Monday, April 23, 2012
The Strawberries of Spring in Scones
Last Saturday Sweetie and I celebrated our anniversary with a road trip south along the coast. A seafood lunch was followed by some hiking and cheese buying and the views of the spring countryside along the way were wonderful! Shortly before reaching home we found a farm stand selling fresh strawberries, so fresh that their sweet fragrance was intense. The vendor said that they were picked right next door and, sure enough, when we looked across the dirt parking lot we saw dark green rows of plants not far away. Few things are more welcome in the kitchen than fresh, first-of-spring, local strawberries!
Naturally most of the strawberries were eaten fresh after a quick rinse. I did put a few into some scones and I had a hard time getting photos of them before they were eaten up.
One of the secrets to having tender scones, instead of hard hockey puck lumps that often pass for scones, is to handle the ingredients gently and as little as possible. I was lucky enough to have some unsalted butter in the freezer. Instead of cutting it in to the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter, I used the shredding disc on my food processor and shredded the frozen butter, then cut it in. I think I learned that trick by reading Julia Child's method for quick puff pastry. Anyway, it works really well.
I also used my spread apart fingers for mixing in the last of the buttermilk with the final bits of dry ingredients because it was easier to be gentle that way. A quick pat of the dough into a rough round and it was time to cut the round into 8 pieces with the bench scraper and into the oven they went. The oven heat made the strawberries smell even more wonderful than when we bought them. These scones are amazing! They are buttery, only slightly sweet, and bursting with bits of delicious strawberry. A sprinkle of sanding sugar on top gives them a nice crunch on the outsides which contrasts with the softness of the insides.
Fresh Strawberry Buttermilk Scones
a variation on Blueberry Buttermilk Scones from Baking in America by Greg Patent
Makes 8 scones
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup fresh strawberries, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons golden raisins
1 1/4 cups buttermilk, plus a bit more for glazing the top
1 tablespoon sanding sugar (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with cooking parchment or a silicone liner; Set aside.
Sift the flours, baking soda, salt and sugar into a large bowl. Grate the butter using the shredding disc on your food processor if butter is frozen, or cut the butter (which has been cut into tablespoon-sized pieces) into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter or two knives. Be gentle. Use your finger to work the butter rapidly into large flakes. Add the strawberries and raisins and toss with your fingers to coat evenly.
Pour the buttermilk into the strawberry mixture and stir and fold gently with a rubber spatula. Use your fingers, spread out, to gently work the last bit of very moist dough into the last dry bits. The dough will be thick. Scrape dough onto a lightly floured surface and dust it lightly with flour. Shape gently into an 8-inch disc. Brush a bit of extra buttermilk over the disc and sprinkle on the sanding sugar, if using. Use a bench scraper or sharp knife to cut the disc into eight pieces.
Transfer each piece carefully to the prepared pan, setting the scones slightly apart. Bake in the preheated oven 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to cooling racks with a large spatula and serve warm or at room temperature. These are great without any additional embellishments, but do taste good with butter, jam or lemon curd added.