Friday, December 08, 2006

The Perfect Scones

My last girlfriend charmed my housemates and I by, among other things, bringing over bags of warm, crumbly scones from a small bakery near her apartment. The scones were just right -- moist crumbs that melted perfectly in your mouth, a not-overwhelming taste of vanilla, plump bits of dried fruit. Being neurotic, I tried for months to replicate them using recipes culled from various sources. It wasn't until I found this recipe, in Once Upon a Tart, that I found what I was looking for.

Since I came back from Asia I've been spending a lot of time on friends' couches, and I like to present a bag of these scones as an expression of gratitude. For those a little less homeless, the scones also make a nice addition to brunch potlucks, or, really, to any day. Plus, making them take very little time or energy.

This is a basic recipe. I love the way currants work in it, but if you'd rather use something else (raisins, dried cherries, those yummy dried blueberries Trader Joe's sells, or candied ginger), you should go for it. This recipe makes a shitload of scones, so I sometimes halve it.

Buttermilk-Currant Scones (ie, the Basic Scone Recipe)

4 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup sugar
20 tbsp (2 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
2 large eggs
1 cup cold buttermilk
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 cup dried currants

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2. Dump dry (first 5) ingredients into food processor and pulse.
3. Add butter and mix for a few seconds, until the batter looks like moist crumbs.
4. In a small bowl, mix eggs so they yolks are broken. Mix in buttermilk, vanilla, and currants.
5. Mix the dry and wet mixtures together. At first it looks depressingly dry, like no batter could possibly come together. Do not abandon faith. Keep mixing and it works out. (Now isn't that inspiring?) Stop as soon as flour is no longer visible.
6. Use a 1/2 cup measure to scoop batter into rounds on a baking sheet.
7. Bake 25-30 minutes. They will be golden brown (and your kitchen will smell really good).

For a variation, add a little powdered ginger to the dry ingredients and use chopped up candied ginger instead of fruit.

Adapted with love from "Once Upon a Tart" by Frank Mentesana and Jerome Audureau


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