When I was buying “Spring Entertaining” from Cook’s Illustrated, the bearded clerk at Joseph-Beth Booksellers just couldn’t help himself: “You’ve got to try the scones. I’ve made them three times already.”
I’m rarely interested in recipes for muffins, quick breads and such,* so without this prompting, I may have skipped the scones all together. After all, when I think of scones, I’m more apt to recall the super-sweet-but-otherwise-tasteless shellacked bricks at Starbucks. But this guy had wild-eyed scone fervor, so I had to try these out. And he was so, so right.
Thanks to a painstakingly crafted recipe by Kenji Lopez-Alt – who I heard about here, saw here and am now mildly obsessed with – these scones avoid the pitfalls of the Starbucks puck: they are flaky, buttery, light in texture, and include lots of actual fruit. I first made them for Mother’s Day as a light breakfast before a major buffet lunch, and they were a big hit.** Now I’ve made them again because blueberries were on sale.
The process is this: you make a dough that using grated frozen butter to yield optimum flakiness. You then roll out and fold the dough as you would for puff pastry, producing more flakiness. Finally, you roll in the blueberries like you would roll up a cinnamon roll. Shazam, even more flakiness! Flatten that bad boy out, cut some triangles and into the oven we go. The hardest part is waiting for them to cool.
What’s particularly great, in case you don’t feel like grating frozen butter first thing in the morning, is that you can assemble the scones the night before and bake them straight from the fridge. This was particularly good for company, or just for any old Sunday. Cook’s Illustrated also claims you can bake them straight from the freezer. I’m trying that out next weekend and will let you know how it goes!
From Cook’s Illustrated Entertaining
I’m giving the instructions for the fridge-overnight version, though you definitely can pop the scones straight into the oven. If it’s particularly hot, you may want to try refrigerating or even freezing your measured dry ingredients to keep everything cold and easier to work with. My only change was to use raw sugar instead of table sugar for topping.
2 sticks butter (8 ounces), frozen whole (you will only use 4 ounces)
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon turbinado, demerara or another raw sugar
Vital equipment: bench scraper
Working with one stick of butter at a time, peel back the wrapper to expose half of the stick. Grate 1/2 of each stick of frozen butter on the large holes of a box grater to make a total of 8 tablespoons or 4 ounces of grated butter. Return the grated butter to the freezer until you are ready for it.
Rinse and pick through your blueberries, discarding any squashed or leaky berries. Dry the berries and put them in the freezer, too.
Whisk together milk and sour cream; refrigerate until needed. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest. Add the frozen grated butter and whisk until the butter is thoroughly coated. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture, and fold with a rubber spatula until just combined. The dough may be a little loose.
Using the spatula, turn the dough onto a liberally floured work surface. (Break out the marble slab if you have one!) Dust the dough with more flour, and knead 6-8 turns until it just holds together in a ragged ball, dusting with flour as necessary to keep from sticking.
Working quickly, roll or pat the dough out to a 12-inch square. Fold the dough in thirds like a business letter, yielding a 12″ by 4″ rectangle, using your bench scraper to loosen any sticky bits from the work surface. Next, fold the dough in thirds again, working from the short edges, to form a thick 4″ square. Transfer the square to a flour-dusted plate and pop it in the freezer for 5 minutes.
Reflour your work surface and roll the dough out to a 12″ square once again. Grab your chilled blueberries and sprinkle them evenly over the surface of the dough. Gently press them into the dough so they don’t roll away. Working from the edge nearest you, gently roll the dough into a log, as for cinnamon rolls, so that all of the blueberries end up on the inside. Lay the log seam-side down and pat it into an even 4″ x 12″ rectangle. Cut the rectangle into quarters, then cut each quarter into a triangle. Transfer the cut scones onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
45 minutes before eatin’ time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, with the rack in the middle. Brush the scones lightly with melted butter and sprinkle with the raw sugar. Don’t worry about using up the melted butter; there’s plenty in the scones! Bake for 18-25 minutes, until tops and bottoms are golden brown. Transfer to wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before serving. No accompaniments required!
*I generally find this category to be too sweet to qualify as part of dinner, and not sweet enough to qualify as dessert. Add to that the fact that I can’t make it through the morning on a carb-based breakfast, and voila: a life without muffins.
**My stepdad thought I was making stones for breakfast. He was soon set aright, though he promptly asked for stones again the next day.