Monday, June 8, 2015

Spur-Of-The-Moment Scones

One of the best things about scones, aside from their adaptability to a wide variety of ingredients, is that you can think of scones one minute and be eating them less than twenty minutes later, hot and fresh from the oven. 

That's exactly what happened to me the other morning. We awoke to a blue sky - yes, people! Blue! - and that set the mood for the whole day. We tumbled out of bed and into the kitchen to make coffee, to sit and admire the blue sky and even bluer bay water out the windows. 

And I thought, "This would be perfect with scones."

So, while My Beloved made the coffee and put mugs and plates into the warming drawer, I pulled out Molly Wizenberg's wonderful book,"A Homemade Life," and turned to page 174 in the hardcover edition for her scone recipe. I had some sadly flavorless nectarines that needed eating, so I decided to use them in place of the ginger, and to enhance their lacklusterocity with some allspice and brown sugar.

I made the scones by Molly's recipe, but before adding the chunks of nectarine, I tossed them in a combination of brown sugar mixed with allspice so the sugar and spice coated the fruit. The tactic was a success - my sadly flat fruit was jazzed up and, in the oven, it made little pockets of juicy, sweet, spiced goodness.

Molly's recipe makes medium-sized scones, just right for a mid-morning snack, rather than the huge, heavy ones you get in most coffee shops. Next time you awake to a blue, blue sky, consider making some spur-of-the-moment scones.

Nectarine and Allspice Scones, thanks to Molly Wizenberg

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and line a baking tray with parchment paper.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons (2 ounces) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup half-and-half, plus more for glazing
1 large egg

2 nectarines, pitted and cut into 1/2" chunks
2 Tablespoons brown sugar (less if your nectarines are sweet)
1 teaspoon allspice

Mix the allspice and brown sugar together in a small bowl with a whisk until well combined. Toss the fruit chunks in the mixture and set aside while you make the scone dough.

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 with your fingertips until the mixture resembles a coarse meal and there are no butter lumps larger than a pea. Add the sugar and whisk to incorporate. Add the nectarine chunks and toss with your hands to distribute more or less evenly.

Pour 1/2 cup half-and-half into a small bowl or measuring cup and add the egg. Beat with a fork to mix well. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture, and stir gently to just combine. The dough will look dry and shaggy, and there may be some unincorporated flour at the bottom of the bowl. Don't worry about that. Using your hands, squeeze and press the dough into a rough mass. 

Turn the dough, and any excess flour, out onto a board or countertop, and press and gather and knead it until it just comes together. You don't want to overwork the dough; ideally, do not knead more than 12 times. Pat into a rough circle about 1" thick. Cut the circle into 8 wedges and plates them on your parchment-lined baking sheet. 

Using a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the scones with a thin coat of half-and-half to glaze. Bake for 10-14 minutes, or until pale golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly, but serve warm, with butter, if you like.

They can be wrapped airtight for a day or two but for longer storage, freeze. Before serving, bring them to room temperature, then reheat briefly in a 300 degree F oven. Best served warm.


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Friday, July 31, 2015  

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