Thursday, April 3, 2008

Scones! Wait, Scones?!

I tend to characterize baked goods not only by the way they taste, but how I feel they express their personalities. I suppose it's stereotypical of me, but I tend to divide them in my mind first by category, and then by individual variety. For example, cookies are down-to-earth, good with children, and accepting of all -- milk, tea, hot chocolate, and coffee. Layered cakes are much fancier and self-absorbed, only showing up on special occasions when they surface like wealthy hermits at annual social events only to disappear back into obscurity afterwards (though the exception to this rule is Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting, who always makes others feel welcome). Store-bought bread has an inferiority complex, cupcakes think very highly of themselves, and muffins are stealth desserts disguised as breakfast.

When you're younger, you can see these distinctions pretty clearly. There's a whole set of "grown-up" baked goods that display much pricklier dispositions. Biscotti hurts to bite into and makes you thirsty (seemingly on purpose -- jerk). Restaurant breads are often filled with seeds that make you feel much more like Big Bird than you would've ever wanted. Croissants feel light when you eat them, but then people tell you that eating them will make you fat. And then there's the scone.

The scone is perhaps the greatest deceiver of them all. It's not very sweet, not very soft, not very moist, and yet resembles an enormous craggly cookie that has "I promise I'm fun-tasting" written all over it. Many are filled with what look like mini chocolate chips, but alas! They're actually the estranged cousins of raisins known as Currants. And when you have a mouth full of them when you thought you were about to experience a world of chocolatey goodness, instead you feel as though someone just sunk your Battleship.

Of course, when you get older, you find that currants are actually pretty tasty, seeded breads go well with meals, and biscotti can only be fully enjoyed with a cup of hot coffee. And yet, I often find that even with my more food-enlightened older self, many scones are still as dry and deceiving as I remember them to be. But not these.

These are adapted from the Cheese Board book, and they are some of the best scones I've ever had. Flavorful, moist, and rich but not uncomfortably heavy, these can be paired with coffee like traditional scones, but I enjoy them plain. The only reason I resorted to scones in the first place is because I had both buttermilk and heavy cream leftover from an earlier project -- and I hate that they spoil so quickly. After trying these, I plan to have a lot of "leftover" buttermilk and heavy cream around from hereon out. Oh and in regards to the source of this recipe, it is my hope you will try this one and immediately go out and purchase a copy of the book, as there are numerous other amazing recipes to try.


- Make sure to use unbleached flour -- I didn't have any at the time, and I'm convinced it was this substitution that made them much harder to assemble when placing them on the baking sheet.
- I increased the amount of chocolate chips called for in the recipe, which improved them significantly in my mind. The dough-to-chip recipe is key.

- If you're feeling adventurous, I might add 1/4-1/2 tsp of cinnamon, though the plain buttery taste is great on its own.
- You may want to check on and rotate your scones (remove the pan briefly and turn it around) after about 15 minutes of baking. I know my oven doesn't bake as evenly as I'd like, so it makes it harder to get them to an equal degree of done-ness.
- The second time I made these, I made less of an effort to get all the flour into the scones -- having some left in the bowl actually seemed to benefit the final product.

The Cheese Board's Chocolate Chip Scones

3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 1/2 cup chocolate chips

3/4 cup heavy cream

3/4 cup buttermilk -- SHAKE WELL prior to using


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

1. Combine flour, baking soda, and baking powder in a large bowl using a wire whisk.

2. Using a wooden spoon, stir salt and sugar into the dry ingredient mixture.

3. Cut the butter into the flour mixture using sharp knives or a pastry cutter, until the size of small peas (they need not be entirely uniform).
4. Use your wooden spoon to mix in the chocolate chips.
5. Using a cup or a spoon, form a large well in the middle of the mixture. Add the buttermilk and heavy cream to the well.

6. Mix until just combined (there will be some flour left at the bottom of the bowl).

7. Use a spoon and your hands to form rough balls of dough, approximately 2.25 inches in diameter (I just judged them to be a large handful) and place on the parchment papered baking sheets, a few inches apart. Do not smooth the surfaces of the scones -- they should be somewhat lumpy.

8. Sprinkle sugar as desired over each scone -- make sure not to get too much sugar on the pan, as it will caramelize and eventually burn if not on a scone.

9. Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until the scones are golden brown. Remove from the baking sheets with a spatula and let them cool on wire racks.

Yield: ~ 10 - 12 scones


Chi Chen said...

these look great! can't wait for you to make these when you are back in california!

Katie said...

I loved your post, it really made me smile and I was nodding along in agreement. The best line was
"you feel as though someone just sunk your Battleship"
I used to loathe currants too but like them now. The scones look great.