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Home & Garden

Stepping Scones

Need a break from muffins and biscuits? Skip across the pond.

By Virginia Manuel

Visit any coffee shop these days and right alongside the biscotti, muffins and croissants, you’ll probably find a nice selection of scones. Although scones are a relatively recent addition to the baked goods arena, there is nothing new about these biscuitlike cakes. They are native to Scotland and have been enjoyed throughout Great Britain for more than a century. In the British Isles, scones (which Brits pronounce “skonns”), frequently spread with whipped cream and jam, are a familiar accompaniment to afternoon tea.

If, however, the British created scones, innovative American bakers have since tweaked them to appeal to more adventurous tastes. Traditional British versions are invariably made with raisins or currants, whereas more contemporary recipes might include dried cherries, chopped pecans, candied ginger, citrus peel – even chocolate chips.

Somewhat sweeter and richer than biscuits, scones should be handled the same way during the mixing and baking process, which means with a light touch when handling the dough. Most commonly, they are shaped into wedges, but they can also be formed into circles, using a standard cookie or biscuit cutter.

Here are three recipes to brighten up your morning coffee break or afternoon tea.

Lemon Cornmeal Scones

Cornmeal and lemon peel add interest to this very Americanized version as do the sweetened dried cranberries.

2 cups flour
1 cup yellow
⅓ cup sugar
1 tablespoon
baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
1 cup sweetened
dried cranberries
1 egg
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
2 teaspoons vanilla

In a medium bowl, combine the first 5 ingredients. With a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the cranberries. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and the remaining ingredients and stir into the flour mixture to form a smooth dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide into 3 equal pieces. Form each piece into a 5-inch disk and, with a sharp knife, cut each disk into 4 wedges. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake in a preheated 450-degree oven for 10 minutes or until scones appear firm. Do not overbake, or they will dry out. Cool slightly before serving with butter and jam. Makes a dozen.

Tea Scones

Tea Scones

This old-fashioned recipe is of both Scottish and Welsh origin. In Wales, scones are sometimes referred to as “tea cakes,” and they are often baked on a hot griddle like thick pancakes. True to Welsh tradition, currants are the fruit of choice, but you can substitute raisins if you prefer.

2 cups flour
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup vegetable shortening
½ cup currants
2 eggs, slightly beaten
½ cup milk

In a medium bowl, combine the first 5 ingredients. Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender until crumbly; stir in the currants. Combine the eggs and milk in a small bowl and add to the flour mixture, stirring with a fork, Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, divide in half and flatten each half into a ½-inch-thick circle. Cut each circle into wedges (or rounds) and place on a spray-coated baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden. Serve warm, lightly buttered. Makes 12 wedges or 18 rounds.

Maple-Oatmeal Scones

This hearty treatment, packed with whole-grain goodness, relies on maple syrup to add a hint of sweetness. This recipe demonstrates that homemade scones taste equally good without the addition of any dried fruits.

1¾ cups flour
½ cup whole-wheat flour
½ cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup (12 tablespoons) butter, cut in small pieces
¼ cup maple syrup
⅓ cup buttermilk
1 egg, lightly beaten

In a large bowl, combine the first 6 ingredients, tossing well with a fork to combine. With a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. In a small bowl, combine the maple syrup and the buttermilk and add to the flour mixture, stirring with a fork just to combine. Dough should hold together without being sticky. If too dry, add a few more teaspoons of buttermilk. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and, with your hands, form it into a circle about 9 inches in diameter and 1 ¼ inches tall. Transfer to a spray-coated or parchment-lined baking sheet, and brush the beaten egg evenly on top. Using a pizza wheel or a serrated knife, cut dough into 12 wedges. You don’t need to separate the wedges until after they bake. (Alternately, you can use a 2-inch biscuit cutter to cut out the dough.) Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 20 minutes or until scones are deep golden-brown on top. Cool slightly on a wire rack before separating the wedges completely. Makes 1 dozen large scones or 1 ½ dozen rounds.

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