I’ve decided after yesterday that risotto is to cooking as scones are to baking. Yes, they might seem intimidating at first. Yes, it takes a little work to prepare them properly. Yes, they seem much more complicated than they actually are. And yes, the extra effort you put into them will result in a delicious final product with lovely presentation points that’s sure to wow your friends.
When it comes to scones, there’s just something about them that seems a little fancier than the typical pancake or blueberry muffin fare (which by no means are without merit). Just imagine the next time you have a houseguest staying for the weekend. Saturday morning rolls around, and he or she heads into the kitchen for breakfast, which prompts a conversation like this:
“What is that glorious smell wafting through your lovely abode, my generous host(ess)?”
“Why, that would be fresh-baked scones of course.”
“Scones? Surely you mean something simple like muffins or pancakes?”
“No, no. They are scones. Butternut squash scones actually. Made especially for you.”
“Smashing! Why, this is the most wonderful breakfast I’ve ever experienced in all of my many weekends spent sleeping and eating at other people’s houses! Here, here for scones! A right fancy feast!”
Yes, I’m pretty sure that’s how it will transpire.
This recipe for butternut sage scones, written by mrslarkin on food52.com, is a delicious example of think-outside-the-box-ness gone right. Originally developed as a modified version of Starbucks’ pumpkin scone, mrslarkin then altered that recipe to use butternut squash puree instead of pumpkin puree and added a slew of spices that fit the new mold. The result is a scone that marries butternut squash and sage, two longtime chums who get on well in the roasting arena, in a single entity that has a delicate crunch on the outside and a soft, moist (unbelievably moist, as far as scones are concerned) center. Although spices like cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg are no strangers to a scone-eater’s palate, the chopped sage sprinkled throughout this dough adds a nice, almost savory spin on breakfast. Oh yes, and the drizzling of cinnamon glaze is a must.
Butternut Sage Scones
From mrslarkin, food52.com
• 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted (9 ounces, weighed; or fluff flour with a whisk, spoon into measuring cup, then level off with a knife)
• 6 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling on top of scones
• 1 tablespoon baking powder
• ½ teaspoon kosher salt
• ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon (I made this a rounded teaspoon.)
• ½ teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
• scant ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
• scant ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
• 2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage (optional, but so, so good)
• 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
• ½ cup butternut squash puree (see instructions below)*
• 1/3 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing on top of scones
• 1 large egg
• 8 small sage leaves
• cinnamon drizzle (see instructions below)**
In the large bowl of a food processor (fitted with the chopping blade), place the dry ingredients and the chopped sage, and pulse to combine. Add the butter, and pulse 10 or so times to combine (you should retain some small pieces of butter; don’t over mix). Transfer flour mixture to a large mixing bowl. If there are any really large butter lumps, you can squish them with the back of a fork.
In a large measuring cup, place squash, egg and heavy cream. Mix well, then pour into flour mixture. Using a dinner fork, fold the wet mixture into the dry mixture while gradually turning the bowl (you’re aiming for a folding motion, not stirring). When dough begins to come together, gently kneed dough into a ball shape.
Transfer dough ball to floured board, and gently pat it into a 6-inch circle. Use a pastry scraper or large chef’s knife to cut it into 8 triangles (scoring the top ahead of time and using the lines as guides makes this a bit easier).
Place the scones on a wax-paper-lined sheet pan, and freeze until solid. (Once frozen, scones can be stored in a plastic freezer bag for several weeks.)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place frozen scones on a parchment-lined baking sheet, about 1 inch apart. Brush tops with cream. Take whole sage leaves, brush fronts and backs with cream, and place on tops of scones. Sprinkle tops with sugar.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, turning pan halfway through. Scones are done when a wooden skewer comes out clean. When cool, drizzle with cinnamon glaze.
* Butternut squash puree: I went the easy route for this and bought organic butternut squash puree, just like you’d buy pumpkin puree. If you’d prefer to make your own puree, pierce a medium butternut squash all over with a fork or knife. Place it on a microwave-safe dish, and cook on high for about 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes or so, until soft and mushy. Cut squash down the middle (if it’s still hard in the middle, microwave it a bit more). Scoop out seeds and pulp. Scoop out the soft squash, mash it a bit, and place in mesh strainer over bowl. Let drain for a few hours or overnight.
** Cinnamon drizzle: Mix 1 cup powdered sugar with about ½ teaspoon cinnamon. Add 2 tablespoons warm water, and stir until smooth (I upped the cinnamon a bit, to about ¾ teaspoon). The consistency should be thick like corn syrup, so add a bit more water or sugar as needed.
What’s your favorite kind of scone? Any great bakeries that make amazing pastries and baked goods in your neck of the woods? And while we’re talking baked goods, what’s your favorite breakfast treat? Let’s hear it!