Scones: fresh from the oven!

A beautiful scone beats a biscuit hands down—in my humble opinion. For most Southerners, those could very well be fighting words.  But, since this is my blog, I will continue.  Scones make a handy quick bread for breakfast, a special brunch, or an afternoon snack with tea.  These have real character. Their rough-hewn shape shouts, ‘Hearty country, made with love! Fresh from the oven!’

Blueberries are outstanding in these scones, but they also worthy of Oregon’s Marionberries or even pitted cherries.  In this batch I’ve substituted ¾-cup whole wheat flour for ¾-cup all-purpose flour, and for fruit, dried cranberries and apricots.  Dried fennel, other herbs and spices are obvious additions, whether in lieu of fruit or as a complement.

Scones are a snap to make with a food processor, but I have made them using 2 knives to cut the butter into the flour—much like making a pie dough.  Beyond that, it’s a simple matter of stirring the liquid into dry and forming the dough into two loaves, with the least amount of possible fuss.

The secret to light scones is minimal handling and a moderately hot oven for fast rising.  To do this, quickly form into two rounds and score the tops—instead of shaping individually.  Cool briefly before slicing into portions and enjoy hot with butter, jam, or straight up.  Store whole loaves lightly wrapped, reheat, and cut to order. For more ideas, check out the variations that follow.

Basic Scones

Ingredients
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup chilled butter cut into small chunks, or shortening
2 large eggs, beaten with enough milk to equal 2/3 cup
Optional finishing for tops:  2-3 tbsp. milk, 2-3 tbsp. demerara or cinnamon-sugar

Directions

  1. Butter a baking sheet or line with silpat. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. In a mixing bowl sift the flour through salt.
  3. Using a food processor or 2 knives, cut the butter into flour mix until it becomes a grainy texture.
  4. Make a well in the center of the butter-flour and pour in the egg-milk liquid. Stir briefly to bring ingredients together and fold in fruit or other additions if using (details below).
  5. Turn out onto a floured surface and lightly knead if shaggy and form a round. Divide mound in half and pat into 2-6″ rounds, about 3/4″ thick. Mark the tops into 5-6 wedges with a sharp knife.
  6. Place on a greased sheet. Brush the tops evenly with milk and dust with sugar. Bake at 375° approximately 20 minutes, until golden brown.  Yield: 10-12 scones.

Berry Variation
1 cup blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, etc. (fresh or frozen, defrosted)
2 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
Dust the berries with flour and cinnamon. Gently add to the flour-fat mixture after the egg-milk liquid.  Proceed as directed.

Dried Fruit Variation:   to dough add 1 cup dried fruit such as cranberries, apricots, dates, cherries, or any combination

Jammer Variation
Score each round into 6-8 wedges.  Dust thumb with flour and press down into middle of each section, making 1/2″-3/4″ wide hole. Fill each impression with favorite jam (about 1/4 cup total).   Brush with milk, sprinkle with sugar and bake.  Serve hot.

Jell-O Update

Jell-O, that sweet kid’s treat, for many of us still conjures up threats of hospital food, or perhaps memories of the dreaded marshmallow-studded lime mold.  There was a time I even struggled with jellied cranberry sauce, especially when it was sliced and served right out of the can.

Maybe it’s the kid in me, but I still like the idea of Jell-O.  Especially during this summer heat wave we are experiencing, I’m looking for nearly anything that is refreshing, cool, light, easy―in no particular order.

Top of my list these days:  fresh berries.  Raspberries, blueberries, blackberries… they are everywhere and I can’t get enough of them.  Since I’m spending more time dreaming of ways to enjoy them, beyond from my tiny freezer, it’s inevitable that gelatin considerations would eventually surface.  With its natural suspension capabilities, gelatin is an obvious vehicle for my berry mania.

But seriously, Jell-O needs an update:  something beyond refined or synthetic sugar based, dye laden, and artificially flavored.  Good idea, bad execution.

A few facts:  gelatin is a protein collagen derivative from animal bones, skin, connective tissues (an industry issue for many animal rights advocates). As a healing agent gelatin can improve hair and skin quality, strengthen nails, and aid in joint and bone health.  It can act as an appetite suppressant, soothe the tummy, and even promote sleep.

I recently revisited good old Knox Gelatine to give it a try as a simple fruit/juice bundle and I’m pretty happy with the results.  Besides no sugar, flavor additives or color, it contains 6 calories, 0 g. carbs per serving.

If Knox Gelatine is an issue, there are other options: consider Great Lakes Gelatin, a kosher beef gelatin from grass fed cows, free from preservatives or added sugars, minimally processed. Or, agar-agar powder,  a vegan option preferred by many.

With all the new fruit drinks on the market, coming up with a fruit and juice combination is actually fun.  Of course, the ratio of liquid to fruit will change based on amount of fruit used. Since I like plenty of fresh fruit, to the point it is nearly packed, I was scrambling for additional containers.  To unmold, warm the container briefly in warm water, loosen edge with knife, give it a jiggle and flip it out.

Final wrap:  here’s an extremely unscientific comparative between mango Jell-O with raspberries and apple juice/gelatin with raspberries/blueberries.  For both, I used small individual yogurt containers, let them set for 3-4 hours and unmolded them into parfait glasses.   Results:

The Jell-O:   sweet, the mango flavor tasted artificial; in combination, they masked the raspberries’ fresh flavor.  The color was a bright gold and showcased the fruit nicely; it held its shape well, almost rubbery.

Mango Jell-O & Raspberries
Mango Jell-O & Raspberries

The Gelée:  the apple tasted mild but fruity.  After the Jell-O, it seemed bland and not sweet enough. It improved after the second or third taste, and the flavors of the raspberries and blueberries really popped   The color was natural but pale in comparison; it held its shape, though not as resilient as Jell-O.  Final note, the apple juice was a basic off the shelf supermarket brand.  I would recommend a good organic variety, perhaps a filtered variety.

Raspberry & Blueberry Gelée
Raspberry & Blueberry Gelée

Raspberry & Blueberry Gelée

Raspberries suspended in apple cider are a model here.  Use any appealing combination of seasonal fruit and fresh juice. Figure one envelope (1Tbsp) gelatin for every 2 cups liquid.

Ingredients

1 packet Knox Gelatine
½ cup water, divided:  ¼ cup cold water (or liquid), ¼ cup boiling water
1 ½ cup complementary excellent quality chilled fruit juice of choice: apple cider, mango, cranberry, pomegranate, etc.
2 cups (or more) washed fresh fruit:  raspberries or other berries, grapes, cut up plums, peaches, etc. or any combination

Method

  1. Soften gelatin in ¼ cup cold water for 1 minute.  Add ¼ cup boiling water and stir to dissolve the granules completely.  Stir in cold juice.
  2. Fill 3-4 individual 1-cup molds, parfait glasses, or a 4-cup mold with fresh fruit.  Pour the cooled liquid over the fruit.  Cover to keep fruit below surface and chill until set, 3 to 4 hours.