I have an announcement to make: I have discovered a scone recipe. A scone recipe that is out of this world - crunchy on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside, and not too difficult to make. Scones are one of those pastries that usually allude me. Often hard as rocks or unbearably buttery, I rarely find a scone that doesn't disappoint, whether from my own kitchen or purchased at a bakery. But I am thrilled to have found a perfect recipe.
The key to this recipe is grating frozen butter. Sounds strange, but it works like a charm. It makes it to much easier to incorporate the butter into the flour (no exhausting pinching until you get pea-sized chunks - just a simple stir with your hand) and the butter ends up distributing very well, making for a moist but not too buttery scone.
When I told Wright that I was bringing scones up for breakfasts in Maine, he promptly inquired as to what, exactly, a scone is. In my mind it should be somewhere between a muffin and bread, both cookie-like and cake-like, but not too sweet. They are leavened with baking powder, like many sweet pastries, but the dough and process feels closer to making bread. There is a brief and uncomplicated folding and rolling situation included in this recipe that at first looks daunting but couldn't be simpler.
I was lucky enough to have some leftover strawberries that I picked up at the market last weekend, so I chopped those up along with blueberries for the filling. The neat thing about scones is how endless the possibilities are - think cinnamon scones, currant scones, orange chocolate chip, pistachio... anything you have! These fruits turned out to be perfect for Memorial Day weekend - fresh and summery, the scones were a perfect way to start out mornings in Maine after a refreshing walk on the beach.
And the best part? They can be made ahead and frozen, which is how I brought them up to Maine. Freeze the scones unbaked (but cut into their triangle shapes) and bake right from the freezer. Just brush on some melted butter, sprinkle a little sugar on top and pop in the oven. If you're simply making them a day ahead, you can also just stick the unbaked scones into the refrigerator and do the same the next morning.
Fresh Berry Scones
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated
Makes 8-10 scones
1 stick of butter, frozen
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting surface
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup strawberries, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Sugar, for dusting
1. Grate frozen butter and place in refrigerator until needed. Note: it is easier to grate two halves of whole sticks of butter, so that you have something to hold onto while grating.
2. Whisk together milk and sour cream in a small bowl and set aside until needed.
3. Whisk flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest in a large bowl. Mix in grated butter with your hand, gently until evenly distributed.
4. Add milk and sourcream mixture, stir with a wooden spoon until it comes together, then dump onto floured work surface. Knead a few times with your hand until you have a large ball of dough.
5. Spread dough out, using your hands or a rolling pin, into a 12- to 14-inch square. Fold bottom third onto middle third and then top third onto middle third (as if you are stuffing a business envelope). Then fold two side into the middle. Place in refrigerator for 5 minutes.
6. Roll out dough again into a 12- to 14-inch square, and sprinkle blueberries and strawberries all over the square, pressing them lightly into the dough with your hands. Starting from the bottom, roll the dough up to the top, until it forms a log. Pat down the log a little bit, so that it ends up 12- to 14-inches long and maybe about 4- to 5-inches wide.
7. Using a pastry cutter or knife, slice out scones in triangles.
8. To bake immediately, brush melted butter on top and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake at 425 degrees for 18-20 minutes, until golden brown all over. To freeze, place on a tray or plate in the freezer overnight, then transfer the frozen scones into a plastic bag to keep for longer. Bake them the same way, but for more like 20-22 minutes.