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Leek and Rosemary Scones

26 Feb

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From my house, you can walk to a place to get seasonal handmade pie, two places to get Japanese noodles, a place that makes their own coconut milk to mix into delicious curries, and a place that makes cecina (also called farinata, cecina is a crepe-like flatbread made of chickpea flour) in an enormous wood-fired oven. This summer, there will also be a place to get delicious French pastries and a place to get small batch ice cream. What there will not be, and what there is not now, is a place to get a scone.

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Perhaps due to the proliferation of coffee places that serve the type of scones that are more closely related to a slice of cake or a doughnut, there isn’t a lot of represented variety in the scone world. Most scones encountered these days are sugary, glaze-covered, or chocolate-studded, and while I certainly have no problem with a good selection of sweets being offered, it would be nice to come across the occasional savory scone. Logic leads me to believe that, this being America, the biscuit is most likely the main culprit in the obsolescence of the savory scone, but, me being me, that doesn’t mean I am going to rest easy with that knowledge.

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So, if you are like me, and you are interested in delving a bit deeper into the world of the non-sugary scone, might I suggest you give this delightful leek and rosemary version a try? Flaky and buttery, it’s a welcome addition to a cup of coffee or tea, and it plays very well with the warm and cozy attributes of a bowl of soup. Come to think of it, these scones, so very savory and toothsome, go great with a big, crunchy salad as well, lending a balance of heartiness to the crisp lightness of a big plate of greens. Oh, greens! You could split one of these in half and pile it high with sautéed greens—chard, collard greens, kale, what have you—making yourself a sort of hybrid sandwich that goes a long way towards making a case for the presence of the savory scone. I could keep going with this case for scones, but I think I’ve made good headway so far. How long before a shop offering savory scones pops up near my house? I have no idea. But, so long as my kitchen and I keep up the pace, I don’t anticipate we’ll be needing the services of such a shop.

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Last Year: Marinated Goat Cheese and Savory Olive Oil and Walnut Sables–these go great together!

Another Savory Scone: Cheddar, Apple, and Poppy Seed Scones 

Leek and Rosemary Scones

4 medium leeks, white parts only

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

½ teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

2 sticks (1 cup) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 ½ cups buttermilk or soured milk

Rinse leeks thoroughly, then slice in half lengthwise. Slice each half into thin half moons. In a medium skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add leeks, then sauté, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until the leeks begin to soften. Reduce heat to low, cover leeks, and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the leeks from sticking to the pan. When the leeks are touched with crisp brown edges, uncover the pan, stir for a minute or so over low heat to allow the leeks to crisp up a bit more, then remove leeks to a plate to cool.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, rosemary, and lemon zest. Whisk to combine. Add the cold butter chunks and, using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few large pea-sized butter bits strewn throughout. Using a wooden spoon or sturdy spatula, carefully stir in the buttermilk until the dough appears quite shaggy and just begins to hold together. Fold in the cooled leeks.

Turned the dough out onto a floured surface. Carefully pat the dough into a long rectangle about 18 inches long and roughly 1 ½-inches thick. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 12 triangles.

Place the dough triangles on the prepared baking sheet. You might need to partake in a bit of creative arranging in order to make all 12 triangles fit on the baking sheet. Bake in the center of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the tops of the scones have turned dark golden brown. Remove scones to a wire rack to cool slightly, then serve while still warm.

Makes 12 scones.

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Nun’s Puffs

6 Nov

Let’s start with the name, shall we? After much searching, I am still completely clueless as to how these delightful little pastries came to gain their rather fetching name. We can speculate, of course, but that’s all we’d be doing, and it seems almost beside the point to try and create a juicy backstory for these little numbers. Especially when, instead of looking around for naming clues, you should be spending your time baking up a batch of nun’s puffs. No, like right now.

With a texture poised somewhere between a choux pastry puff and a popover, only less crisply dry and more eggy in the middle, the nun’s puff might be my new favorite breakfast treat. Because of their relative simplicity, ingredient-wise, they are prime candidates for dressing up in any manner you choose. The richness of the butter, combined with the slight custardy flavor of the eggs, is the prefect backdrop for both savory and sweet applications. The outsides, so crisp and light, mingle delightfully with the airy and soft middle, because of the relative hollowness of the pastry’s middle, you can fill them with any number of things. I stuffed my serving with scrambled eggs, topped with a nice scoop of fried apples’n’onions (thank you, Almanzo Wilder), while my son slathered his with raspberry preserves. Both were absolutely delicious. I also sprinkled half of the puffs with cinnamon sugar before I baked them, and the resulting puffs emerged with a lovely lid of cinnamon crunch perched on top.

For as splendid as these puffs look, they are a cinch to make. Because they are baked in a common muffin pan, you don’t need a special pan, as you do with popovers, and you don’t need to fuss around with the oven, as you do with cream puffs. You mix, portion out, then bake. What greets you after 30 minutes is a dozen of the most spectacular baked goods you’ve ever seen straight from the oven, craggly, tall, and light as a feather.

Last Year: Sweet and Spicy Popcorn

Nun’s Puffs Recipe

From Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 cup milk

¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

4 large eggs

optional: 2 teaspoons sugar mixed with ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Thoroughly butter a 12-portion muffin pan, being sure to butter the edges of the cups and around the top.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. When butter had melted, stir in milk and raise heat to medium.. Bring the mixture to a light boil, then add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Continue to cook and stir the mixture until it comes together in a cohesive ball. Remove from heat, transfer dough to a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes.

When dough has cooled a bit, add the eggs, one at a time, beating for about a minute after each addition. You can beat the egg into the dough with a wooden spoon, a handheld mixer on medium speed, or a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater attachment on medium-low speed. After the last egg has been beaten in, the mixture should resemble an extremely thick, stiff cake or muffin batter.

Divide the dough evenly among the prepared muffin cups, filling each cup about 2/3 full. If using, sprinkle the tops of the dough with cinnamon sugar.

Bake in center of oven for about 30 minutes, or until the puffs are tall, golden brown, craggly on top, and very puffy. Remove each puff from the pan immediately, and allow to cool slightly on a wire rack. Serve while still hot or warm.

Cheddar, Apple, and Poppy Seed Scones

17 Oct

I don’t want it to end. I am speaking, of course, of the San Francisco Giants, and their near-miraculous performance in the postseason this year. After coming back from a two-game deficit last week, winning the division series and advancing to the pennant race, my heart was as full as it’s been in years. Okay, since 2010, when the Giants won the World Series. But still. My devotion to baseball is such that I tend to get very, very excited when things go well (and, conversely, very, very sad when things do not go well).

Plus, I am having a great time coming up with new and inventive ways to incorporate black and orange foods into our meals. Sometimes the black and orange components are front and center, but other times, like with these scones, the black and orange bits are a bit more subtle, though no less enjoyable. Actually, it just occurred to me that there might have been a more obvious scone to make when adding to my arsenal of orange and black foods: orange chocolate scones. Why did I not think of that earlier?

Truth be told, I am glad I did not go the orange and chocolate route. These cheddar apple scones, rich and buttery, but barely sweetened, were an absolute delight. With just a hint of whole wheat pastry flour to add to their heartiness, their pure, simple flavor made for a perfect fall bite. I had a bit of an internal battle with myself before I decided to hold off on adding any pinches of fall-ish spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.), and, in the end, I am so glad I decided to reign things in. With just enough sharp cheddar folded into the dough to offset the fresh sweetness of the apples, these scones are just lovely. They served us well as both a fantastic afternoon treat and a welcome, celebratory post-game snack. The Giants won, so I am, of course, going to credit the scones. Not that I really need an excuse, but I just might have to make these again for Game 3. You know, because of the good luck they brought the team. Of course.

Last Year: Panko-Crusted Sole, a Dinner in 20 Minutes

Cheddar, Apple, and Poppy Seed Scones Recipe

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 ¾ cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1 cup (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 ½ cups cold buttermilk or soured milk

1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

2 cups peeled apple chunks, about ¼-inch in size (from roughly 1 ½ large apples)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt, poppy seeds, and lemon zest. Whisk to combine thoroughly.

Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few large pea-sized butter bits strewn throughout. Using a wooden spoon or sturdy spatula, carefully stir in the buttermilk until the dough appears quite shaggy and just begins to hold together. Fold in both the grated cheese and the apple chunks.

Turned the dough out onto a floured surface. Carefully pat the dough into a long rectangle about 18 inches long and roughly 1 ½-inches thick. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 12 triangles.

Place the dough triangles on the prepared baking sheet. You might need to partake in a bit of creative arranging in order to make all 12 triangles fit on the baking sheet. Bake in the center of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the tops of the scones have turned dark golden brown. Remove scones to a wire rack to cool slightly, then serve while still warm.

Makes 12 scones.

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