Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cherry, Chocolate, and Buttermilk Scones

I love when a recipe is both surprisingly easy and amazingly delicious. It's so rewarding. It makes you feel like a master chef, and you get to enjoy the fruits of your non-labor.

Such was the case with these scones. Which is why there was only one left to take a picture with. At least until I gave it to my sister a minute after taking this picture, at which point it was promptly devoured. This is why the picture is extraordinarily pathetic.

But, first we need to rewind.
Yesterday, I had to give a presentation in my graduate class. My project is on food writing and narrative, and I'll be using some of David Lebovitz's writings as a text to study. So, I thought it would be very appropriate to bake something written by him for my class. But--we all know David Lebovitz is the king of sweets. And my class is 8am. Somehow, I didn't think Chocolate Idiot Cake or Mint Chip Ice Cream would fly. But, I found a recipe for scones that sounded delicious in his Great Book of Chocolate. Scones are totally breakfast food, right? Plus, bonus--I still had buttermilk in my refrigerator, and the expiration date was quickly approaching (read: had passed two days earlier, but it still smelled like buttermilk, so we're good).

Yay! I found the one. But. I worried. Every scone I'd ever eaten had been rock hard. And, the recipe did say to serve warm...which suggested to me that these, too, might turn to rocks upon cooling and *gasp* overnight storage. But there was no way I was making these the morning of class--I don't get up that early. My only option was to bake them the night before. I also worried because the instructions said to cut in the butter--not something I'm very good at or do very often. Yet, it looked easy overall.

So, I did it. I was worried it would flop at 9pm the night before and I would be left without any time to prepare anything else, but that was a risk I was willing to take. But as I got into making them, my worries dissipated.

For starters, anything with fresh orange zest is generally amazing. This was one of the first ingredients to get mixed in, and it had a therapeutic effect on me--it was very calming. As I stirred and cut in butter, I got wafts of fresh orange. Yum.

Then, the butter really did cut in better than I was expecting. It was so easy! And once I had stirred in the liquid, it came together, save a couple of tablespoons of flour which were easily stuck in with shaping.

But the second best part was the smell as they were baking. I knew there was no way these could not taste good as my house filled with the baking scent of orange and dough. Heavenly.

The best part, naturally, was taking that first bite. I was so worried they would be rock hard that I was very cautious with baking--I did not want to overbake them. But as soon as I took that first bite, I was greeted with a tender texture, an almost moist interior, and a subtly sweet and slightly orangey pastry (are scones pastry?).

I hadn't even gotten a bite with cherry or chocolate chip.

Oh--those were heavenly. This was, in my opinion, a perfectly blended scone. The orange zest rounded out the flavor nicely, and you can't go wrong with a tart fruit like dried cherries and milk chocolate. The only disappointing thing about all this was that there was only just enough. I didn't get enough to satiate my cravings. I will definitely be making this again, and soon. They were that good.

And that easy.

Cherry, Chocolate, and Buttermilk Scones
Adapted from The Great Book of Chocolate by David Lebovitz
Printable Recipe

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch (the easiest way is to add two tablespoons cornstarch to your measuring cup before spooning in your flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 cup butter, cold, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup cinnamon sugar (about 1/4 cup sugar plus 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, more or less to taste)
Preheat your oven to 375, line a baking sheet with parchment, and lightly flour a cutting board for a work surface.

Combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and orange zest in a medium bowl. Stir to combine. Using a pastry cutter (or David Lebovitz notes you can use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or your fingers) and cut in the butter until it is well mixed. It should resemble corn meal and still have some chunks, but there should not be flour that does not look buttered, if you will.

Stir in the cherries and chocolate chips. Add the buttermilk and stir just until combined. If there is some flour left unmixed, you can easily incorporate it during shaping.

Remove the dough to your work surface. Form it into a disk about an inch thick. I kept out a large handful and formed two rounds so I would have 10 pieces, and the remaining disk seemed to be a good size. Using a bench cutter, cut the disk into 8 triangles (like a pizza).

Sprinkle each piece with cinnamon sugar and press the sugar into the dough lightly. Place the scones on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15-25 minutes, until lightly golden brown and firm to the touch. Note that they will not be hard to the touch--they will give just a little, but the surface will be dry and stable.

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