These lovelies will brighten a breakfast or brunch, as well as accompany a soup or stew, even grace an hors d'oeuvre tray, depending on which direction you are inspired to take them. Some suggestions follow, but don't hesitate to invent your own flavor combinations.
A note about mixing: it's important to incorporate butter only until it is the size of hazelnuts. These scones are designed to be extremely tender and flaky. If butter is over-incorporated, you risk liberating too much of the water contained in it. Too much water will activate too much gluten in the flour, and your scones will be more tough. And that would be so sad. —boulangere
- Makes 12
unbleached all-purpose flour
cold, unsalted butter, 1" chunks
- Sift together dry ingredients directly into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle. If mixing by hand, sift directly into a large mixing bowl.
- Add the cold butter chunks. Mix on lowest speed just until butter is the size of hazelnuts. This is a dense mixture, and butter pieces will reduce in size as cream and eggs are added. If mixing by hand, cut in butter with 2 knives, one in each hand, working in a scissoring motion until butter is the size of hazelnuts. A hand-held pastry blender will reduce butter to too-small pieces.
- Measure the cream in a liquid measuring cup. Add the eggs and whisk to blend. No need to dirty another bowl. With the mixer running on lowest speed, add the cream mixture all at once. Continue mixing just until you can see no dry ingredients remaining in the bottom of the bowl. If mixing by hand, add cream mixture all at once. Use a rubber spatula to mix, using a cutting motion while turning the bowl. Mix just until no dry ingredients remain in the bottom of the bowl.
- Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Gently press together into a mound using the palms of your hands (your fingers transmit heat more effectively, and can warm up the dough too much - cold dough means tender scones). Divide in half with a bench scraper or a knife. Gently round up each half, then press-round-press-round, again with your palms, making disks that are about 1" thick. Wrap each in plastic and allow to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Dough may also be frozen at this point.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Remove disks of dough from refrigerator. Using a bench scraper or knife, divide into 6 pieces by first dividing in half, then in thirds with a total of 3 cuts. Arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment, 1" apart. Brush tops with a bit of cream, then sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Scones are done when well risen, a beautiful golden brown, and the top doesn't feel soft when tapped.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.
- Okay, now for possible variations! If sweet, add dried fruits that have been rehydrated in hot water or warm juice, then drained: cranberries, cherries, blueberries, raisins, chopped figs. Fresh berries are too wet and this dough too dense for them to be a good idea. Add zest of your favorite citrus fruits. Toast some nuts, roughly chop them, and toss them in. Chocolate chips, dark or white, yes indeed.
- And if savory, well, now things get interesting. Reduce sugar to 1 ounce. Add your favorite fresh or dried herbs, some grated cheese: cheddar, fontina, Parmesan, gruyère. Soft cheeses don't work well for the same reason fresh fruits do not. If you want to serve them as an hors d'oeuvre with some sort of dip or spread, shape the dough into a rectangle a couple of inches wide, and cut the scones into "fingers". Brush with cream and sprinkle with some good sea salt. Use your imagination, and have fun with them!