Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Little Scone Experimentation

Baking sans oven thermometer is a scary thought, since my oven is manic.  Seriously.  It runs about 75-200 degrees hot, depending on its mood.  Maybe there's a better way to describe it other than "mood," but since I'm no engineer, I just call the darn thing moody.  All my baking went to hell right after I moved to the cottage--I kept overcooking and/or burning everything!  And then one day I had this stroke of genius: I should buy an oven thermometer!  And so I did, and (for the most part), I've been able to set the oven to a somewhat arbitrary number and achieve my desired results.  But then last week the thermometer BROKE!  I don't know what happened; one day it worked, then the next, it didn't.  At first it wouldn't register any temperature, and now apparently my cottage is hovering around 500 degrees.  Fortunately the thing is still under warranty, and yes, I did keep the packaging, so I can send it in, but I've been lazy (read: I haven't done it yet).  Which is why the oven hasn't been used too much lately.  But I was kind of going into baking withdrawal, so I'm winging it.  It's scary, I'm sitting here wondering what is going to happen.  It's usually a safe bet to set the oven about 75 degrees cooler when you're going for 350, but when you want to get temps over 400 it becomes more unpredictable. 

Oh, I should mention, I'm making scones.  Specifically whole wheat scones with dried apricot pieces.  They bake at 425°F, so right now the oven is set at 325°F and hopefully it's going okay.  I mean, the cottage smells delicious, so that's a good sign.  These scones were discovered on Orangette, source of all things delicious and wholesome.   My family is coming for Easter weekend, which I thought would be a nice thing until I got hit with 2 pet sitting gigs, and I realized I couldn't stay with the fam; they will be staying at the lower maintenance 3 cat house, and I will be staying at the higher maintenance 1 dog/2 cat house.  (Mom, I'm not uninviting you--but we will have our hands full!)  They will be on their own for breakfast while I give the border collie her morning walk, I figured I should provision them for breakfast, which is why these scones are getting a trial run.  Immediately out of the oven I would say they pass--hearty but not heavy, nice light crust, and the apricot pieces make sweet and moist pockets in the scones, which I love--plain ones just don't do it for me.  Too monotonous.  I also sprinkled these with turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw), to give the crust a little bit of sweetness.  Although I didn't try them with anything, a bit of butter and a complementary jam would also be great.  As you may have gathered from other recipes featured in the blog, I love things that incorporate whole wheat flour, and I love dried fruit, so they're pretty much perfect.  These will certainly be making another appearance this weekend (no chance this initial batch will last that long!), and I suspect they will be equally delicious with other dried fruits--perhaps the Craisins I have kicking around the pantry will be incorporated next time!

Whole Wheat Scones With Dried Apricot Pieces (Adapted from Orangette)
Makes 8 scones

* 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
* 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (I used regular whole wheat, since I have never seen whole wheat pastry flour for sale anywhere on island)
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* ½ teaspoon salt
* 4 tablespoons (½ stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
* ¼ cup sugar
* ½ cup diced dried apricots (or other dried fruit of your choice)
* ½ cup half-and-half, plus more for glazing
* 1 large egg
* A few tablespoons of turbinado sugar or sanding sugar (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt.  Add the butter and pinch it between your fingertips to incorporate it into the flour, until there are no butter lumps bigger than a large pea. Add the sugar and dried apricots, and whisk to incorporate.

3. After measuring the half-and-half, add the egg and mix the two together with a fork. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture, and combine with the fork just until the flour is mostly wet--don't worry about a little bit of unincorporated flour.  Using your hands, gently press and shape the dough, so that it holds together in a messy clump. 

4. Turn the dough and any excess flour onto the counter top, and gently work the dough together, but don't overwork it!  About a dozen kneads should do it.  As soon as the dough holds together, pat it into a rough circle about 1 ½ inches thick and cut into 8 wedges.

4. Transfer the wedges on the prepared baking sheet. Pour a splash of half-and-half into a small bowl and glaze the tops of the scones with a thin coat of half-and-half using a pastry brush.  Sprinkle with turbinado sugar, if desired.  Bake for about 15 minutes, or until pale golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm, additional butter and jam optional. 

No comments:

Post a Comment