I have made a lot of scones in the almost-a-year that I've been here. These are adapted in method from Marion Cunningham's Buttermilk Scones in Baking with Julia, and I have messed with them a fair bit until I could get the process down for mornings when I'm extremely tired and not feeling remotely like being Donna Reedish and baking. And yeah, I could make the dough in advance and they aren't too bad if I do that, but to me the only reason they're worth all that butter is the way they taste when they're fresh. So: this week's list. Eleven steps for your weekend scones and some pictures from a couple of different batches.
1. Go shopping. You MUST plan ahead unless you are the kind of person who always has buttermilk in your house and I would bet twenty plastic Canbucks you are not this person. You will need:
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading/shaping
- up to 1/3 cup sugar, probably (depending on your add-in--use less for super-sweet fruit, more for cranberries, and only a tablespoon to aid browning if you're making savory scones)
- 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon grated orange or lemon zest, probably
- 6 ounces (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, cold and hard
- 1 to 1½ cups buttermilk
- optional: berries, cheese, crumbled cooked bacon, chunks of ham, sauteed mushrooms, or herbs/spices of varying quantities, extra melted butter to brush on the tops
- not optional: 1 source of quality music of the type that will have you dancing
2. Sunday morning, crawl out of bed, put on your slippers because your floor is cold, and give yourself whatever pep talk you require. If "scones in less than an hour" is not enough I probably can't help you. Ask your doctor or pharmacist.
3. Preheat your oven to 425°. Put a piece of parchment or a Silpat on a baking sheet. Fill your sink with hot sudsy water. Start your music. Get some coffee or tea started before you even start with the baking ingredients. You need your wits about you. And you need to create that zen kind of moment where you remind yourself that this is your life, your feet are in your kitchen, you are making a ridiculously rich breakfast of your own volition, with your own health and fortune, and that someone with less fortune and time than you is eating a McMuffin and wishing they could have your scones instead. #soblessed
4. Now stop being smug and get to work. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar if you're making fruit scones, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Throw in optional zest (lemon if you're making blueberry or blackberry scones; orange if you're making cranberry scones). Mix well. Then using the large holes of a hand-held box grater, shred the cold butter directly into the dry ingredients. It will be tangled and unappealing-looking. Do not fear. It's just butter and it is your friend. Work the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers, pulverizing the shreds until the whole bowlful looks crumbly. It's okay to leave some larger pieces of butter in the mix--it does lovely things to the texture.
5. This is where you get creative: toss a moderate amount of your fruit/cheese/meat with the flour mixture, coating it without smashing it up. By now you have been singing out loud and acknowledging your fine voice and winsome charms. You are going to take that confidence in yourself and accept that this step is an unpredictable one but since you are ONLY adding things you already love to these scones, they will work. I recommend you start with ¾ cup of washed, fresh blackberries or blueberries.*
6. When you've tossed your add-in with your crumbly flour, add 1 cup of cold buttermilk and combine it with your fingers. My 1-cup measure is on the large side, so I often have to add a bit more, a tablespoonful at a time, until almost all of the flour is absorbed into a very shaggy dough. Be kind of careful not to burst your berries any more than you have to.
7. Scatter a bit of flour on a work surface and pat half of the dough into a circle somewhere around half an inch thick. Using a large, non-serrated knife, cut the circle into six or eight triangles like you're slicing a pizza. These are rustic and sometimes your circles will not be precisely circular and you must not stress about this when your tunes are playing. Repeat with the other half of the dough.
8. Place the triangles on the prepared baking sheet, leaving an inch between each one. If you like, brush melted butter or buttermilk on top of each one, but I almost never bother because I'm singing along with Bangles b-sides and that is too fussy for me right now. Put the scones in the preheated oven and bake for 12-14 minutes.
9. Refuse to listen to anyone who demands your attention right now. Put your bowl and implements in the hot soapy water. It takes five minutes to clean up from this process, and if you do it now you will not have to do it later. NOT having to do it later is MY FAVORITE PART of the whole recipe. You will have everything dried and put away before that timer even goes off, so go get your camera and get ready to take some scone pics when they come out of the oven like this:
11. Eat them while they're warm, with butter or jam or nothing but music or a book. Freeze extra scones wrapped tightly in foil for up to a week. The rest of your Sunday is ahead of you, most of your cleanup is done, and if you shared with anyone else they are lucky bastards.
*You can add about as much in cranberries, blueberries, or cut-up strawberries--wash them and gently dry if they're fresh, and don't bother thawing if they're frozen. Crystallized ginger, rehydrated raisins, and a smidgen of chai-ish spices would be nice. You could add up to 2/3 cup of shredded sharp cheddar, some crumbled bacon, and chives. You might choose half a cup of blue cheese and hot smoked paprika. You might go with Swiss and sauteed mushrooms. One of you is probably thinking this is a good place to stick your leftover chicken korma, and you are probably wrong, but I don't want to step on your creativity. Make a few practice runs before going there, slugger. Cheese add-ins will probably require a bit more buttermilk, and you'll know better what the dough should feel like after you've made a few attempts.
(52 lists is a hula seventy thing)