June 07, 2013

Beautiful unpredictability

You don’t even really need me for this one—the photograph says it all. Deep pockets of roasted fruit; crispy-brown pastry edges; a thin, crackling crust of turbinado sugar.

That’s really most it.

What you can’t see: that this was my very first scone endeavor; that it was inspired by this book by Molly Wizenberg, and the recipe for Scottish Scones with Lemon and Ginger that can be found on page 174; that I made them in preparation for a visitor from afar; that they filled the whole house with the most incredible, subtle aroma of oranges and blackberries; that, as they baked, the half-and-half glaze and the generous sprinkling of turbinado sugar oozed and carmelized, releasing an intoxicating nutty scent into the air.

That’s the rest of it.

I’m going through a lot of changes in my life, as I have been for the past year or more. But what remains consistent is the beauty of the baked thing. It’s very simple, really. Sometimes, I feel like it hardly needs me at all. My efforts, yes, they are important, but it’s the alchemy of the process that I am most drawn to—it takes over, it is enchanting; it is, really, in so many ways, outside of my control. There’s a subtle comfort in that; a beautiful unpredictability.

For this recipe, I made a number of modifications. I loved the sound of lemon and ginger scones, but I eat something like this very regularly from a café near work—I eat one of those ginger scones maybe weekly, even. They are delicious—spicy and warming. But now, they also remind me of my workweek.

In the original recipe, Molly notes that you can try these with berries in place of the crystallized ginger and lemon zest. She describes “jammy pockets of soft fruit.” That was all I needed to hear.

And she was right.

My enormous blackberries yielded to soft, warm, jam-like fruit that oozed ecstatically into the scone’s tender crumb. It sounds over the top, I know. But trust me, those berries were ecstatic.

These are excellent warm, straight out of the oven. Be sure to slather them with butter, too.

P.S. Something fun: A photograph of these scones was featured on Food52’s Instagram feed. You can see it here. Also, follow me on my own Instagram feed, if you would like. It’s always lovely to have you.

Scones with Blackberries and Orange Zest
Adapted from Orangette’s A Homemade Life

Notes: I used frozen blackberries for this recipe because I couldn’t find perfect, fresh organic berries on the day that I wanted to bake these. Sacrilege in prime berry season, it’s true. But they worked wonderfully. I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t use fresh, and that’s what I would have done had I found the right berries. If you do use fresh, you will likely have to reduce the baking time, as I’m sure my scones took longer in the oven because the frozen berries cooled everything down. Start checking them at 14 minutes, which is what Molly advises. They may take up to 24 minutes to achieve golden-brown perfection. It’s worth the wait.

2 cups flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold butter (unsalted)
3 tablespoons, plus 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
Zest from one small orange
1/2 cup half-and-half, plus extra for the glaze
1 egg
2 handfuls of blackberries (you don’t need to be exact here)
A couple tablespoons turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 425, and prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium to large bowl. Massage the butter into the dry ingredients using your hands, until the whole thing forms a coarse meal. The original recipe advises that there should be “no butter lumps bigger than a pea,” but also, there should still be many “pea-sized” lumps scattered throughout—this helps with the flakiness of the finished scone. Add the orange zest and sugar and stir gently to combine.

Beat the egg with the 1/2 cup of half-and-half in a small bowl, and add it to the dry ingredients, stirring gently until just combined. Use your hands to form the dough into a mass, and then turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface.

Add the berries on top, and then turn the dough over once or twice very gently. If the dough is not holding together, knead it a bit more, being careful not to disturb the berries too much. Form the dough into a rough circle about 1 inch thick. Add more berries by pressing them directly into the dough, if desired (you can get a sense of how many berries there should be in proportion to dough by looking at the images of the unbaked scones above).

Slice the circle into eight parts with a sharp, serrated knife, and transfer them to the parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the tops with half-and-half and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

Bake for 20-24 minutes, or until the scones are nicely browned and the berries are oozing in places.

Serve warm, with butter.

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