Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Currant Pecan Scones

Fed up with all the Irish themed stuff swirling around you yet? Me neither. For those of you who are, though, this recipe isn't really Irish exactly, but it's pretty close without doing a soda bread-type thing. I'm not a huge fan of soda bread, but maybe all that really means is I haven't had a great one yet.

Sometimes, it is really nice to bake with a friend. Though most of my adventures involving oven and flour are solo expeditions, I occasionally am fortunate enough to have an evening off and the luxury of a friend there with me.  After a delicious dinner of pizza and PBR (because really what more do you need on a Tuesday night) we felt the need to call ourselves civilized. Thus began the very simple task of scone making.
I like scones much less in coffee shops. They always taste floury and aseptic. A good scone, a really really good one, should be flaky. Melt in your mouth. Kind of crumbly, even, to the point where you're picking up after yourself and reminding you why you shouldn't eat them in the car on the way to work-you already had one anyway, and now you're getting your pants crumbly. Everyone at work will know of your impatience, plus you'll distract yourself from driving if you keep trying to get every last morsel that you've dropped.

These were not overly sweet which makes them feel more appropriate for breakfast, and they take to freezing really well. If you're a big planner, may I recommend flash-freezing them and cooking on an as-needed basis? They won't keep until next St. Patty's, but they'll keep for your cup of tea over the weekends of the next few months. My tip on that is after the jump, accompanied by some step by step photos! These "process shots," though not the gorgeous images to which you've become accustomed, are going to make my sister so excited.

Currant Pecan Scones (or as they call them, Cream Tea Scones with Currants) 

2 cups unbleached flour, plus extra for sprinkling
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 large eggs
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup dried currants (currants are like raisins, but smaller)
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1 heaping tablespoon raw or coarse sugar

butter or jam for serving

Toast the pecans either in your oven at 350, stirring occasionally until they smell nutty, or on the stovetop over medium heat, stirring occasionally. This step gives the pecans a much fuller flavor.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, stir together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the butter to the flour mixture. With a pastry blender (I prefer using 2 knives) cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and cream together. Add all but 2 tablespoons of the egg mixture to the dry ingredients all at once and stir until a sticky dough forms. Quickly stir in the currants and pecans, just until evenly distributed.

Turn the dough out on  to a lightly floured board. Knead gently until the dough holds together, about six times. The dough should be soft; do not overknead, or the scones will be tough.  Divide into two equal portions and pat each portion into a round 1" thick and 6" wide diameter. Cut each round into 4 equal wedges (Alternately, you could simply drop by tablespoon the dough and end up with round scones like I did. Much easier on my sticky fingers).

Arrange the wedges, 2 inches apart, on the prepared baking sheet. Brush each wedge with the reserved egg mixture and sprinkle with the raw sugar.

Bake until crusty and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

If you decide to flash freeze them (freeze individually until frozen, then put in freezer bag all jumbled together), my preferred method is to bake them right from the freezer, only to lower the temperature by 25 degrees and increase the baking time slightly. Your oven may be slightly less crazy than my 1950s version, should you be so lucky.

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