Ya Want Some Scones?!

I discovered the appeal of scones when I spent the first term of my junior year of college in Ireland.  I won’t say that I discovered good scones, of the hundreds I ate I don’t ever really remember paying attention.  They were a comfort food for my roommates and I and were ALWAYS available (along with Cadbury Chocolate) It wasn’t until I worked at Flour Bakery and Cafe that I learned that there are techniques for baking the perfect scone, and there are a lot of really bad scones in the world.  Again, I won’t say that I loved the scones at Flour, probably because they were my least favorite item to make.  Scone production at Flour was just that – A PRODUCTION!!!  Gathering ingredients, making sure everything was cold, mixing in the 60 quart mixer, dumping 50 lbs of dough out on the table, rolling, cutting, weighing and freezing.  Joanne used to challenge me to time myself, make a game out of it, but that usually backfired and when it took me over an hour and I was running late on my prep list I was usually cursing the lemon ginger scones!!  Heaven forbid you screw them up, like forgetting an ingredient – that resulted in tears…really.

Well, I have come to terms with the amazing-ness of GOOD scones.  When Bryan and I were scouting out Northwestern Connecticut for a wedding location we stopped in at a cute little bakery in Salisbury, Connecticut named Sweet William.  A small store front with a few window seats and an open kitchen, Sweet William would be my dream bakery. There is one baker, mixing scones by hand and a friendly women serving coffee and ringing people up.  Scones are baked in small batches and on Saturday mornings they are always warm.  The bakery has a small cold case with a few cakes and tarts available, they also do mail order and wholesale cookies.  The scones here are the BEST I have ever had.  Fresh, buttery, slightly sweet and surprising light, they completely blow me away.  After being introduced to these beauties I knew I had to head to the kitchen and figure out how to re-create them.

During one of my visits I sat and watched the baker making a batch, I noticed both cream and butter were used. In the past my scones have been flat and a little dense.  The SW scones had such beautiful height I couldn’t get over it.  I had made lots of biscuits at the restaurant and I often sung the praises of the convection oven and it’s ability to help them rise.  I don’t have a convection oven in my kitchen, so I was on my own. In the past I think I might have been doing the following things wrong…

– My butter or other liquid weren’t cold enough
– I didn’t chill the shaped scones again before baking them
– I rolled the dough too thin
– I baked them at too low a temperature

I had seen a recipe for Ginger Pecan Scones in the April issue of Bon Appetit and decided that I had to try them.  However, that recipe called for buttermilk and I was on a mission to make cream scones.  Below is what I came up with.  They were a success, tender, buttery and higher than my previous attempts.  I brought these to a potluck brunch, I recommend eating them the day they are baked, if you are eating them as “day olds” throw them in the toaster oven for a few minutes.  I also highly recommend a trip to Salisbury, Connecticut to try some at Sweet William!!

Orange Ginger Pecan Scones
adapted from Dorie Greenspan

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, chopped small
3/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped
5 tablespoons of COLD unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
zest of one orange
1 large egg
2/3 cup COLD heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.   Mix together dry ingredients, along with ginger, pecans and orange zest. Using your fingers work the cold butter into the flour mixture, creating smaller and smaller bits of butter that are coated with flour.  Some larger (pea size)  pieces may remain.  Chill flour and butter mixture in freezer for 5 minutes.  In a measuring cup measure your cream, beat in egg.  Working quickly, add cream to the flour mixture, tossing as it is added with a fork or your hands.  Gently knead and gather the dough into a ball.  Don’t over work it, turn out onto a floured surface.  Pat into a circle, 1 to 1.5 inches thick.  Using a 2 inch round biscuit cutter cut out scones.
Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and chill for 15 minutes.  Remove from fridge, brush with additional cream and sprinkle with sugar in the raw.
Bake till golden, about 15- 20 minutes.

*Once you cut the scones out, you can freeze them, unbaked for up to a month. When you are ready to bake pull them from the freezer the night before and let them thaw on a baking sheet in the refrigerator.

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