Have you ever noticed how all of the best baked goods start from the same simple ingredients? It’s pretty amazing when you think about it: By using little more than flour, sugar, butter, eggs and salt in varying amounts, you can create all sorts of wonderful things — and different wonderful things at that. It’s like starting with a single lump of Play-Doh and molding everything from tiny people to tiny cars (minus the intensely salty taste; you know what I’m talking about). That basic dough is all you need.
A while back, Jared started sending me links to The Minimalist stories and videos on NewYorkTimes.com. The Minimalist, a.k.a. Mark Bittman, is a food writer whose take on cooking is a flashback to the quality and simplicity of the pre-World War II era, before convenient packaging and fast and easy recipes were indicators of successful culinary efforts. The videos are pretty funny, too; his sloppy mixing and seemingly haphazard use of ingredients is a refreshing contrast to all that perfection running around on Food Network these days (not that I don’t enjoy a good dose of Food Network watching — because I definitely do). But I think it’s that use of simple, basic ingredients that appeals to me the most.
Jared sent me this Minimalist recipe the week before Christmas, and I finally got around to trying it out. It’s a simple scone recipe, and because I’ve never tried scones before, simple sounded just about right. I made a few adjustments from the original recipe: using whole-wheat pastry flour instead of cake flour and cutting slightly smaller scones than he recommends to feed our crowd o’ eaters. Otherwise, I followed the recipe as is. And it didn’t disappoint.
• 2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour (or cake flour, as Bittman recommends)
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• 5 tablespoons butter, cold and cut into pieces
• 1 egg
• 1/2 to 3/4 cup heavy cream, plus a smidge for brushing on tops of scones
In a food processor (or standing mixer or by hand), combine flour, salt, baking powder and 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Add butter, and pulse until it resembles cornmeal-looking mixture.
Add egg and just enough cream to form slightly sticky dough. Dough should stick to your hands a little; add more flour or cream as needed. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface, and kneed a few times to combine. Press into a 3/4-inch circle, and cut 1 1/2 to 2-inch rounds.
Place rounds on ungreased baking sheet. Reshape leftover dough, and cut again. Brush the tops of each scone with cream, and sprinkle remaining sugar on tops.
Bake in 450-degree oven until scones are golden brown, 9 to 11 minutes.
Simple and delicious. Woot! These scones are super great when warm, but cold is pretty nice as well. To serve them (because presentation points are half the score, you know), I cut them in half, and added a dollop each of homemade whipped cream and raspberry jam. Mmmmm…
So have you been serving up scones in your neck of the woods? Or maybe there’s another basic dough recipe you go for instead? What do you bake, and how do you serve it? Can’t wait to hear about it!