The things I do for you people! Well, okay, I do them for me, and rather transparently most of the time, but sometimes, sometimes like perhaps during season in which one is upping the ante on output and is concerned about this ante’s effect on quality, I’m fairly certain I’m going a little further than I typically would. What I mean is, on Sunday night, as excited as I was about this new cookbook we purchased and pleased with the outcome of our lentil stew, I couldn’t quit while I was ahead and also baked the orange cranberry scone recipe, to bring to work on Monday. Yes, I spoil my coworkers rotten.
But… I don’t… I didn’t love the results. One, they were heavy; heavy, and pretty dried out by the next morning. Now, I know scones aren’t supposed to last forever, but I expect to get at least twelve hours out of them. Call me picky. Second, they weren’t sweet enough, but for this, I will take some blame. I don’t really care for a sticky, saccharine breakfast pastry, and while I understand this to be de rigeur in coffee shops, I just can’t handle that kind of excess first thing in the morning. So, when Ina called for a glaze on top, I skipped it, opting instead to increase the sugar amount in the scone by one tablespoon. It didn’t do the trick, and in the end, I resented a recipe that required a glaze or it just didn’t come together. My third point of contention with the scones was that they tasted of baking powder, like a biscuit, but with none of a biscuit’s charm or bright buttermilk flavor. Finally, they were still in a container on my desk on Wednesday, which as we all know among ravished cubicle-dwellers – who sop up leftover, processed corporate-catered pastries as if those lemon-poppy mini-muffins tasted anything but rank – is the ultimate nail in a baked good’s coffin.
Normally, this is where this post would end; I would sign off with a “better luck next time” and harbor great intentions to try a new scone recipe soon, but every time I would come across one, it would bring up the unsavory memory of those leaden, dry things and skip it. This time, luckily for all of us, I will so arrogantly say, I persevered, and dug into the basic cream scone recipe from the America’s Test Kitchen cookbook last night, the one boasting a promise that it had passed exhaustive rounds of testing with flying colors. (Frankly, shame on me for not using their recipe first.)
These scones are the height of scone perfection, a pastry dream-come-true, should you be as odd as I am and occasionally dream a little dream of scone. They are moist and structured, but still soft and light, ever-so-slightly crisped exterior. They have just the right level of sweet, and I didn’t need to sugar or glaze or really anything them to make them work. Sure, the book offers variations on the recipe, but the basic one, the very first one, is all I will ever need.
And now, with my scone quest fulfilled, I can move onto bigger and better things, like pickle parties and planning Sunday night’s dinner. And by “planning” I mean, “taking Monday off.”
Dreamy Cream Scones
America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook
2 cups (280 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour, preferably a low-protein brand such as Gold Medal or Pillsbury
1 tablespoon (15 grams) baking powder
3 tablespoons (40 grams) sugar
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) fine sea or table salt
5 tablespoons (70 grams) chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup currants (about 80 grams; I used dried cranberries, and chopped them into smaller bits)
1 cup (235 ml) heavy cream
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425°F.
2. Place flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in large bowl or work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Whisk together or pulse six times.
3. If making by hand, use two knives, a pastry blender or your fingertips and quickly cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few slightly larger butter lumps. Stir in currants. If using food processor, remove cover and distribute butter evenly over dry ingredients. Cover and pulse 12 times, each pulse lasting 1 second. Add currants and pulse one more time. Transfer dough to large bowl.
4. Stir in heavy cream with a rubber spatula or fork until dough begins to form, about 30 seconds.
5. Transfer dough and all dry, floury bits to countertop and knead dough by hand just until it comes together into a rough, sticky ball, 5 to 10 seconds. Form scones by either a) pressing the dough into an 8-inch cake pan, then turning the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, cutting the dough into 8 wedges with either a knife or bench scraper (the book’s suggestion) or b) patting the dough onto a lightly floured work surface into a 3/4-inch thick circle, cutting pieces with a biscuit cutter, and pressing remaining scraps back into another piece (what I did) and cutting until dough has been used up. (Be warned if you use this latter method, the scones that are made from the remaining scraps will be much lumpier and less pretty, but taste fine. As in, I understand why they suggested the first method.)
6. Place rounds or wedges on ungreased baking sheet and bake until scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.