Spiced Apple Walnut Scones

Apple Spice SconesRecipe #4 in the great scone debate, inspired by David Lebovitz’s cherry chocolate scones. My addition of chopped apple may have added unnecessary moisture to the dough, preventing crispy crusts. The scones from Baked are still on top. These aren’t recipe-posting worthy.

 

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Sour Cherry Chocolate Scones

Cherry Chocolate SconesIn the “American” scone category, this one’s going to be tough to defeat. The epitome of a Yankee scone – large, slightly crumbly, buttery, chocked full of good stuff and baked with a sugary crust – it needs neither butter nor reheating to enjoy.

Sour Cherry Chocolate Scones
Adapted from “Baked” by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
Makes 16 large scones

1 Large egg
¾ c. + ¼ c. Buttermilk or 1 c, whole milk + 1 T. White vinegar
1 t. Vanilla extract
1 Zest of lemon, finely grated
4 c. All-purpose flour
½ c. Sugar
1 T Baking powder
½ t. Baking soda
½ t. Kosher salt
1 ½ c Unsalted butter, cubed and very cold
¾ c. Dried sour cherries, softened in hot water, drained and chopped
½ c. Semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
¼ c. Sugar (use raw sugar if you have some on hand)
¼ c. Semi-sweet chocolate
1 t. Shortening

Chill a large bowl in freezer. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the egg, ¾ c. buttermilk, vanilla extract and lemon zest. In a food processor, pulse together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add cubed butter and pulse until the butter is pea sized. Transfer flour/butter mixture to the chilled bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients slowly and gently knead until the dough just begins to come together. Add the cherries and chopped chocolate and gently knead to fully incorporate (but overwork the dough!). Move the dough to a lightly floured surface and shape into two disks about 1 ½ inches high. Freeze disks for 10 minutes.

Cut each disk into 8 wedges. Place the wedges onto to baking sheet, brush each with remaining buttermilk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through baking time) or until scones are golden.

Cool on cooling rack completely. Melt chocolate and shortening in microwave and stir until smooth. Drizzle melted chocolate over each scone and allow chocolate to set.

Berry Almond Scones

Berry Almond SconesThis is my first selection  in the “American” scone category, not to be confused with the restrained British version. I acquired this recipe during my time at Culinary School. Our visiting chef claimed he developed them for a certain high-end store café – maybe Bloomingdale’s or Saks. I recall my previous disappointment with the final result, but decided they’d make a suitable initial recipe in the Ultimate Scone Smackdown.

With my increasing scone-savviness, I detected a few anomalies the instant I re-read the recipe. First, this recipe requires high-gluten bread flour when all recommendations suggest a low-gluten flour such as cake or pastry flour. Second, there’s no butter; it’s been replaced by heavy cream. Last, honey replaces a good portion of the sweetener. Should I doubt a trained and practicing pastry chef? Instead, I question my own competence. What’s the story?

As expected, the outcome was decent, but a tad too chewy and bread-like; not entirely my cup of tea – or should I say, “not to be served with my cup of tea.” If time allows, I’d like to revisit this recipe, switch out the bread flour for pastry flour and test the results.

So far, the British scones lead, but to be fair, I sampled them with heaps of clotted cream and strawberry jam – I’m sure a hamburger bun would have tasted delightful. Unadorned, they need a smidgen more sugar for this girl’s American palate.

Berry Almond Scones
Adapted from Chef Tom

16 oz. frozen blueberries, blackberries and chopped candied sliced almonds
1.75 lbs. (note – this is lbs. not cups) Bread flour Pastry flour?
3 oz. + 1 c. Sugar
3 T. Baking powder
1 t. Salt
1 Lemon zest, finely grated
3 c. + 1 c. Heavy Cream
4 oz. Honey

Heat oven to 425 (375 convection).

Combine flour, 3 oz. sugar, baking powder, salt and zest in a mixer with paddle. Add 3 c. cream, honey, and additions. Mix until ingredients just come together (don’t over mix).

Portion out by hand into desired size (I weighed mine at 3 oz. each).

Dip top of scone in 1 c. cream and then 1 c. sugar. Place sugar size up approximately 1.25” apart on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake approximately 15-20 minutes (10-15 convection).

Results Board

  1. British scones adapted from Cooks Illustrated
  2. Culinary school American Scones

Scones

English Scones

British Scones

18 years ago, a scone saved my sanity. An interminable British Airways flight home from London was noticeably brightened by a solitary scone, secreted in a paper napkin and smuggled onboard. It was an orange-scented currant variety piled high with Cornish clotted cream and English strawberry jam – a souvenir from an earlier afternoon of high tea at the Orangery in Kensington Gardens. The flight attendant, upon noticing my stash, could only exclaim, “Ohhhh!!!” as she passed by.

In Fall of 2010, I was determined to sift through the various scone recipe permutations in my collection to arrive at – ta da: The Ultimate Scone Recipe. I would initiate head-to-head bake-offs between British and American, eggs and egg less, professional versions vs. home baked. On October 11, 2010, I completed my first recipe and simultaneously met a man, fell head over heels and utterly neglected the scone challenge. Nearly five years later, that guy is long gone yet the recipes remain, with a few added, I’m sure.

In memorial of the scone that restored my sanity and is forever etched in my brain:

Orange Scented Currant Scones
Slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Makes 24 scones

3 c. All Purpose Flour
½ c. Sugar
2 T. Baking powder
½ t. Salt
8 T. Unsalted butter, cut into cubes and softened
¾ c. Dried currants, softened in water
2 t. Orange zest
1 c. Whole milk
2 Eggs

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat convection oven to 475 degrees. Pulse flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in food processor for about 5-8 pulses. Add butter and pulse 30 more times until it looks like fine crumbs. Transfer mixer to large bowl and stir in currants and zest. Whisk milk and eggs together separately. Set aside 2 T. milk mixture. Add remaining milk mixture to flour mixture and, using a rubber spatula, fold together until almost no dry bits of flour remain.

Transfer dough to a very well-floured board. With floured hands, kneed 25 – 30 times. Dough will be sticky – use flour as needed. Press gently to form a disk. Using a floured rolling pin, roll disk into a 9” round. Using floured 2” round cutter, stamp out as many rounds as possible, coating cutter with flour as needed. Do not twist cutter. Arrange scones on sheetpan with silpat. Gather scraps, knead again gently until surface is smooth. Roll dough and stamp out as many additional rounds as possible. Discard remaining dough.

Brush tops of scones with milk mixture. Reduce convection oven to 400 and bake scones until golden brown, 10 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking time. Store leftovers in freezer and reheat in a 300 degree oven for 15 minutes. Serve with strawberry jam and clotted cream.

My Primer

Cookbook

Above my kitchen table is a bookshelf overfilled with cookbooks. Some of these books were gifts, their spines still intact. Others speak of my travels – ‘the Patissier, recipes and conversations from Alsace, France’ or ‘La Cucina di Spannocchia’, a souvenir from a week spent on an Italian farm outside Siena. On this shelf also rests a dog-eared copy of ‘Better Homes and Gardens Great Cooking for Two’. My first cookbook – copyrighted in 1992. When I skim the recipes now, I’m struck by their simplicity– several pan sauces flavored with instant chicken bouillon granules and the thyme always “dried”. One recipe, annotated with my words “Good, Easy, Comfort Food,” calls for sautéing sweet potatoes (not yams) and chicken breasts and finishing them with a simple wine reduction of white wine, water, the ubiquitous bouillon granules and dried thyme. I remember the sweet potatoes, absorbing the sauce, softened and flavored by it – and my sense of triumph as I consumed dinner. Another recipe, labeled “Nummy,” was Maple-Glazed Stuffed Cornish Hens – hens filled with a bacon-pecan stuffing and glazed with maple-Dijon syrup as they roasted. Today, I would scoff at such a simple recipe. In my 20’s, I believed myself an accomplished cook, crafting a dish suitable for a Christmas dinner. I scribbled annotations for each recipe I attempted, a habit I picked up from my mom. Most notes are a simple “good” while some recipes, like Mushroom and Blue Cheese Stuffed Pork Chops, are elevated with the words “very good”. I remember making this recipe for a potential lover and, on another occasion, for my mother on her first night back from the hospital. He couldn’t eat his – he was too nervous. She couldn’t eat hers – she was still feeling ill. It is, however, a  delightful and edible combination of flavors – pork, blue cheese, mushrooms, pecans and green onions. Some annotated recipes, like Coriander and Honey glazed Pork Ribs (Tastey! [sic]), I don’t remember cooking. The recipe I still break out is for Sweet Yogurt Scones. While not an actual scone (the texture isn’t quite right), they are a quick and easy Sunday morning treat. It’s a forgiving recipe that is amiable to substitutions, saving a trip to the grocery store for rarely on-hand pantry items.

Apricot Scones

Apricot Yogurt Scones

Sweet Yogurt Scones
From Better Homes and Gardens Great Cooking for Two

1 cup     All Purpose Flour
2 T.         sugar
1 ½ t.     baking power
1/8 t.     salt
¼ c.        margarine or butter (I use butter)
1              beaten egg
1/3 c.     plain yogurt or dairy sour cream (flavored yogurt works great, as well)
½ t.         orange or lemon zest (my addition)
¼ c.        dried fruit, raisins, or currants soften in hot water (my addition)
1 t.          sugar
¼ t.         cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together the first four ingredients. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs (don’t use a food processor – it results in a gummy scone). Make a well in the center. In a small bowl, stir together the egg, yogurt, zest and dried fruit, if using. Add the yogurt mixture all at once to the dry ingredients. Using a fork, stir just until moistened (don’t over mix). Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surfaced. Quickly knead dough for 8-10 strokes until dough begins to hold together. Pat into a 6” circle. Cut into 6 wedges. Stir together sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over scones. Place wedges 1” apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 11-13 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Serve warm with butter and homemade jam (they don’t keep well).