Monday, September 27, 2010

Scone Kick

I'm on something of a scone kick, because making scones requires buying buttermilk, and what else does one do with a half-empty container of buttermilk but make more scones? While the last batch were straight-up decadent, the scones I made this weekend are more of a "healthy" scone. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but when we're talking scones, if they have a bit of whole wheat flour and some oatmeal in them, I say they count as healthy.

Oatmeal Nutmeg Scones are from Dorie Greenspan's (if you haven't seen her latest cookbook, Around My French Table, I highly recommend it!) classic Baking, a reference that has always given me great baked goods. Dorie (if I may) calls them "tender and sweet," and that's quite accurate. They crumble easily and aren't so sweet that they can't handle a dab of apricot preserves on top. They're pretty ideal scones, actually., lovely for breakfast or an any-time-of-day snack. (And I've still got more buttermilk, so my kick can continue.)--S

Oatmeal Nutmeg Scones

1 large egg
1/2 c cold buttermilk
1 2/3 c all-purpose flour (I substituted half whole-wheat flour)
1 1/3 c old-fashioned oats
1/3 c sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/4 t freshly grated nutmeg
1 stick plus 2 T (10 T) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

Stir the egg and buttermilk together.

Whisk the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg together in a large bowl. Drop in the butter and, using your fingers, toss to coat the pieces of butter with flour. Quickly, working with your fingertips (my favorite method) or a pastry blender, cut and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is pebbly. You'll have pea-size pieces, pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pieces the size of everything in between--and that's just right.

Pour the egg and buttermilk mixture over the dry ingredients and stir with a fork just until the dough, which will be wet and sticky, comes together. Don't overdo it.

Still in the bowl, gently knead the dough by hand, or turn it with a rubber spatula 8 to 10 times. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it in half. Working with one piece at a time, pat the dough into a rough circle that's about 5 inches in diameter, cut it into 6 wedges and place on the baking sheet. (At this point, the scones can be frozen on the baking sheet, then wrapped airtight. Don't defrost before baking--just add about 2 minutes to the baking time.)

Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until their tops are olden and firmish. Transfer them to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before serving, or wait for the scones to cool to room temperature.

Makes 12 scones.

Recipe courtesy of Baking by Dorie Greenspan

Friday, September 10, 2010

Introducing... the Introduction

As the best cookbook authors know, recipe introductions are way more important than you might think. They situate a recipe, telling you why you should try it, what to watch out for while you're making it, and what you might eat or drink alongside it. And if they're written well, they give you a little insight into the author's personality.

Take, for instance, the new book from Baked authors Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. It's called Baked Explorations and features 75 recipes for "classic American desserts reinvented." This subject practically begs for recipe intros (or "headnotes," as editors call them): why reinvent, say, a New York-style crumb cake? Or chocolate mint thumbprint cookies? Read the intros, and you'll find out.

Which brings me to the the book's Carrot Coconut Scones with Citrus Glaze. Reading the intro--and getting a Tweet from Matt Lewis saying the scones were a big hit with the book's recipe testers--convinced me I had to make them: "I have succumbed to deep self-delusion and equate all carrot baked things with health and nutrition," it says in part. A carrot cake fiend, I immediately identified with this statement. An additional note reads, "the oats and carrot lend an air of nutrition, but deep down this is a perfect treat for morning, noon, and night." Sold, to the lady with the ridiculous sweet tooth who eats oatmeal with candied ginger and cranberries for breakfast.

So these scones: they're outrageously good. And I didn't even make the citrus glaze. I just painted the egg white glaze on them and sprinkled them with sugar. They are sweet but not too sweet. Denser than muffins, but softer and moister than many scones I've had. And divinely textured thanks to the shredded coconut and oats.

Good headnotes are key. They make reading a cookbook fun--and motivate me to carry my cookbooks out of the living room and into the kitchen.--S

Carrot Coconut Scones with Citrus Glaze
Yield: 6 to 8 scones

For the scones:
2 3/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c rolled oats
1 T baking powder
1/4 t salt
1 c shredded sweetened coconut
1/2 c (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" chunks
1 large egg
3/4 c buttermilk
1 T pure vanilla extract
1/4 c carrot puree (recipe follows)
1 egg white, beaten

For the citrus glaze:
1 T fresh lemon juice
2 T fresh orange juice
1 c confectioners' sugar

Make the scones:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and position the rack in the center. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, oats, baking powder, salt, and shredded sweetened coconut.
3. Add the butter. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until the butter is pea size and the mixture is coarse.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, vanilla and carrot puree. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until the dough just comes together. Gently and briefly knead the dough with your hands. The dough will be sticky and may need to be sprinkled with flour.
5. Roll the dough up, turn it on its end, and gently flatten it into a disk about 1 3/4" high. Do not overwork the dough.
6. Whisk the egg white with 1 T water. Set aside.
7. Cut the dough into 6 or 8 wedges and place the scones on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with the egg white wash. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a scone comes out clean. Do not overbake.
8. Transfer the scones to a wire rack to cool completely. Place the baking sheet, with the parchment still on it, underneath the rack.

Make the citrus glaze:
1. Whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl. The glaze should be loose enough to drizzle. If it is too thick, add a little more oragne juice. If it is too loose, add a little more confectioners' sugar.
2. Drizzle the glaze over the scones and allow it to set before serving.

To make the carrot puree:
1 medium carrot
1/4 c orange juice

1. Place the carrot and juice in a medium glass microwaveable bowl. Cover or wrap tightly in plastic wrap.
2. Microwave on high for about 5 minutes. If the carrot is fork-tender, it is ready. If it is not fork-tender, continue to microwave in 30-second bursts until it is.
3. Blend (in blender or food processor) the carrot and orange juice until smooth, or alternatively, mash with a potato masher until lump free.