Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Adventures in scone-making: Cream cheese apricot scones

Cream cheese apricot scones by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

On this fifth day of July, I'll celebrate our great country and the English language by creating a new word: scone-making. Probably not that earth-shattering a notion, but scone-making has taken up a fair bit of my baking time lately. It all started with a refinement of my everyday buttermilk scones, which have been gussied-up with fresh blueberries and raspberries.

As I've shared my scone-making adventures, I've discovered that not everyone in my world knows about scones. Which is completely understandable, because here in Georgia, we're smack-dab in the middle of biscuit country. And that's not biscuit as code for "cookie," either. Fluffy, feathery Crisco-and-White Lily goodness - with a bit of friend chicken breast or a sausage patty or pork tenderloin, a satisfying breakfast. Scones are kissing cousins to the Southern biscuit - buttery, sweet relatives that come to the table for breakfast or tea.

Scones are like sweet biscuits - a touch of sugar, and a lot of butter for a tender pastry that's superlative filled with fresh fruit in the summer or split and slathered with preserves in the cooler months. I make them for breakfast, or brunch if I get a late start. Scones can be an afterschool snack, or if supper's late, a teatime treat to tide you over.

Cream cheese apricot scones by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Cream Cheese Apricot Scones

Yield: 16 scones

3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 (8 ounce) package 1/3 less fat (Neufchatel) cream cheese

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 16 pieces

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 cup whole milk

1 cup diced, dried apricots

Demerara or sparkling sugar for garnish, optional

1. Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in cream cheese and then butter, using your fingers, two forks or a pastry cutter, until the butter and cream cheese are nuggets the size of peas.

3. In a separate container, whisk together the milk, egg and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir gently with a fork or spoon. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and following the step-by-step technique for forming the Blueberry Lemon Buttermilk Scones, pat the dough into a 12 X 6 inch rectangle.
4. Spread the diced apricots over the rectangle and press the fruit into the dough. Fold the dough into thirds, letter-style. Press the dough into a 12 X 6 rectangle again and repeat the letter fold. Press the dough into a 12 X 6 rectangle for the final time and using a sharp knife or bench knife, cut dough into four equal rectangles. Divide each rectangle in half and each of those squares into triangles, yielding 16 triangle-shaped scones.
5. Place scones on baking sheet - it's ok to get them close together because if the dough and kitchen are fairly cool, the scones will puff up rather than spread. Brush each with reserved milk and sprinkle with sparkle or demerara sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for 18 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour.

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