Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Wits' End Cookery: Cream Scones

This is, by far, the food item I am most famous for, the dish for which I am most often asked. It was the first thing I was ever able to make without a recipe.

Cream scones are super easy, quick, are tween-boy-approved (I once had a quartet of them clean out a batch in less than eight minutes), and will make converts of anyone who says they don't like scones.

A word about that: most people who think they don't like scones have never actually had them.  No, wait, I think I must be more specific: most AMERICANS who think they don't like scones have never actually had them (If you're a Brit or have had scones in the UK and still don't like them, well, there's nothing I can do with you.  You win).  What usually is called a scone here in the US is a hard, dried up, hockey puck that looks like a sad version of an overcooked biscuit.  With raisins.  Over here, scones almost always have raisins.  It might be a law.  And, oh, I hate raisins.  Grapes shriveled up in shame, that's what they are.

These scones are what scones are supposed to be: moist, light, just sweet enough, and perfect for being spread with all manner of jams, preserves, clotted cream, Nutella (oh yeah), and so on...

The secret? There's NO BUTTER in this recipe. That's right: no messing with softening, melting, or creaming butter at all. Personally, I hate dealing with butter in baking. I love eating it (let's be real), but if I have to soften or melt or chill or cream butter, I am more likely to leave a recipe alone. As the name says, these scones are made with CREAM. Many recipes calling themselves cream scones still have butter, which I think is delusional and perhaps a bit deceptive, but these babies are butter free. And, yet, they're still good, heavenly even!

Oh yeah, and this recipe is not mine. It's my sister, Lobelia's. I'm not sure where she got it. Knowing her, she could have developed it herself, bakeress extraordinaire that she is. But let's get on with it...

L's Cream Scones
2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream plus extra for brushing (whatever you do, DON'T think you can simply use the same amount of milk, or even half-n-half.  Just...don't.  It won't work.  For once, you NEED the fat!)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.  Trust me.  You'll regret it if you don't.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt until combined.  I use a fork to stir it all up.  It just needs to be mixed all up.

3. Add cream.  Make a well or don't make a well, whatever floats your boat.  It doesn't much matter.  Just mix it in well.  Use a spoon, fork, or rubber scraper just until it has come together enough to finish with your hands.

4. Finish mixing by kneading gently with your hands.  DON'T OVER MIX OR OVER KNEAD.  Be as gentle as possible and mix/knead as little as possible.  I always find the dough to be a little dry.  I'm always having to work those last few bits of flour in and I'm always worried that the scones will be too dry.  But they never are.

5. Shape the dough into either one large ball or two smaller ones.  Turn out onto a floured surface and pat into a circle, about an inch high.  I don't ever measure it.  Just press it out, it can be a little uneven.  If you're doing two balls, just do them one at a time.

6. Cut the circle of dough into eight even wedges.  Move the wedges onto the parchment-covered baking sheet and brush the tops with heavy cream.  You can use an egg wash but I never have so you're on your own there.

7. This is where you can do what you want.  Sometimes I dust confectioner's sugar on top (this happens to be Calvin's favorite).  Sometimes I sprinkle plain old table sugar.  Sometimes I make a glaze (but I'd have to look up that recipe...).  Most of the time I sprinkle them with cinnamon and then sugar.

8. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until starting to brown on top.  They'll be puffed up and sometimes they get a little misshaped.  But that's just part of the fun.

9.  Remove immediately from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  They're best eaten warm but will last several days if stored in an air-tight container.  Or so I've heard.  Scones never last more than 24 hours in this house.  I have to hide them from the hyenas if I'm making them for church or company. They're just that good!


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