I'm over being sick, hooray for that — and hurrah for your company and all of your magical home remedies. The combination made for fantastic one-two-punch to knock out that pesky cold. While I'm no longer under the weather, I am under the spell of a bout of nostalgia, just so you know. 

And, so you know, sometime tomorrow you'll be wanting to preheat your oven to 400°F. There's brioche to be baked.

My husband Sean and I are coming up on an anniversary — not an "official" one exactly, and maybe not the most major in the grand scheme of things, as we've been together long enough that our calendar is peppered with small remembrances to mark our journey of getting here.

It's not an event that warrants a fuss, really. We've both got milestone birthdays next month, so there'll be fuss to spare. He is seven days my senior, a fact that hasn't lost its charm to me in all this time of knowing him. There's a smile in the thought that on the day that his parents were celebrating his one-week-old-ness, my parents were celebrating my arrival.

These small things, these scraps of our shared history wrapped up together, is what led to today's baking.

You see, also tucked in that package of sentiment is the day in May, ages ago, when Sean asked me to live with him. With that question he was also asking me to move to another city. After years studying, then teaching, then working abroad, and across this country, he had returned to the city where he was born. A city he knew well, and was full to its borders with his stories, but one I'd only visited.  

I moved. And I fell for that city as I'd fallen for him. 

I got to know his friends and made them even more mine. Those guys have good, strong arms for lifting furniture up three flights of stairs, arms that are even better for opening wide in welcome of a newcomer into their Club of Locals. 

Together Sean and I discovered the places that had changed in his absence, and he introduced me to his old haunts that had stayed the same. One of those places was a particular deli.

That deli, which is still there though we're not, has aisles of mustards and oils, along with a bakery and a meats counter, and one side where you can sit down to eat things like cabbage rolls and soup. Sean and his folks had gone there when he was a child, and I don't know if it was a habitual stop, but I do know it made quite an impression on his young senses. It was the place where he tried his first chocolate spiked with liqueur. He didn't like it much.

What he did like was their egg bread. 

IMG_9288

Their bread is actually made into buns, though not the ones we've got here. Theirs is most likely close to challah, though I've never asked. (I really should.) It's scattered with poppy seeds and is deeply yellow and sweet. When he and I would go, we would buy a bag of buns on every visit. They were our usual, back in a time when having a "usual" with someone else felt new and kind of exciting in a silly way. 

Today there's brioche on our counter and not challah — the Francophile version (read: stuffed with butter), if you will. It's probably excessive to be considered a usual. That said, it's exceptionally appropriate for a sort-of celebration. 

Brioche lives in between bread and pastry, which is a nice place to hang out. It has a proper crust like a bread, with a soft, almost cakey crumb that peels apart in lacy layers like the interior of a croissant. It is deceptively light, dangerously so, as it takes a pat of butter like nobody's business. Top it with jam and, well then, you do things right.

Brioche is yeasted, enriched with eggs, and is hardly a fuss either, though it requires an overnight rest. I prefer to look at that lull in activity as a boon, with the work spread out over two days. One evening, you bring together this smooth, rich dough that does in fact feel much like a baby's cheek — so much so that if you told me that brioche dough was the inspiration for the phrase "soft as a baby's bottom," I wouldn't be surprised.

Then, tucked in the fridge, everyone's off to bed.

the last of the raspberry

I lost something recently; small enough that I didn't notice its absence until yesterday — and then I spent the following hours upturning every drawer I could find, turning out every pocket I came across. It distracted me. I kept looking for it in corners and running to another end of the house, with a sudden inspiration of where it might be. I woke up this morning with what was lost tugging at the edge of my thoughts, like a loose thread caught on a splinter.

But there was bread to be made, dough that had waited hours for my attention. With two small lads in my aid, we learned that silken dough is no match for hands skilled with Play-Doh, and made quick work rolling that dough into teeny rounds, which were then tucked snugly into a well-buttered pan. The buns rested, and brushed with beaten egg as a glaze."Dab, dab, dab, paint, paint, paint" we said. Instructions work best in threes. 

Into the oven went our handiwork, and in 20 minutes the brioche rose and bloomed, like clovers. 

So on this Monday, as much as I'm annoyed with myself for what I've misplaced, the loss is that much easier to swallow with bread, butter, jam, made and shared with good company, in reminder of all that's been found.

Bubble-Top Brioches

From Dorie Greenspan, as printed in Bon Appetit magazine, October 2009.

Recipe

This recipe was part of a brilliant article; it is full of charm, helpful anecdotes, and a goldmine of information when it comes to producing dependable results when baking this sublime bread. I highly recommend you give it a read.

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crust

This was the leftover. The stand in, the understudy that usually never gets the spotlight. I made two tarts, one with a pretty, fluted edge, the other roughly, haphazardly patched together with the remaining scraps of dough.

This was, to reiterate, the latter. The afterthought.

Yet, I'm fond of it. I'd even say that its imperfection is its charm. Its saved grace is really through no talent of mine, but rather owed to the recipe for the crust. It's the Whole Wheat Pastry Dough from the book The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread(Wiley, 2008), and it's one to keep handy. My quiche thanks my friend for sending it in my direction.

I'll interrupt myself for a moment, as I can't make, eat, or even consider quiches without mention of her remembrance, that the introduction of quiches and tarts into my life is something I want to attribute to an aunt of mine. The instinct is possibly incorrect, but she has the nostalgic credit.

She wasn't an aunt by blood, but by friendship, one of those people in your life that was simply there, from the very beginning. A thought of her brings the smell of Yardley's English Rose perfume, the particular accent of her voice, and the time she let me dictate from memory a recipe for double chocolate cookies. By that I mean, I was five years old and most assuredly making it up as I went along, but she made the biscuits just as I said, and even pretended them a triumph, even though they were stuck irrevocably to the pan.

That aunt, she made quiches. Sausage rolls too, and we'll get there someday. Her quiches were always the same, or at least in my memory they were, eggs and cream with bacon. Nothing fancy. We'd eat them cold, straight out of the fridge or soon after. Then there would be tea, and maybe a butter biscuit from the navy tin she kept on the kitchen table.

So when I made our lunch, there was bacon involved, with thin rounds of squash and a sweet tangle of shallot, some grated Parmesan for resonant salinity to balance the lull of cream and egg, all poured into a whole wheat crust. We're back to that.

This pastry, unlike those cookies, is an actual triumph; heavy with butter, granted a freshness from cream cheese well matched to the whole wheat flour's gentle nuttiness. The dough goes supple and is quite forgiving as it's worked, which was, beyond my frugality, one of the reasons I thought to cobble together the scraps and use every last bit I could. 

I'm glad I did, because after lunch I found myself chasing the last of the crumbs off my plate with the tines of my fork. Plucking up those evasive fragments with the tips of my fingers as needed. The pastry is afternoon-nap-dream-worthy, the kind I think the best of dreams, as this is one of the best of pastries. I liked it for its subtlety and substance, for its structure of alternating tender and crisp. I liked how it baked up golden with speckles of brown still visible. 

It's a good dough to know. 

******

A few newsy things to pass along, while we're chatting:

A piece I did for Saveur.com, on cakes and decorating. It was such fun to do, and I hope you enjoy it.

I'm rather lucky to have collaborated with someone pretty darn special for the inaugral issue of Kinfolk Magazine. It launches July 15.

UPPERCASE's summer issue will be out soon; Janine put together a slideshow of some of the content, including a glimpse of my contribution - a story on Peach Melba Ice Pops

Here's to happy days, friends!

*******

WHOLE WHEAT PASTRY CRUST

From the book The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread by Amy Scherber and Toy Kim Dupree (Wiley, 2008). Though I've only talked about the pastry today, the book is a wealth of homey, welcoming recipes. The Pecan Sticky Buns are already famous around here.

From the authors: The whole wheat flour and cream cheese give this pastry a special flavour and texture that areaperfect complement to our Spinach and Mushroom Quiche filling. This crust is surprisingly light, rich, and tender, so you might want to use the remaining dough scraps to make savory turnovers with any meat and/or vegetable scraps that are hiding in the refrigerator.

Ingredients

  • 146 g / 5.15 oz / 2/3 cup Unsalted butter, cut into 3/4-inch dice
  • 112 g / 4.0 oz / 3/8 cup + 1 tablespoon Cream Cheese, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 52 g / 1.83 oz / 4 tablespoons Ice Water
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons Apple cider vinegar
  • 158 g / 5.60 oz / 1 cup + 1 1/2 tablespoons Unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 86 g / 3.0 oz / 1/2 cup Whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon Baking powder

Method

Freeze the diced butter and cream cheese for at least 30 minutes. In a small cup or bowl, combine the ice water and the vinegar.

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the 2 flours, salt and baking powder and process them until they are just combined. Add the frozen chunks of cream cheese and process again for 15 seconds or until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Add the butter chunks and process again for 10 to 15 seconds, until the largest pieces of butter are about the size of peas. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and sprinkle it with the ice water mixture. (If you don't have a food processor, mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl with a wire whisk and rub very cold, not frozen, cream cheese into the flour with your fingers until it looks like coarse meal. Repeat the process with the very cold, not frozen, butter chunks until the largest pieces of butter are about the size of peas. If the butter starts to feel soft, freeze the mixture for 10 minutes before continuing. Sprinkle the ice water mixture over the flour.) Using your hands, stir the mixture, pressing it together firmly until it becomes a cohesive ball of dough. There shout not be any pockets of dry crumbs remaining. If necessary sprinkle in another 1 or 2 teaspoons of ice water. Place the ball of dough on a large piece of plastic wrap, seal the wrap around the dough, and flatten the ball to make a round 3/4-inch disk. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling it out. This dough may be kept refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen up to 6 months.

Yield: pastry for six 4 1/2-inch quiches or one 9- or 10-inch quiche.

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golden

These scones, these knobby specimens far removed from any thought of dainty, came to be through the generosity of an aunt by way of my parents. It started with their cranberries.

My folks had returned home from a recent trip and, not ones to come back empty handed, I was handed a bag of dried cranberries. They'd been to British Columbia, they'd seen my aunt and uncle, who, I'm told, have these local cranberries with their breakfast most mornings. The berries were large and not particularly dry; less like raisins and more like large, flattened rounds, slightly cupped. The first comparison that came to mind was a berry version of orecchiette, the concave pasta with a fingertip-sized indent, but imagine them bright crimson and  made of fruit. These were were plump and full of juice, and as they were only barely sweetened, the tart, lip twisting sharpness of the cranberry remained. 

I ate a handful on the spot. Benjamin did too. 

IMG_18632

Then Mum and I got talking and we settled on making scones. Scones aren't new. Scones aren't innovative. Or trendy. Scones are a soft spot for me though, and my Dad and Mum too. Scones are herehere and here already. And so, if I start nattering on about scones, you'll most likely know what I'm going to say because we've talked scones before - about their tender substance, the intricacies of their crumb - but there's a familiar sense of ease in that, in those known phrases and anticipated tastes. 

I will say, at their most rustic as these are, scones involve straightforward skills and little more. Bring together your flours; a mix of flours here to bring a subtle interest, but nothing too challenging for a Sunday morning. Cut butter into that flour with knives or fingertips, then add the buttermilk with the most indolent of stirring - lumps are fine, and long as the flour is pretty much dampened and beginning to clump together. Bring in the cranberries and nuts with a few turns of the spoon.

If even that level of industry feels monumental, and I don't blame you as this is the route I took, use a stand mixer instead. On its lowest setting the mixer will gently distribute the butter and incorporate the buttermilk; freeing you to sip your coffee leisurely, with no greater task than occasional peek into the bowl to make sure things are progressing nicely.

Either way, the ramshackle dough gets tipped out onto a board, kneaded briefly and patted together into rough and tumble disks. Slice the rounds into triangles and they're ready to bake.

For those looking for extra credit, stir together a spoonful of sugar with the same amount of fresh lemon juice and, there, you've made a syrupy glaze to brush atop the par-baked scones. In the oven, this scant gilding will go from sticky to glistening, seeping in some cracks but mostly giving the scone's surface a crystalline makeover. It's an edge of sugared tang before the nutty, mellow wheaten sweetness of the crumb beneath. It's not necessary, but it's a nice bit of fuss.

this one was mine

I made these the morning after our visit with Mum and Dad, in the sober quietness of the cool, blue hours before light touches the windowsill. That muted glow cast by the day's beginning felt the natural companion to a scone that was homey, reassuring. 

A feeling not unlike a good conversation with those you missed, after a time apart.

*******

There's a pair of links to share today. First, a heartfelt thank you to Babble.com for selecting this site as one of their Top 100 Mom Food Blogs for 2011. It is an honour to be in such company.

And my friend Jess wrote this poignant post on her site, Sweet Amandine. It's a special one. She's got a restrained honesty as she figures out "what feels right" for right now. I thought I'd point you in her direction as I think it's not one to miss.

A happy day to you all.

******* 

MIXED FLOUR SCONES WITH CRANBERRIES AND ALMONDS

Our dried cranberries were markedly less sweet than the raisin-like ones sold in many grocery stores. Using the latter style might warrant reducing the granulated sugar to a 1/3 cup. With inspiration from the Buttermilk Scones from Susan Fenniger and Mary Sue Milliken.

INGREDIENTS

For the scones

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour or oat flour, see note
  • ¼ cup flaxseed meal
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • Finely grated zest from one lemon
  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small dice
  • 1 cup dried sweetened cranberries, see headnote
  • 3/4 cup flaked almonds, toasted and then chopped
  • 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk, plus more if needed

For glaze (optional)

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

METHOD

To make the glaze, stir together the sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Use parchment paper to line a standard baking sheet and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest. On the machine's lowest setting, cut in the chilled butter until the mixture resembles course meal. The butter should be in small pieces approximately the size of peas. Mix in the cranberries and almonds. 

With the machine still on low, slowly pour the buttermilk into the flour and butter mixture in a thin stream, stirring until just combined. Use only as much buttermilk as needed to bring the dough together - don’t worry if you don’t use it all, or if you need to add a tablespoon or more. Small bits of butter should still be visible, but almost all the flour should be incorporated. 

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Working quickly, gently knead the dough, folding and pressing gently until it just holds together. Divide the dough into two, and shape each ball of dough into a 6-inch round about 1-inch thick. Cut each round into six wedges, and place on the prepared baking sheet. 

Bake scones in the preheated oven for about 12 minutes, then carefully pull them out and brush the top of each lightly with the glaze, if using. Return the scones to the oven and continue to bake until the the tops are lightly golden and the cut sides look flaky and dry, around 5-8 minutes more. When fully cooked, the scones should feel light for their size and sound almost hollow when tapped underneath. 

Cool on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes. Best served warm the day they are made, but can be toasted or rewarmed in a low oven. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes 12 medium scones.

Notes:

  • In lieu of whole wheat flour, toasted oat flour also works quite well. To make your own, spread 3/4 cup of rolled oats on a baking sheet and bake in a 375°F oven until lightly golden, stirring occassionaly, around 7 minutes. Allow to cool, then grind in a food processor into fine meal.
  • I would like to try these using whole wheat pastry flour and 1/2 cup of butter. I'll be sure to report back.
  • This recipe can, of course, be done by hand using a pastry cutter or a pair of knives and a spoon. I've also had great success using a food processor for scones; the method for both is here.
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What's in that jar right there is what's going to make you famous - garlicky, kicky, chili hot sauce. And it's killer. It's as hot as blazes but with a punchy brightness, deeply flavoured without the mask of vinegar burn.

I'll get to it, I promise. I might wander on the way however, as I have been thinking.

I've been thinking it has been a long time since I've been to India. Long enough that it deserves to be written in italics, and far longer than I would like it to have been.

I have been thinking about the visits from my younger years, to the homes of family that still live in the country where my parents were born. In the height of our July I thought of the heat of Delhi in the heart of summer, a heat that feels a presence in the room, unseen though felt. It collects itself around your shoulders like a cat might curl around your feet, holding you still and motionless. In that heat, you gulp the air in breathless mouthfuls.

The smell of mosquito coils slowly burning on our back deck takes me to a veranda in Chennai. It's a scent I grew up with, that scent that twists its way through the night upon serpentine trails of smoke.  

And as much as I am there in those memories, the reality is that I am not surrounded by bougainvillea and jasmine blossoms but instead trees whose green leaves are beginning to smolder at their tips, surely soon afire. The forest will glow yellow and orange and burn red in echoes of summer's departed sun. 

The heat I'm remembering has moved from outdoors to in. To firesides, stoves, and in this case, glass jars shining crimson-bright and beckoning.

See? I told you I'd get back to the chili sauce. Never fear, dear friend. There's method to my meanderings.

The Garlicky Red Chili Hot Sauce is from Melissa Clark via the New York Times. You might want to get out your best stationery and start writing her a thank you card right now. Full of body, with heat and dimensions of character - sweet, fresh, acidic and twangy. It's all there. There's show and then there's a payoff. It's not just flash, zing, wallop you with ash and cinders. 

rims

All you do, all it takes, is hot red chilies, sweet peppers, garlic, vinegar and salt. All into one pot, simmered gently for a few minutes, then whirled into a purée in a blender. The precious stuff, which I recommend treating with the care one might use in handling molten lava at this volatile point, is decanted into jars and left alone for three days. That's the hard part. The waiting. In that time the vinegar softens, rounding out, and the flavour of the peppers comes forward. Sweet meets heat in a way that quickens the blood and warms you right through.

One scant drop on a spoon, and it's suddenly the hottest day of summer. Wherever you may be.

GARLICY RED CHILE HOT SAUCE

From Melissa Clark and The New York Times.

Recipe

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The days of these weeks have washed over us like waves; we've been carried on their highs and lows, along their ebb and flow.

We've followed the constant movement of the current, and kept our heads above water. Buoyed by a raft of bread, no doubt.

That last bit was probably only funny to members of my family, as in the midst of all of this, my island refuge has been the kitchen and my conveyance out of the deep has been bread.

Lots of bread. Oh, the bread there's been. Breads both sweet and savoury. Bread to eat, to share, to pack up and send out into the world.

To pick the candidate for our bread-boating excursion, I'd would most certainly choose the Pane Integrale from Jim Lahey. It is a bread flour and whole wheat incarnation of his famed No-Knead Method, a recipe I'm sure familiar to many of you, but I'll offer a refresher just in case.

Most often, baking bread sets the pace for our hours; it is in the time between the kneading and the shaping and the baking, that the rest the day takes place. There is a schedule to be kept and yeasted breads often benefit from your rapt attention. They are enlivened by your efforts, requiring your labour to turn boggy dough into a sprightly loaf.

But this bread, however, is another sort of bread. It is a bread that asks for very little of its maker, only a warm spot to reside for a day. There's a quiet companionship of that bowl upon the counter, its presence made ever the more gratifying when that bowl is a glass one and you can observe the metamorphosis of flour, water and yeast inside. For in that day, a slump of dough transforms itself into a billowing sponge that's double the size of what it was to begin.

After that, a quick shaping and another rest. A few more hours now, while a cast-iron pot (with lid) preheats in a blistering oven. Dough goes in, lid goes on. And then, while unobserved, is when magic to this trick becomes evident; the dough goes swelled and bronzed, gently arched on its top and deliciously-scorched underneath. When the lid is lifted, you're met with steam touched with smoke and the heady scent of baking bread. Like I said, magic.

Out of the pot and on the counter the bread snaps, crackles and pops as it cools. Lahey calls this auditory phenomena of exterior and interior settling as singing, and I'm pretty fond of that thought.

When the tune finally ends, you are left with a bread with a chewy crust and a crumb full of pockets to hold lots of butter. Or to dunk into soup. Or to smear with chèvre and honey.

As a meal upon the water or the raft upon which you float, and through calm or choppy seas, some good bread is often just what you need. Smooth sailing to you, friends.

I'd forgotten until now, that they boys have a book where in the pivotal scene, the characters set out for a new world on sailboats made from sandwiches. Thanks for the inspiration, Ms. Barrett.

PANE INTEGRALE

A no knead crusty boule using whole wheat flour, from Jim Lahey's book My Bread.

Recipe

* * * * * * *

It happens that I'm also talking about bread, soft and squishy sandwich bread in particular, in the latest issue of UPPERCASE magazine. You can find it here, if you'd like.

One morning last weekend, Saturday morning to be exact, some unexpected news changed our plans for the day. It was nothing thing earth-shatteringly important, only an errand that would take us away from what we'd planned to do, and where we'd planned to do it.

The agenda was tinkered and 20 minutes later, we were out and about. Once arrived at our destination, the errand took only minutes and were left at loose ends. We had gone too far afield to revisit earlier plans, so now what to do?

We agreed upon a secondary plan, but then that fell through due to circumstances beyond our control. Back to the car and the drawing board.

In the end, all was well, and as of two o'clock in the afternoon, we were walking in the winter sunshine along the bustling main of a nearby village. Fed and full, warm despite the cold - which is surprising, as I'm usually the first to complain of a chill - stretching our legs after lunch at the pub.

We strolled to the bookshop, one where the books are piled high on every available surface, including the floor. I got lost a few times, behind student editions of Kim and Anna Karenina, and between rows of Penguin classics dressed in their multi-colour jackets, with that cummerbund of cream around each of their middles.

Next to the teashop. A wall of teas in glass jars faces you as you enter, a brass bell above the door merrily announces your entry. Everything inside is tiny and twee in a way that's very Alice in Wonderland, but charmingly so. It's a place I've been before, with Mom most memorably, most enjoyably for their High Tea.

The Mad Hatter himself would surely approve of the party the ladies of the shop lay out, a balancing act of treats perched on dainty plates, fragrant teas steeping in individual pots, silver spoons and sugar cubes. Most memorable and most enjoyable of all though, are their scones.

A cream scone by the most classic definition, palest white and with only its edge tinged with tan. Buttery, of course, but it is the sweetness of the cream that comes through most clearly. They are dense without heaviness, which I realize makes no sense, but it is the only way I can think to describe what it is like to bite into one of those lovelies.

In my humble opinion, it is the simplest thing that is the nicest thing about their scones, and that is their sugary top. Fresh and hot out of the oven, the scones are covered in flurries of granulated sugar. It sticks, but doesn't melt, bestowing each and every scone with their own glistening crown.

On Saturday, stuffed as we were, we weren't stopping for scones. And a shame it was. Such the shame that scones were not far from my thoughts for the hours after our departure from the shop. But, all was not lost. Scones, those ethereal scones, were still a possibility.

Through my unabashed cross-examination of the staff I have come to know some of the super-extremely-absolutely-top-secret details of their recipe. From there I have read and baked and cut and compared and tasted my way into a home version that visits at least outskirts of the realm of deliciousness in which their scones reside.

And, since you've all been so kind and embraced our project with more enthusiasm than we could have hoped for, I would so like to bake you some scones, and set a nice table with a pot of Devon cream and a jar of blackcurrant jam. We'd use my Grandmother's china.

Everything the best I could do, because as far as I'm concerned, you're just about the nicest thing, too.

SUGARED CREAM SCONES

The closest I've come to approximating the scones from the tea shop in the village we visited. Since I don't know your schedule, and we've not set a date for our tea, I'll share with you my recipe in the interim.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2-3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, see note
  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces, 3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream, very cold
  • Preheat an oven to 425°F (220°C).

METHOD

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Whisk to combine, then chill in the freezer while you proceed.

Cut the butter into small dice, then chill it as well.

Line a standard baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly flour a work surface. Locate the knife of your choice. Assemble a food processor fitted with the metal blade, or get out a large bowl, a pastry cutter and spatula.

Put the dry ingredients into the bowl of the food processor, pulse a few times to lighten. If doing by hand, whisk or fork the flour mixture to aerate. In the processor, remove the cover and evenly distribute the cubed butter over the flour mixture. Replace the cover, and use short, quick pulses to bring the mixture to something that resembles an uneven meal. If by hand, toss the butter into the flour, then use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into irregular, pea-sized chunks.

With the processor, add about half of the heavy cream then pulse a few times. Add three-quarters of what's left, and pulse maybe three times more. Remove the cover and take a look - the dough should be crumbly and light, but if you pick up some and squeeze it in your hand, it should stick together. If it does, stop. If it doesn't, keep adding a few drops of cream, pulsing once or twice, then checking again. Don't worry if you don't use all the cream.

If working by hand, it is much the same process, but using a spatula to fold and turn the dough to incorporate the liquid. Again, judicious is best with the cream, you don't want a soggy dough.

Turn the dough out onto the floured work surface and knead, gently and lightly, until the dough is fully together; you should still see dots of butter here and there. Pat the dough out into a rough round, and dust with a bit of flour. Divide the dough into three, and shape each ball of dough into a 4" round about 3/4"-1" thick. Cut each round into four wedges, and place on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake the scones in the preheated oven until lightly golden at the edges and dry on their cut sides, around 12-15 minutes. The tops should be puffed and they will feel light for their size. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack set over another baking sheet. Sprinkle liberally with sugar and cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 12 smallish scones.

Notes:

• If you are serving the scones with something tart like a lemon curd, I would advise using 1/2 teaspoon salt. However, when paired with a heavier, sweeter accompaniment like devon cream and jam, I'm more generous in my measurement.

• Wanting some extra prettiness, I rolled the dough out with a pin and used a floured, fluted cutter to shape them. But, since scones are often finicky if over-handled, I usually use a 4-inch springform to form my them. I dust it with flour, then pat the dough into the pan, gently pushing it even. Pop it out, cut it into four and it's done. The springform gives the scones high, straight sides that cook evenly, and using a mold cuts down the handling and stretching of the dough.

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