Thursday, December 3, 2009

Quest for the Perfect Scone

I've pursued the perfect scone a number of times within the past year. I'll admit, I'm a little obsessed with perfecting the English biscuit, but there's only so much failure I can take. I suppose you can't call my previous attempts failures so much as near misses. Well, here's another for the books.

The thing is: I know inspired crisp-soft scones can be made. I've eaten them. When I worked at Crane Coffee, they sold a triangular cinnamon scone that had little chunks of cinnamon much the same way a chocolate-chip cookie is littered with semi-sweet morsels. Crane's scones were solid, dry and crumbled apart when you broke them. They also came premade in a pickle barrel.

Then recently while I was in Boston, a friend (Liz) and I stopped by the cafe in the Boston Public Library. Lo and behold, not only does the library channel the spirits of our nation's founding fathers but also turns out scones that are crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and just barely sweet.

Inspired by the holiday season and recent scone perfection, I made pumpkin scones, tweaked from a sweet potato biscuit recipe. The consistency of the scones turned out more chewy than soft and it was just shy of sweet enough. (I've suggested small changes to the recipe below, chiefly adding more butter, substituting buttermilk or cream for regular milk and adding a bit more sugar.)

Rolling out and kneading this dough was such great fun. I made a mess only of myself and not the entire kitchen--flour all over my shirt. And when I was getting ready for bed I noticed two streaks of flour on each of my cheeks--just the sort of thing I wish would happen in a romantic scenario (like in the movies). Except this is real life (and my real life no less) and that sort of thing only happens when no one can appreciate it or when the absolute wrong person is there to clean you up. *sigh*

Pumpkin Scones:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 cup butter
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup buttermilk or cream
1/4 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 425. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder and soda, salt and spices. Cut butter into 1/4-inch cubes and blend into dry mixture with a pastry blender until it forms small crumbs. In a small bowl, combine pumpkin puree, cream and sugar. Pour wet mixture into the dry mixture. Stir until the dough forms a uniform consistency. Turn dough out on a floured surface and knead for several strokes (this version of scones were the easiest ever to knead--before they were always too wet and sticky). Roll dough until it's 1/2-inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter (just bought one!), cut out the scones and arrange on a baking tray. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.


Sarah said...

I have a serious soft spot for the cranberry orange scone... I'm ultimately intrigued by the Starbuck's vanilla bean ones too, but haven't yet tried them. I think scones are definitely enjoyed best with a cup of tea...

Jess said...

oh, I love the things you say, like when you said you had flour on your face but no one was there to appreciate it.
I, too, yearn for the perfect scone. I had it once, in Chattanooga, a chocolate chip scone that wasn't too sweet, and it was a bit browned and hard on the outside but the inside was buttery soft! oh, scones!!!
I made a lemon scone from a website called - it turned out really well, but not exactly what I wanted.
when you figure out the secret to perfect scones, I will be waiting.