Oh the weather outside is frightful . . .
As I am sitting here at home watching our first major snowstorm arrive (they say 6-10 inches), I'm surprised that I am actually looking forward to the snowstorm. There's something about inclement weather that forces me (or likely many of us) to stop, slow down, and take a deep breath.
This time of year is always really, really hectic. When I was a student there were always exams, final projects, and then the mad dash to pack and fly home for the holidays. As I got older, the exams were replaced by end-of-year work deadlines, holiday parties, and just the general hustle and bustle of activity.
It's OK just to sit at home.
Maybe organize those kitchen cabinets you never had time to look at.
Here's a classic recipe I learned at a two-day baking seminar at King Arthur Flour's Baking Education Center in Vermont.
It's a whole wheat scone that is surprisingly moist and flavorful. It's really, really good even though it's made with whole wheat flour.
And it just might be the perfect thing to make on a snowy, snowy Sunday afternoon.
First, we start by "cutting" the unsalted butter into the dry ingredients. According to our instructor, it's better to use unsalted butter because it's typically more fresh. Furthermore, it's better to have finer control over the salt level by adding it yourself.
"Cake or Flake"
There are two "stopping points" when you cut butter. If you want a more flaky scone, cut the butter so that the butter "bits" are about pea-sized. If you prefer a more cake-like scone, cut the butter even more until it's crumbly - almost sandy. The flour will look almost damp.
If you don't like manual labor, you can also do this in a food processor. Just make sure to freeze the butter beforehand.
Now add your mix-ins! In my case I added dried cherries. You can also add chocolate chips, raisins, nuts, crystallized ginger . . . really, it's up to you.
Whisk together the buttermilk and egg yolk (the liquids) and stir them into the dry mixture until a dough forms.
The addition of an acid (such as buttermilk) activates the baking soda, allowing carbon dioxide to be released which helps the dough rise.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and gently and quickly knead. You don't want to overwork it. Too much time and agitation can result in a tough scone.
Once everything is nicely mixed, pat the dough into a flat disk about 7 inches across and cut it into wedges.
Transfer the disk to a parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheet. For crispier scones, separate the wedges; for softer, higher rising scones, leave them in the circle.
Brush the tops of the scones with the egg whites.
Optionally sprinkle with sparkling white sugar.
Bake the scones in a preheated 375°F oven for 25 to 27 minutes, inspecting halfway through to turn the pan.
Remove the scones from the oven when they're light, golden brown and cool them on a wire rack.
Whole Wheat Scones
source: King Arthur's Flour
2 cups (8 ounces) King Arthur 100% White Whole Wheat Flour
2 tablespoons (⅞ ounce) sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup (4 ounces, 1 stick) chilled, unsalted butter
¾ cup (6 ounces) buttermilk
1 egg yolk (save the white for topping the scones)
½ cup dried fruit (optional)
Sparkling white sugar
• Place the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
• Cut in the butter with a pastry blender.
• Whisk together the buttermilk and egg yolk and stir into the dry mixture until a dough forms.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, and gently and quickly knead in the optional dried fruit.
• Pat the dough into a flat disk about 7 inches across and cut it into wedges.
• Transfer the disk to a parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheet. For crispier scones, separate the wedges; for softer, higher rising scones, leave them in the circle.
• Brush the tops of the scones with the egg white and sprinkle with sparkling white sugar. Bake them in a preheated 375°F oven for 25 to 27 minutes, inspecting at midpoint to admire and turn.
• Remove the scones from the oven when they're light, golden brown and cool them on a wire rack.
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