Riffable Whipped Cream Scones
So hey! First, some news: as you might have guessed from the past several months of posts on Instagram, book #4 is officially in the works. I couldn't be more excited to be sharing the recipes and stories of my journey home to the great Midwest, and doing so with the fine folks from Running Press, purveyor of gorgeous cookbooks. It will be packed with not only great Heartland-inspired recipes, but also bits of food history, snapshots of the immigrant cultures that have influenced our baking for centuries, and conversations with some of the Midwest's most influential bakers. It will be my most personal book yet, which is at once terrifying and yet oddly comfortable. Going home after a long time away will do that to a person, I suppose.
I'll share wordier details and the release date here as I am able, but you're much more likely to get the updates on Instagram, as the glorious micro-blogging qualities of that platform are much more conducive to my headless chicken tendencies. At any rate, I am deep into recipe testing and research, and couldn't be happier about the whole thing. The insanity of cookbook writing hasn't scared me off yet. Hooray!
With that out in the open (!!), let's talk about scones. Not the dreary, doorstop kind, oh nnneeeewww. Those are the type that frighten most of us away, unless presented with copious amounts of jam and clotted cream, and even then. But! When I was writing recipes for Real Sweet, I discovered a method for scone-making that changed my mind about the potential of scones. Nearly every scone recipe calls for heavy cream to be added to the dry ingredients blended with butter. And that's perfectly fine, in the way that traditional things often are. But I find that if you take a couple minutes to whip the cream to soft peaks first, you get a lightness and a melting quality to the finished baked good that makes them truly crave-worthy, and more importantly foolproof, because the dough seems to more readily absorb the whipped cream, and you can stir together a smooth dough with fewer strokes, and avoid overworking the whole thing, which gives you those aforementioned doorstops, bah.
When it comes to riffing on this basic recipe, you can go sweet or savory. In Real Sweet, I sweeten the whipped cream with honey and add dried apricots and cranberries that are rehydrated with a bit of water and vanilla and almond extracts, and I add sliced almonds, too. Delicious! But bittersweet chocolate chunks and dried cherries, or fresh berries and citrus zest are divine as well. On the savory side, I load them up with scallions and grated sharp cheeses of all sorts, and chopped bacon or bits of ham. In either case, whether you take them savory or sweet, it's the basic method of marrying flour and fat that makes these special and secures your genius baker status. Show off for mom and make her some of these with her favorite add-ins this Mothers' Day! Really, it's the least you can do.
Whipped Cream Scones
Makes 8 large or 12 small scones
Use this melt-in-your-mouth building block scone recipe to create either sweet or savory scones in your favorite flavor. When adding in bits like dried fruit, nuts, chopped chocolate, bacon, grated cheese, scallions, and more, chop them fine and aim for about 1 1/4 cups total of any combination of ingredients. If making sweet scones, add 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar and sprinkle the scones with turbinado sugar before baking; for savory flavors, use 1 teaspoon of sugar for browning and flavor.
For the scone dough:
2 cups (9 ounces/256 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
6 tablespoons (3 ounces/85 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces, very cold
1 cup (8 1/2 ounces/240 grams) heavy cream, chilled
1 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups add-ins of your choice (see note)
For finishing the scones:
1 large egg 1 tablespoon water or milk Pinch of fine sea salt
Position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Have ready an 8-inch round cake pan.
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter pieces. Blend until the mixture resembles a coarse meal without any obvious little chunks of butter in the mix. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add 1 1/4 cups of add-ins to the bowl. Toss with your hands to combine.
In a medium bowl, combine the heavy cream and sugar. Using a handheld mixer, beat the cream to soft peaks. Using a large, flexible spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the flour mixture; it will look quite dry at first, but after several folds, the dough will come together. When no large puffs of cream remain visible, stop folding—don’t overmix.
Lightly flour a work surface, and turn the dough out onto it—the dough will be soft and sticky. Gently knead the dough 5 or 6 times just to smooth it out. Pat the dough into a disc about 6 inches across. Dust a little more flour onto the top of the disc, and invert it, flour side-down, into the cake pan. Press the dough evenly into the pan to shape it into a neat circle. Dust the top lightly with flour. Invert the molded dough back out onto the work surface. Using the bench scraper or large knife, cut the circle into 8 large wedges.
Place the scones, evenly spaced, onto the prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, water, and pinch of salt. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the scones with the egg wash. Bake until the scones are golden all over, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.