Fall + A Perfect Scone
While growing up, my fall Sundays consisted of three activities: homework, Redskins football and raking. Though our yard is small, there are trees a-plenty and I relished the opportunity to create massive piles of crunchy leaves. The colors amazed me: burnt rust, fiery red, golden yellow, copper, a few splotches of still-emerald green. Every now and then, my family would load into the car and drive a few hours to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. There, a forest full of orange-plumed treetops made the entire mountainside appear aflame. It was a sight to behold, one that I greatly miss in the city.
But in a case of making the most of what’s available to me, I decided to take a stroll this morning on Riverside Drive. By Columbia, there are tree-lined streets, benches, green areas and parks along the Hudson, perfect for a breath of fresh air, a jog (I’ll let you guess how often I actually run here … ) or a mind-clearing walk. While the trees hadn’t quite reached their peak yet (I blame the weirdly warm weather), I did get my leaf-peeping fill. And to top it off, when I came home I made scones.
(Okay, so maybe the real reason for my walk was to break in my new boots … )
Keith and I bought a quart of buttermilk to make dip a few weeks ago. We didn’t want to buy a whole quart, but had no choice, as Whole Foods doesn’t sell it anything smaller. After using a little to make the dip, I used a little bit more to make vanilla orange buttermilk cake. And to use up more, I made buttermilk scones, using an old recipe I found on Food Network.
These were so easy, made with ingredients I already had on hand.* I wanted to try the base recipe first, without any additions, to see if I liked the scone. Let me tell you: these were perfect. A crisp, slightly browned crust led way to a soft, crumbly interior that was slightly sweet — the perfect base for any kind of flavored scone you could imagine. I had my heart set on a pecan and maple-glazed version before discovering that pure syrup is exorbitantly priced at my grocery store. So now I’ve got orange cranberry, lemon strawberry, cinnamon chocolate chip, vanilla walnut and apple cinnamon brown sugar ideas floating in my head. If you swapped out the sugar for some salt, a cheddar and chive or jalapeño cheddar scone would probably be heavenly. I can’t wait to try them all.
For now, a plain one topped with cinnamon-y apple butter was the perfect bite of fall.
*And the best part about this recipe? You get to use your hands!
– 3 cups all-purpose flour
– 1/3 cup sugar
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
– 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
– 12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
– 1 cup buttermilk
1) Mix the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and soda in a large bowl. Add the butter and using your fingers, combine to make a coarse meal.
2) Add the buttermilk and mix just to combine. If you’re using zest, fruits, nuts, etc., add now. The dough will still be crumbly and will not come together.
3) On a lightly floured surface, bring together half of the dough and form into a disc. Using a rolling pin, shape the dough into a circle that is about 3/4 of an inch thick. Cut into 8 wedges. Repeat with the second half of the dough.
4) Place the scones on a baking sheet. Brush a little buttermilk (or heavy cream) onto each scone, then sprinkle with sugar. Turbinado (or Demerara) works great, if you have it.
5) Bake at 400˚F for 15-17 minutes, until the scones are lightly browned. Try not to eat them right off the baking sheet.
Note (from 10/28): I baked the scones and packed some in an airtight container. They’ve gotten soft over the past two days, which is easily remedied by sticking them in a toaster oven for a few minutes. But scones are great for flash freezing: once you’ve cut the dough into wedges and placed them on the baking sheet, stick them in the freezer for 30 minutes or so, until they’re hard. Then place them in a freezer bag, and whenever you want fresh scones, go straight from freezer to baking tray, with only an additional 3-5 minutes baking time!