Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Bits and Bobs Scone

(William, I'm sorry- I have a backlog of food posts!)

I love the phrase "bits and bobs." It seems so British and darling to me, uncouth American that I am. Anything British is automatically better, no?

When I was making this scone, I thought of two things:

- bits and bobs: I can throw whatever bits and bobs I want into these scones.
- clotted cream: what is it and where do I get some for my scones? Why does it sound vaguely disgusting, like old cream gone bad? If the Brits have it with scones, I want it, too!

I love making scones because they are so versatile and forgiving. Too dry? Add more cream! Too wet? Throw in more flour! They are a great and basic thing for beginning bakers to make- very little effort, huge and lovely payoff.

So the same day I made (my favorite) Jalapeno-Cheddar Scones, while most of the other girls (am I too old to call myself a girl??) I know were busy pulling on fishnets, dusting on body glitter, and slapping on more makeup than is advisable, I baked up these scones with a recipe pilfered from Smitten Kitchen, who had taken it from a recipe by American's Test Kitchen, which I watch with fascination on Saturdays. (Who am I kidding, I don't watch them when they air- that's what DVR's are for!)

Dreamy Cream Scones (or Bits and Bobs Scone)
America's Test Kitchen

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, preferably a low-protein brand such as Gold Medal or Pillsbury (I used Gold Medal)
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup currants (I used chopped dried cranberries and candied ginger)
1 cup heavy cream

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425°F.

2. Place flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in large bowl or work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Whisk together or pulse six times.

3. If making by hand, use two knives, a pastry blender or your fingertips and quickly cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few slightly larger butter lumps. Stir in currants. If using food processor, remove cover and distribute butter evenly over dry ingredients. Cover and pulse 12 times, each pulse lasting 1 second. Add currants (or dried cranberries and candied ginger) and pulse one more time. Transfer dough to large bowl.

4. Stir in heavy cream with a rubber spatula or fork until dough begins to form, about 30 seconds.

5. Transfer dough and all dry, floury bits to counter top and knead dough by hand just until it comes together into a rough, sticky ball, 5 to 10 seconds. Form scones by either:

a) pressing the dough into an 8-inch cake pan, then turning the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, cutting the dough into 8 wedges with either a knife or bench scraper (the book’s suggestion), or-

b) patting the dough onto a lightly floured work surface into a 3/4-inch thick circle, cutting pieces with a biscuit cutter, and pressing remaining scraps back into another piece and cutting until dough has been used up. (Smitten Kitchen did this method. She adds: Be warned if you use this latter method, the scones that are made from the remaining scraps will be much lumpier and less pretty, but taste fine. As in, I understand why they suggested the first method.)

Here's the dough after it's been pressed into a cake pan and turned out onto a floured surface. I used a lightly floured chef's knife to cut my dough into wedges. I used this same method for the jalapeno-cheddar scones- I really like it, it creates scones of uniform sizes, very important when counting calories, if you're into that kind of thing*.

6. Place rounds or wedges on ungreased baking sheet and bake until scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes. I baked mine on a Silpat for easier clean-up, to no ill effect.

7. Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I was really, REALLY tempted to brush the scones with some heavy cream and sprinkle the tops with a bit of raw sugar, but resisted. I thought perhaps the scones would be too sweet (what with the sugar and cranberries and ginger already in them) and adding more sugar, even if it was just for the crunch, would be overkill. Turns out, these scones ain't that sweet- at least, not as tooth-achingly saccharine as the stuff they sell at Starbucks or Coffee Bean. These scones would be perfectly fine with a little crispy coating of sugar, which I will be doing in the future.

The finished scone- I think an egg wash or a bit of brushed-on heavy cream would also help give the little thing some color, which it's lacking a bit. Still a delicious scone, very luscious and creamy without being overly rich. It's also not insanely buttery, as store-bought scones tend to be, and not too dense. Now to find some clotted cream....

The majority of both the jalapeno-cheddar scones and the dreamy cream scones were packed up for my parents to take to early-morning prayer group at the crack of dawn on Sunday.

I'm told that the jalapeno-cheddar scones became really salty by the next morning (since they were baked on Saturday) while the cream scones held up well. When fresh, the jalapeno-cheddar scones were definitely the winner, but I guess they don't keep as well as the cream scones. All the more reason to eat them right away!

I like the name "Dreamy Cream Scone," but I feel like this will really be my "Bits and Bobs Scone," because I'm planning on throwing in whatever I have handy into these little pockets of comforting dough. I had candied ginger left over from the banana bread, which is why they were included in these, and if I had had raisins, they would have gone in, too.

I can see these scones being great with frozen blueberries, thawed slightly and drained, then added just before the scones are shaped- or any other frozen fruit, for that matter. I would have added chocolate chips, but I used the last of them making ganache. I would like to try making these scones with brown sugar at some point to see how it affects the taste. I'm thinking they'll be deeper and very good without any additions, totally plain save a crackling crust of sugar on top.

I'm planning on making Christmas treats this year, and need to get a leg up on what I like and what's worthy to be gifted. The ganache is a definite winner, rolled up as truffles. I need to tweak the amount of butter I used, I think, which will happen the next time I make it. (And I'll remember to photograph the process.)

This recent spate of cooking and baking has made me realize what an obsessive-compulsive person I am. I am completely smitten with the process of making food to feed my family and friends and then blogging about it. I can see why there are so many food blogs out there!

* I am still counting calories. My daily limit is still 1,100, and I've been largely successful in maintaining that quota. Thank goodness for the iPhone, because there is a very handy app that makes counting calories a breeze: Lose It! by Fitnow, Inc.

The thing that makes counting calories extremely difficult for me is that I don't eat all that much "typical American food." I use weird ingredients when cooking, like fish sauce or salted baby shrimp, I eat things like kimchi and jjajangmyeon, and I like to bake things while tweaking the given recipes. Terrible, right?

Lose It! has a whole section where I can add my own food (i.e. Sriracha sauce!) and enter in all the information (calories, sodium, serving size, fat, saturated fat, etc.) for future use. It also has a recipes section where I can enter in all the ingredients and amounts of each, then tell the thing how many servings I'm making. It will calculate all the nutritional information for me. Oh, computers, how I love them.

For instance, I had spring rolls for lunch today that I made. I entered in a new food, called 'rice paper wrapper,' and punched in the information on the label of the wrappers.

Then I made a new recipe, called 'spring rolls,' and added in all the ingredients I used to make 16 rolls. The app told me that each spring roll has 60 calories. I put different ingredients into my spring rolls each time I make them, and this app makes it easy for me to edit my recipe. Swap out chicken for pork, take out the Sriracha sauce, add in noodles, whatever.

So far, so good. As of Saturday, more than a week after I had finished the Master Cleanse, I had gained back 3 of the 22 pounds I had lost. Not bad at all, since most people gain the majority of the weight back pretty much immediately. The counting of calories and being acutely aware of what I'm eating as helped a lot.

And my feeling on the whole experience is that if this cleanse can help me feel better (it did) and lose weight (it did) and even give me the desire to cook but not the desire to pig out, it's been well worth it.

By the way- had my first taste of caffeine in a month. I decided that I wanted a Diet Coke and I had one. It tasted funny to me. Maybe I've lost my taste for it?

Last point of this long and rambling post! I have been eating generally very healthy food, but I do allow myself to have things that I love, just very sparingly. I only had maybe 1/4 of a jalapeno-cheddar scone and even less of the bits-and-bobs scone, but those little nibbles were sufficient. I don't need an entire honking scone, really. I eat chocolate, but only a piece- then I think about whether or not I actually want more. I have cheese (I made chicken cordon-bleu, minus the breading and butter, but with beautiful aged Cheddar) because I can't live without it.

Bringing lunch to work has helped tremendously, as have cheddar cheese crackers from Kashi. I am enjoying this newfound love of good food, and I hope that it persists, no matter how long it's been since I have gone through the Master Cleanse.

(These scones, when made as directed, are 324 calories each.)