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Make Cream Scones or Add a Host of Flavors

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These scones are flaky and just slightly sweet, which makes them an ideal starting point for strawberry shortcake, writes Cindy Mushet in “The Art & Soul of Baking.”

“Feeling adventurous? You can adapt these scones to your taste by adding flavorings to the dough, such as citrus zest, spices, chopped and toasted nuts, flavoring extracts or oils, and dried fruit,” she writes.

But don’t let them sit around too long. As Mushet says, “Once baked, serve the scones within 2 hours, when they are at their freshest and most appealing. Keep them uncovered at room temperature until serving time.”

Cream Scones

2 cups flour
½ cup sugar
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon sugar, or for more crunch and a touch of brown sugar flavor, 2 tablespoons turbinado or raw sugar

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and position an oven rack in the center. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper or a thin silicone mat. Place the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of the food processor and process for 10 seconds to blend well. Add the cold butter pieces and pulse 5 times at 1-second intervals, or until the butter is cut into medium pieces. Add the cream and pulse another 20 times, or until the dough holds together in small, thick clumps. Use a spatula to scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently squeeze the clumps together until they form a cohesive dough.

Pat the dough into a circle 7 inches in diameter and about 1 inch thick. Use a chef’s knife to cut the dough into 8 equal wedges and transfer to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart.

Brush the tops with a thin coating of the lightly beaten egg (you will not use all the egg). Sprinkle evenly with the sugar. Bake the scones for 14 to 16 minutes, until firm to the touch and golden brown. (See note at bottom.) Transfer to a rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Serve the scones warm or at room temperature.

Do ahead: Once the sough is prepared and cut, the wedges (without the egg brush) can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 24 hours. Brush with egg shortly before baking. The scones won’t rise quite as high as when freshly mixed, but they will be attractive and tasty.

The dough can also be cut and frozen for up to 1 month. Place the wedges on a baking sheet and freeze until hard, about 1 hour. Transfer to a resealable plastic freezer bag. To bake, thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then place on the prepared baking sheet and proceed with egg brush and sugar sprinkle before baking. Or thaw at room temperature on the prepared baking sheet for about 20 minutes, until cool to the touch but no longer hard in the center.

Variations

Chocolate Cream Scones: Use only 1 ¾ cups flour and add ¼ cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder to the flour mixture. Increase the sugar to 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon.

Lemon-Poppy Seed Scones: Add ¼ cup poppy seeds and the finely grated zest of 2 large lemons to the flour and sugar mixture. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes (this dough is a bit thicker than the original so it will take a couple extra minutes to bake).

Cream Scones with Currants: Add ½ cup dried currants after the butter has been cut into medium pieces the size of large peas, and just before adding the cream. (Make sure the dried fruit is moist and pliable. If it isn’t, pour boiling water over the currants and let them soak for 5 minutes. Drain them, pressing out any excess moisture; then pat dry and let cool before adding to the dough.) Bake scones for 17 to 20 minutes (this dough is a bit thicker than the original so it will take a couple extra minutes to bake).

Cream Biscuits: This is a savory version, perfect for the dinner table. Omit the sugar and follow the recipe as direct for light, tender biscuits.

Chile, Cheddar and Cornmeal Biscuits: These can also be cut into 1-inch rounds and filled with thinly sliced ham, sweet-hot mustard and watercress, or other small greens for a fun, crowd-friendly hors d’oeuvre. To vary the flavor of the biscuits, add a handful of chopped fresh herbs, fresh corn kernels, crispy bacon bits, several finely chopped scallions or flavorings of your choice (add just after you finish cutting in the butter and right before you add the cream).

Reduce the flour to 1 ½ cups and add 1/3 cup of fine yellow cornmeal. Omit the sugar. Increase the baking powder to 1 tablespoon, the salt to ½ teaspoon, and add 10 grinds of black pepper. Decrease the butter to 3 ounces (3/4 stick). Add 2/3 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese and 2 tablespoons diced roasted poblano chiles (fresh or canned). Pat into an 8-by-4-inch rectangle, about 1-inch thick. Cut in half lengthwise and then into quarters crosswise to form 8 (2-inch) squares. Just before baking, brush the top with egg and sprinkle and additional 1/3 cup grated cheese over the top. Bake 15 to 18 minutes.

[amazon-product]0740773348[/amazon-product]Note: My oven is apparently warmer than Mushet’s. I tried the Lemon-Poppy Seed Scones, and they baked at 425 in less than 14 minutes. So you may want to set your timer a little ahead of time and monitor for the last few minutes. But the end result was quite good with jam, clotted cream or butter, and a cup of tea.

Makes 8 scones.

From “The Art & Soul of Baking” by Cindy Mushet

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