Friday, June 11, 2010

Sundays on the Sunporch: Buttermilk Scones

So, you're back for round 2 of "Sundays on the Sunporch," eh? Glad you liked what you saw earlier, and I hope you'll find joy in this recipe, too.

This recipe is something I turn to again. And again. And again. It's virtually no-fail, and I've created so many different versions of this same basic recipe, that the cookbook falls open right to the "scones" page on it's own (the opposite page bears the recipe for baking powder biscuits - another favorite at Silly Goose Farm). The preface of this recipe says it all: "Think of scones as British biscuits. They 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." There are many ways to prepare scones. You can add basically anything to them (chocolate, dried fruit, whatever your mood presents), and serve them in many ways (in the American style, with coffee and jam, or Brit-like with tea and clotted cream). This recipe comes from none other than our beloved Jooolia (you must say it as you hum, and as if you've had a martini or two, in the classic Julia way), via Baking With Julia, written by Doria Greenspan.

Buttermilk Scones
Makes 12 triangular or 24 rolled scones

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup (approximately) buttermilk
1 tablespoon grated orange or lemon zest
1/2 stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted, for brushing*
1/4 cup sugar, for dusting**
4 tablespoons jam or jelly and/or 4 tablespoons diced or small plump dried fruits, such as currants, raisins, apricots, or figs for filling (optional)***

1. Position the over racks to divide the oven in to thirds and preheat the over to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. In a medium bowl, stir the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together with a fork. Add the cold butter pieces and, using your fingertips (the first choice), a pastry blender, or two knives, work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. It's OK if some largish pieces of butter remain - they'll add to the scones' flakiness.

3. Pour in 1 cup buttermilk, toss in the zest, and mix with the fork only until the ingredients are just moistened - you'll have a soft dough with a rough look. (If the dough looks dry, add another tablespoon of buttermilk.) Gather the dough into a ball, pressing it gently so that it holds together, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface, and knead it very briefly - a dozen turns should do it. Cut the dough in half.

4. To make triangular-shaped scones: Roll one piece of the dough into a 1/2-inch-thick circle that is about 7 inches across. Brush the dough with half of the melted butter, sprinkle with 2 tablespoon of the sugar, and cut the circle into 6 triangles. Place the scones on an ungreased baking sheet and set aside while you roll our the rest of the dough.

5. To make rolled scones: Roll one piece of dough into a strip that is 12 inches long and 1/2 inch thick (the piece will not be very wide.) Spread the strip with half of the melted butter and dust with half of the sugar.
If you want to spread the roll with jam and/or sprinkle it with dried fruits, now's the time to do so; leave a narrow border on a long edge bare. Roll the strip up from a long side like a jelly roll, pinch the seam closed and turn the roll seam side down. Cut the roll in half and cut each piece into six 1-inch-wide roll-ups. Place the rolled scones cut side down on an ungreased baking sheet, leaving a little space between each one. Repeat with the remaining dough.

6. Bake the scones for 10 to 12 minutes, until both the tops and bottoms are golden. Transfer the scones to a rack and cool slightly. These are best served warm but are just fine at room temperature.

7. If you're not going to eat the scones the day they are made, wrap them airtight and freeze; they'll stay fresh for a month. To serve, defrost the scones at room temperature in their wrappers, then unwrap and reheat on a baking sheet for 5 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

*I use a simple egg wash (1 egg and a tablespoon of milk, cream or water, beaten together) in place of the melted butter, brushed on top of the scones just before baking to give a beautiful golden sheen.

**I like using Demerara, or raw, sugar for this type of baking. When sprinkled on top of the scones, it adds a subtle crunch without deterring from the flakiness.

***I added about 5 ounces of chocolate chips to the scones for a little extra "deliciousity." Be sure to use a good-quality chocolate, as lesser brands often contain high amounts of vegetable wax which causes the chocolate to not melt thoroughly.

 This cake stand was a wonderful Christmas present from my darling husband, and can be found here 

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