Scones are a beautiful thing. Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside.
Crumbly, delectable, and yet not excessively indulgent.
I never get bored of scones, because they are infinitely variable and can range from classic to exotic, all with a flick of the wrist and a change of flavors.
For all their versatility, they are also both quick and simple to make.
You can go from scone craving to scones in the oven in 15 minutes.
My new favorite technique is emminently suited to scone spontaneity, as it calls for cold butter, cold eggs, cold dairy.
Take 'em out of the fridge, toss 'em in the mixer.
It's based on a method from Joanne Chang's Flour cookbook, and once you get the how-to down, you can make any kind of scone you can dream of.
The dairy in this particular version is a mixture of creme fraiche and soured cream.
Not sour cream, but soured cream. I often buy a big container of cream to use in all manner of baking, and the dregs sit there, forelorn and unloved, until we take pity on them and rinse them away.
But what a waste.
Then I thought about it a little. Buttermilk is really just soured milk. So, if we deliberately make sour milk, why don't we use milk that's gone sour? Or cream, even?
I know it's not an earth-shattering revelation. And yet, it makes a lot of sense. Maybe you've been doing this all along, and I'm just slow to the party. Maybe you've just never thought about it, really, like I hadn't.
I'd like to tell you, though, that this isn't just sloppy seconds. Not only does it use up that soured cream, but it makes a flavorful, light and flaky scone.
It's almost worth letting some cream sour just to have the excuse. You certainly don't need to feel bad when it does. Or, if you really can't wait that long, add half a tablespoon of lemon juice to half a cup of heavy cream - instant soured cream.
Do know, though, that your soured cream can progress too far down the path of sour. It should have a tangy aroma and still be creamy. If it has curdled or separated (or solidified), it's too far gone. There may well be something to do with it at that stage, but I have yet to find it.
Soured Cream Fig Lemon Scones.
Makes 8 large scones.
2 3/4 cups flour (385 grams)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup sugar (70 grams)
1/2 cup dried figs, chopped coarsely
1 tablespoon lemon zest, from 1 lemon*
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into 8 or 9 pieces
1/2 cup cold soured cream
1/2 cup cold creme fraiche (or use yogurt)
1 cold egg
*use the juice from the lemon to sour your cream if you need to.
You will also need a scale, stand mixer, baking sheet and baking paper.
Heat your oven to 350 degrees F and put a rack in the center.
In a small bowl, whisk the cold soured cream, creme fraiche, and egg.
Using the paddle attachment on your stand mixer, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, lemon zest and figs on low speed for a few seconds, until combined. Scatter the butter over the top and mix on low speed for about 30 to 45 seconds, until the butter is broken down into small grape-sized chunks.
I know, they look like large pieces. Go with it, this is the key to crisp and flaky scones.
Pour the soured cream mixture over the flour and butter mixture, and beat on low speed until it starts to come together. The dough will be quite stiff and dry, and there will be some loose flour and crumbs at the bottom of the bowl.
Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and gather the dough together with your hands, turning and pressing it into the bottom of the bowl to stick it together into a shaggy mass.
Dump the dough and any remaining crumbs onto your baking paper and smoosh it together a few times to make one coherent mound. Pat it out into a disk about an inch thick and 8 or 9 inches in diameter.
Cut the disk into 8 wedges, pulling the wedges out as you cut them so they are about an inch apart.
The dough can be frozen at this point, tightly wrapped in saran wrap, for up to 1 week. It can be baked from frozen, but will take an extra 5 or 10 minutes.
Bake for 3o or 35 minutes, until the top and edges are crisp and brown.
Serve hot, with butter and jelly or jam, or allow to cool and serve with more butter and more jelly or jam.
These have a generous dollop of Paradise Jelly, whose fruity, sharp and honey notes, and glorious pink color, compliment the earthy figgy lemon scone quite nicely, if I do say so myself.