This morning started with Eliza in the kitchen:
The temps have been barely making it into the 60s for the past week, so I am still in scone mode. Several months ago, I found a great recipe for cranberry scones online at Nicole’s wonderful baking blog, Pinch My Salt. You can find that recipe above.
But Grace started getting sick of cranberry scones, no matter how good they are.
I went to the store, pondering fruit. Strawberries make scone batter pink, and anyway right now they’re from California and I think they just spray unripe chemically enhanced berries with strawberry oil. They taste to me like strawberry-scented cardboard. (Bill says, “Don’t knock cardboard until you’ve tried a bunch.”) Blueberries are not in season yet, of course. Frozen blueberries turn the batter purple. You really have to smush that flour and butter together hard for scones; they are not muffins. And then the cherries caught my eye. Black cherries dye the batter, too, but… Rainier cherries! I bought a small bag and rushed home.
In the freezer, I spied the corner of a promising snack-sized baggie. Un-iced, it turned out to be stuffed full of finely ground toasted almonds.
I usually make a batch and a half, because that is what will fit easily into our oven, and if I have extras I just throw them in a bag and then into the freezer. Sometimes when all hope is lost and there’s nothing for a friend who has stopped by for coffee (yes we still do this in Maine), I can go trolling and come up with, not Ingredients, but something already baked.
Cherry and Almond Scones
Into a medium-sized bowl sift together:
3 cups unbleached white flour (I use King Arthur)
1/4 tsp baking soda, plus half of that (no I don’t actually measure this, just eyeball)
2 and 1/2 tsps baking powder (” “)
less than 1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar
about a tsp of cinnamon
Into this, chunk 1 stick plus 1/2 stick of butter, in 1/2-inch or so cubes. Put this bowl in the fridge.
Into a 2-cup measure, crack two eggs. (We have neighbors/good friends with chickens, so our eggs vary a lot in size and I use, for this, one large and one small. But it doesn’t really matter. If you use two large eggs your scones will just be eggier.) Scooch with a fork until blended, then pour in enough buttermilk to make a cup and a quarter. With a microplane or very fine grater, grate into this mixture half a lemon’s worth of peel. Put the cup into the fridge.
Wash and dry and mince about 15 cherries. This is a labor of love but if you use large chunks of cherry, you won’t have scones that are nearly as lovely. Nicole happened onto a smart trick here. Use small bits of good flavor and scones will reflect nirvana. Just chop these fine and then sock in the fridge.
Now go do something else for an hour. Exercise or read a book or tell your dog or cat or cockatiel or spouse or child or friend the ways in which perfection has been reached in that particular incarnation on Earth. I’ve yet to do this during the chilling hour but it sounds like a promising endeavor. Not to mention, chill.
Turn the oven to 425. In the summer, turn on the overhead fan and other fans.
Take out the bowl of flour and butter. Render into short-grain-brown-rice-sized bits with two sharp knives or a pastry blender, but know you won’t reach the perfection mentioned above in relation to your dog/cat/cockatiel/spouse/child/parent/friend and this is just fine. Most of the bits should be small. None should be huge.
Add to this about 1/3 cup of finely ground almonds and mix it up. Then add the chilled finely minced cherries. Mix it up. Then add ALMOST all the re-stirred, chilled buttermilk/egg mixture. Save about 2 or 3 tbs to brush on top of the scones before baking. If you don’t think you’ll remember this, just save it before you put it in the fridge to chill.
Mix the batter well (I use a rubber spatula). Turn it out in three more-or-less equal mounds onto a lightly floured surface and with nimble, floured fingers flip each mound over and gently encourage into a thick (say, 1-inch) 4-5-inch diameter disc. Then take a pastry scraper or spatula (harder because it’s not wide enough… you could use a knife) and divide the discs into 6 triangles each.
Pam or butter enough pans to accommodate the scones, leaving about 2 inches around each triangle. Place them on the sheets, then brush each one with that leftover egg/buttermilk/lemon zest mixture, trying not to spill onto the sheets too much. Not a big deal but it does burn. Then sprinkle each scone with either sugar or cinnamon sugar (or ginger sugar or cardamon sugar or….)
Pop in the preheated oven for about 7 minutes, then take out and reverse the sheets left to right and back to front. Then bake another 7 minutes or until beautifully brown and your kitchen is so ridiculously deliciously scented you can’t stand it another second! You might need to leave the kitchen and refresh your nose to appreciate this.
Invite someone over to have a scone or three. That’s why you made extra.
Your desperately craving animal protein dog/cat/spouse/canary/monkey/child/parent/friend will love you even more. Or, will love you. I promise. Especially if he/she is not trying to read and follow these directions, which of course he/she is not, because the scones are made.
If you have read this, you can appreciate the lives my children led, growing up. They need all the support you can muster. Bill is fine; he doesn’t listen to me.