What is a scone anyway?
Coffee or bake shops showcase alluring looking scones bearing fruits, nuts, and spices, but which usually taste more like a mouthful of sawdust than anything else: dry, flavorless and dense. Good news! If you make any of the scones from the book, Alice's Tea Cup, by Haley Fox and Lauren Fox, you will have a biscuit-y/muffin-y treat tasting better than any commercial scone you've ever had.
Moreover, they're dead easy to make. You can whip these up any morning you are in need of something special for breakfast. Put on the oven as soon as you think of it, and by the time that's preheated, the scones will be ready to go in the oven. Only requirement: you need to have buttermilk on hand.
This weekend I made breakfast for 20 people: dozens of scrambled eggs, tomatoes cut in half and oven roasted with olive oil, garlic, fresh basil, and Kalamata olives, and asparagus dressed with olive oil, sea salt, and shards of Parmigiano Reggiano. I was trying to make a healthful breakfast, but I couldn't resist serving two kinds of homemade scones, and lots of bacon, along with the eggs and veggies. (Thank you, dear husband for frying up all four pounds!) Truly a delicious meal. You don't have to blow your diet - just eat the veg and eggs and have half a scone. Easy, best scone recipe follows.
Mixed Berry Scones, adapted from Haley Fox and Lauren Fox's Alice's Tea Cup
Yield: 12 Scones
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups mixed berries: whole blueberries, raspberries, blackberries,or strawberries, hulled and quartered, and dried very well
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 - 1/3 cup heavy cream (for brushing over the top) - you can always substitute milk
1/4 - 1/2 cup (more or less) sugar, coarse or regular granulated (for sprinkling)
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and set the rack on the upper middle level.
In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking soda, powder, and salt. Cut the sticks of cold unsalted butter lengthwise into quarters, and then into slices, resulting in cubes. Drop these into the dry ingredients, and cut in the butter until it looks like breadcrumbs: either using a pastry cutter, two forks, or your (clean!) hands. Fold in the berries carefully.
Add the buttermilk and vanilla. Fold in lightly, until mostly all of the flour is incorporated. Dump out onto a floured surface and pat into a rough rectangle about 10 inches by 4 or 5 inches. (Resist the temptation to work the dough too much, as the result will be a tougher product.) Cut the rectangle into quarters, and then divide each quarter into 3 approximately equal sized blobs - the irregular shapes just add to the charm and texture. The mixture will be sticky - don't worry, they bake up beautifully.
Place the scones onto a non-stick half sheet pan (or large cookie sheet), or a pan lined with a Silpat (silicone) mat. (All 12 will fit on at once, they don't rise much at all.)
Gently brush each scone all over with the heavy cream, and sprinkle liberally or stingily with the sugar, as you wish. Bake until lightly browned - about 20 minutes, switching the pan front to back, side to side after 10 minutes to ensure even baking. Note that if the berries are juicy, the time may need to be adjusted upwards for 5 or more minutes.
Great warm; with a cup of tea, of course!
Don't use a food processor. Silly me, thinking I could accomplish this recipe even faster, I tried to make the variation recipe for Chocolate Strawberry Scones in my food processor. Cutting the butter into the dry ingredients worked well, but then when I added 1 1/4 cups berries and 3/4 cup chocolate and the wet ingredients, the whole thing had too much moisture because the berries were pureed rather than whole. Result: instead of baking in 12 minutes, the scones took about 30 minutes. They did taste great though: a mix between a scone and a chocolate chip cookie, but not exactly what the authors had in mind, I'm sure.
Be sure the butter is right out of the fridge and very cold; this recipe uses the same technique as making pie crust or biscuits. If you are using your hands to mix in the butter with the dry ingredients, try to just use your fingertips, not the palms of your hands which are much warmer and will melt the butter.
When you are shaping the scones, you can also lightly roll out the dough and cut out any size circles with an inverted glass or a biscuit cutter. Just adjust the baking time so that the scones are "lightly browned". Shape doesn't much matter: round like a biscuit, triangular like a scone. 'A scone by any other name...would taste as sweet?" (Apologies to Shakespeare!)
You can check out Alice's Tea Cup, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and lots of other great books from our Library. The Alice's Tea Cup cookbook is owned by South River Library, but you can have their copy sent here by placing a hold on it with your library card from home or at the Information Desk. It takes about a week to get it here in our Library, and will cost 25 cents when you pick it up. Well worth it when you consider how awesome these scones are, as well as having access to lots of Alice's other recipes for salads and sandwiches which look equally beguiling.
Turn up the A/C, turn on the oven, and make some scones!