Alvin recently splurged on an espresso machine that non-coffee drinkers (and perhaps even some coffee drinkers) might consider to be ridiculously expensive. We were ‘discussing’ the cost of said appliance and how long it might take to pay for itself when he blurted out “Well I’ve been spending five bucks a day on coffee and pastries so it shouldn’t actually take that long…”
I said “Five bucks a day?! ” and I dug out my The Cheeseboard Collective Works cookbook (*affiliate link) and asked Carys and Meg to bake some scones. Cheeseboard is famous around here for its communist (it’s a worker-owned co-op) pizza; they make one kind a day and the line runs down the block, day after day. They have a fabulous cheese shop next door that also happens to bake delicious bread and pastries.
Here’s a picture of Carys ‘standing’ in line for pizza at two days old, just after we left the hospital. Yup – she went to Cheeseboard before she went home. And Alvin was getting hit on by the baby-loving ladies while I was hobbling around the drugstore across the street looking for laxatives.
I use Cheeseboard’s recipe as a base to build on and (much to Alvin’s disgust) I don’t always make them with chocolate chips. I also have an extra-special method to make the sugar sprinkling step easier and less messy!
I should note that these are American-style scones. They’re enormous and sweet, and serving them with English-style with jam and clotted cream would probably induce an immediate heart attack.
Basic Scones Recipe
3 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (I regularly use WW pastry flour as a 1:1 substitute for unbleached flour. It doesn’t have the gritty texture of regular WW and makes the scones marginally healthier – at least, as much as they can be for a recipe that contains two sticks of butter and 3/4 cup of cream)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp table salt (recipe calls for 1/2 tsp kosher salt, which not everyone has and which isn’t essential in baking anyway)
3/4 cup plus ~3 tbsp sugar (recipe calls for 1 cup + 1/4 cup)
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, each cut into eight 1-tbsp slices
3/4 cup heavy cream (whipping cream for the Brits)
3/4 cup buttermilk (if you don’t have any on-hand or will never use the rest of a quart of buttermilk, make your own by putting slightly less than 3/4 cup of milk in a measuring cup and making it up to 3/4 cup with a tablespoon or two of lemon juice. Stir gently and when it thickens and curdles a bit, you’ve got buttermilk. Don’t just use milk; the acidity in the lemon reacts with the baking soda to make the scones rise a bit.)
Add-ins: Select one of:
A. 1 cup chocolate chips
B. 1 1/2 cups cranberries (if frozen, leave out for 30 mins before you start baking to partially defrost) plus 1 tbsp finely grated orange peel
C. 1 cup blueberries (if frozen, leave out for 10 mins before you start baking to partially defrost) plus 1 tbsp finely grated lemon peel
D. Roughly a cup of anything else that sounds appealing to you – raisins? Dried cranberries?
- Pre-prep: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or sil-pats. Get cold ingredients out of the fridge so you don’t have to turn your attention away from the child for too long. Cut the butter into 1tbsp pieces. Get the food processor (if using), bowls, measuring cups, and spoons out ready. Invite your child into the kitchen.
- Put the flour, baking soda, and baking powder together in the bowl of a food processor or a large bowl (original recipe includes directions for the stand mixer but I’ve had more success with the food processor).
- If using the food processor, add the salt and 3/4 cup sugar to the bowl and pulse to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse ~10 1-second pulses, until the pieces of butter are the size of small peas. Transfer the dough to a bowl (the food processor makes that first step much more efficient, but the dough doesn’t mix properly unless you do the rest in a bowl). If making by hand, add the salt and the 3/4 cup sugar to the bowl and stir until combined. Add the butter and cut it in with a pastry cutter or by dragging two dinner knives against each other until the butter is the size of small peas.
- Mix in the add-ins of your choice with a spoon.
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the cream and buttermilk. Mix briefly until the ingredients come together; some loose flour may remain at the bottom of the bowl (if you over-mix, the gluten in the flour will develop and the scones will be more like bread).
- Divide the dough in two by tipping it out onto the two baking sheets. Try to proportionally divide the wet dough as well as the dry flour at the bottom of the bowl.
- Pat each dough mound into a circle, gently patting any loose flour into the wet dough, until the circles are about 3/4″ high.
- Sprinkle sugar on the rounds to your liking (the 1/4 cup the original recipe calls for is far too much for us).
- Slice the circles into sixths (for American-sized portions) or eighths (for English-sized portions). Spread the scones out on the tray by slipping a sharp knife under each one and lifting it to a clear spot on the baking sheet so the hot air can circulate around each scone. (See how this method keeps the sugar on the scones rather than liberally sprinkled on the baking sheet?)
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown, rotating the trays (top/bottom shelves) half way through. Transfer the scones to a wire rack to cool.
The scones freeze excellently well; defrost at room temperature for an hour or so and then slip them in the toaster oven for a few minutes to help them regain their fresh-out-of-the-oven crispy edges.
If you’d like more photographic guidance from Carys on making this recipe successful, keep on scrolling down. Special thanks to Nanny Meg for gamely agreeing to let me publish the photos with her in them.
Regular readers might notice a drop in post frequency over the next month. I’m in Seattle for work this week and then Carys and I will be on the road (and in planes, trains, and buses) until the beginning of May. We’ll still be around on Facebook and Instagram, if you want to keep track of our adventures (Instagram link is at the bottom of the page). Will someone lob a burger over the fence to Alvin for me once a week or so?