Dried Fruit and Ginger Scones

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This month’s archive makes it look like I’m harboring a bit of a sweet tooth.  Nothing wrong with that, necessarily, but I should tell you this week’s entry is actually at N.’s (indirect) request.  A month or two ago, my beloved aunt sent me some specialty King Arthur flour, and along with the packages of semolina and European style AP blend came a catalog.  Naturally, this has become my bedtime reading (what, you don’t read cookbooks and kitchen magazines in bed?), and on Monday night as I dawdled longingly over a blurb about Double Devon Cream, N. surfaced from internet-land and glanced at the facing page.  “That,” he said, and pointed at a photograph of some cranberry orange scones.  “You want scones?”  A silly question, apparently.  “That.”  So here they are.

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I did some research (i.e. food blogs and recipe comparisons from the other cookbooks stacked on my nightstand) and found, as usual, that Deb has all the answers.  Seriously, is there anything the woman hasn’t made?  I adore you, Deb, but really – a person can only repress the green-eyed monster for so long…   This adapts her recipe for “Creamy, Dreamy Scones,” which she got from the America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook.  I’ve used a combination of cake flour and all purpose flour for a lighter texture, allowed turbinado sugar to stand in for the regular sugar, and replaced some (okay, most) of the cream with whole milk, because I lost my mind this week and, forgetting the intended use of that little container, dumped most of it into an unholy-but-oh-so-heavenly conglomeration of chard, bacon, and bourbon.

These scones take advantage of the bags and bags of dried fruit that inevitably collect in my pantry.  You could probably add other flavors as well, but I thought apples and cranberries, and the candied ginger I’ve been obsessed with for at least a year now, would play well together.  Apricots would probably be beautiful too (unless you are, like one of my family members who shall remain nameless to protect familial harmony, freaked out by dried apricots because they apparently bear an uncomfortable resemblance to mouse ears).

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Scones come together much like biscuits: whisk the dry ingredients, cut in the butter, stir the milk/cream/buttermilk and flavor additions in with a fork.  But then, and this is where things can go awry, you have to pat it into a circle and either punch out rounds with a biscuit cutter, or slice the whole thing into triangles.  I chose the latter.

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This dough is, if we’re honest with each other, an almost unmanageably sticky mess.  Resist the temptation to mix more flour into the dough, because the more flour you add, the less tender the finished scones will be.  But do be prepared to sprinkle flour over everything it will come in contact with.  I used a floured pizza cutter to slice it into eight pieces, which tore up edges and corners even while the dough clung fiercely to the board below.

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A bench scraper tool is really helpful for transferring your scones to their cooking vessel – a parchment lined baking sheet would be fine, but I used my brand new enameled pizza stone because I’m so jazzed about it.  This, because I preheated it along with the oven, made the scones sizzle as I levered each one onto its surface, and rather than sticking (which I was dreading, since I realized only after they’d been in the oven for five minutes that I hadn’t greased or floured the cooking surface AT ALL), produced a crisp bottom crust.

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I left my offering on the pizza stone to cool while I took the dog for a walk, and returned to find it had been accepted.

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An hour or so later, it had been accepted again.

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These are best on the first day, but will keep acceptably for two or three days if they are well wrapped in aluminum foil and stored at room temperature.  Chances are – if your family is anything like mine – this short storage period won’t be an issue.  Still warm, these make perfect hand-held afternoon pick-me-ups (the ginger really zings you out of the 3 o’clock slump), but if you want to go the extra mile, I recommend slicing them in half so you have two triangles, stuffing them with Greek yogurt and a decadent ooze of local honey, and attacking with a fork for breakfast.

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Apple Cranberry Ginger Scones

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who used America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook. 

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup cake flour

1 TB baking powder

4 TB coarse sugar, divided (I used turbinado because that’s what was in my baking cupboard)

½ tsp salt

5 TB butter, cut into cubes

¼ each chopped dried apples, chopped dried cranberries, and chopped candied ginger

¼ cup heavy cream

¾ cup whole milk

  • Position a rack in the middle of your oven and preheat to 425F.  If you will be baking on a pizza stone, put it in the oven to preheat as well.  If you will be using a cookie sheet, line it with parchment paper and set it aside.
  • Whisk together the flours, baking powder, 3 TB of the sugar, and salt in a medium bowl.
  • Cut in the butter using a pastry blender, two knives, or your fingers, until the largest chunks of butter are the size of small peas (sidenote: “peas” seems the universal size for butter chunks – why is that?  Is there no other pea-sized object so regular and recognizable in size that we could call upon?  Ball-bearings?  Corn kernels?  Canine teeth?).
  • Pour in the cream and milk (or just use all cream, if you have it) and mix it around with a fork until an evenly hydrated, extremely sticky dough forms.
  • Add the fruits and mix again until evenly distributed (you may have to work a bit to break up the ginger pieces).
  • Dump the sticky mass out onto a well-floured board.  Sprinkle a little flour on top as well, then pat the dough out into a circle about 1-inch thick.  Try not to add too much flour, lest they become dense and tough.
  • Dip a pizza cutter or other thin, sharp knife into flour, then cut the circle into 8 equal sized pieces.  You may need to scrape off and re-flour your slicing instrument between slices.
  • Using a bench scraper, a thin spatula, or (if you are brave) your hands, relocate your 8 scones to your prepared baking vessel, spacing them a half inch or so apart (they will puff and rise a little bit, but not tremendously).  Sprinkle the tops with the remaining 1 TB of sugar.
  • Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until lightly golden on top and cooked through.
  • Cool at least 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack.  Eat warm or cool.
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