a regular grater, shred the frozen butter and lightly mix the shavings into the dry ingredients. Using your hands and a gentle, quick touch, make sure the butter is evenly distributed throughout the flour mixture.

2. Pour in the buttermilk and stir gently with either a wooden spoon or my instrument of choice, a silicone spatula. If mixture seems dry, add additional buttermilk until a cohesive dough forms. The dough should be slightly wet and sticky, but not overly so.

3. Take an 8-inch or 10-inch cake pan and line with platic wrap, so that it overhangs the sides of the pan. Pat dough into pan. Cover with additional plastic wrap and place in fridge to chill at least a half-hour and preferably overnight. Before turning in, place parchment-lined cookie sheet on counter.

4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove cake pan from fridge and turn the chilled round of dough onto a clean counter. Discard the top layer of plastic wrap. Using a knife or a bench scraper, divide the dough into at least eight wedges. Place wedges on cookie sheet. Carefully brush each wedge with milk or cream and sprinkle sugar over the top. (this is an excellent job for a helpful child.) Bake at 400 for at least 15 minutes. They may need a bit more time, depending on your oven, convection, etc. Scones are ready when they are golden brown on top and bounce back when touched lightly in the center.

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