Thursday, April 28, 2011

What makes a scone a scone?

A while ago, I told Clint I wanted to make scones for breakfast. I don't know why I wanted scones, but I did. He liked this idea, he was going to go shovel the previous day's 6 inches of snow to make room for us to actually get into our cars (oh so helpful- now that we have 5-6 ft high heaps of snow on either side of our driveway, it's very important to shovel a couple feet on either side of the car- I forgot this.), and would enjoy a fresh scone when he came back inside.

But before he went out, he asked me "what makes a scone a scone?"

I said, "well, it's..... um..." Yeah, no idea. Shame, foodie, shame!

So let's find out.

According to Wikipedia, a scone is " a small British quickbread (or cake if recipe includes sugar) of Scottish origin.... They are usually made of wheat, barley or oatmeal, with baking powder as a leavening agent."

Ok, so it's a biscuit. But... it's not a biscuit, it's so much more.

Dorie Greenspan (my new hero) says: "[Scones] are made in a manner similar to biscuits and, in fact, share biscuits' buttery-layered texture, but their name, their shape, and the fact that they're served with tea rather than gravy, lift them to the level of fancier fare."

Well, I guess... maybe British scones. In my mind, a scone usually has fruit in it, and always has more fat than a biscuit- although I'd had some scones that are pretty close to a buttermilk biscuit- and is crumbly when you break it open.

Anyway, whatever a scone really is, I wanted one. A nice, crumbly, fluffy scone. I looked around online, I found a lot of lovely recipes (including one that had 3 sticks of butter for 8 scones, yikes), and I settled on this one, from Joy the Baker. I trust Joy the Baker, so when she said these were the best scones, I believed her. And she was right.

These scones have oatmeal, which I usually don't really care for in a scone- because of my first scone recipe, found in 2001, which produced rock-hard gritty, crumbly triangles with a decent oaty flavor, but honestly sit like a brick in your stomach. They were the opposite of fluffy. So I always equate oaty scones with a solid brick. But Clint likes oats, and I try to consider his likes/dislikes when cooking (the more he heats, the less I eat and therefore need to exercise), so I decided to give an oaty recipe a go. I was really pleasantly surprised when these oat scones had a lovely oatmeal cookie flavor (I added vanilla) and a lovely soft, light texture. Also, there's no need to put clotted cream or jam on these, they have plenty of flavor without any toppings (lower calorie bonus! Not that these are good for people watching what they eat (such as me), unless they're looking for a small indulgence.)

Oatmeal Raspberry Scones
from Joy the Baker
oh oh what's this? They're a Dorie Greenspan recipe. See, I told you- my new hero (she claimed my undying loyalty and affection at her fougasse recipe)

Makes 12 scones

1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk, cold (or 1/2 cup milk + 1.5t vinegar and let that sit for a few minutes)
1t vanilla (my addition)
1 cup AP flour
2/3 cup whole wheat flour (my alteration)
1 1/3 cups oats
1/3 cup suar
1T baking powder
1/2t baking soda
1/2t salt
1/4t nutmeg
1/2t cinnamon (my addition)
10T butter, grated
3/4 frozen raspberries (or any fruit, really)

Note on the butter: I discovered this by accident: freezing your butter makes it much easier to grate. I had to go into the freezer for the backup butter (we but 8lbs at a time at BJs, so most of it goes in the freezer until I need it). I grated (large holes on the box grater) 5T from each of 2 sticks, which meant there was no chance of grating my hand.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk and vanilla, set aside. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flours through spices), then add the butter and smush it around with your fingers to get a crumbly texture. Add the wet ingredients, stir with a fork to combine. Toss in the berries. Knead the dough a few times on a board, then form into 12 balls, about 1/4 cup each. (I formed 6 balls and then the remaining dough into a log, which I wrapped in plastic wrap and froze to bake another day- scones don't keep that well, they're much better fresh).

Place balls on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake at 400F for 20-25 minutes, until they're golden brown.

They're best while warm, you can also heat up day-old scones for a few minutes in the oven. Serve alone or topped with clotted cream or cream cheese and/or jam.

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