Picnic season is nearly upon us, so I wanted to share one of my favorite recipes from the first volume of Sweets & Bitters, which was all about eating outdoors.
Once you get the hang of thes you’ll be able bake them in your sleep. Scones were the first thing I made each morning when I worked in a bakery. At 3 a.m., squinty-eyed and groggy, I put tray after tray of them in the oven. By the time they came out, golden-brown and oozing butter, coffee was brewed and I was waking up. The dough can be prepped the night before or pulled together in the morning in a matter of minutes. I season mine with a mix of fragrant herbs and flowers from my window garden. You can use the same basic recipe to make scones with nuts, dried fruit, candied ginger, or even cheese and scallions.
Sweet Herb Scones
- 2 1/4 cups flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped herbs, such as scented geranium, rosemary and/or lavender leaf
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 3/4 cup buttermilk, or 1/2 cup yogurt plus 1/2 cup milk
Notes: Substitute a pinch of dried Herbes de Provence if fresh ones aren’t available.
For most pastry, softening butter in the microwave isn’t a good idea; it can change the chemistry of the butter and negatively affect the outcome of the recipe. But in this case you can get away with it, so go for it!
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and line a cookie sheet with baking
parchment. Use a whisk or fork to mix together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl.
2. Use your (meticulously clean) hands to work the softened butter into the flour mixture. You want most of the mixture to look like bread crumbs, with some larger coin-sized chunks of butter.
3. Toss the herbs and zest with the flour and butter to distribute evenly. Then add the buttermilk (or milk and yogurt) and quickly mix it in with your hands, just until most of the flour is moistened. Don’t over-mix, or the scones will be tough! At this point, you can rest the dough overnight or proceed to rolling out the scones. They will hold their shape better if you chill them for at least a 1/2 hour.
4. Place a piece of parchment on the surface where you’ll roll out the scones––it makes cleanup easier. Generously sprinkle flour over the parchment, plop the dough down, and sprinkle more flour on top. Roll the dough into a square about an inch-and-a-half thick.
Don’t have a rolling pin? Use a wine bottle.
5. Dust a big sharp knife with flour. Cut the square into quarters, then again on the diagonals so you have eight triangles. Arrange them on the cookie sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes (rotating the pan halfway through) until the tops blush golden brown and the edges show a hint of crunch.
6. Place the pan on a wire rack or upturned muffin tin to cool for about 15 minutes. Scones will keep best for a day or two, wrapped in something porous, such as a paper bag or clean dish towel.
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