Cream Scones, 1 2 3

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We are about to conduct an experiment. For this experiment you will need a person; the person should be a person who: (1) loves scones; (2) is a self-professed non-cook. The purpose of this experiment is to prove that a self-professed non-cook who loves scones can whip up a batch of cream scones so quickly, so easily, that they will: (1) no longer consider themselves a non-cook; and (2) eat scones to their heart’s content.

Don’t believe me? I can get them there in three steps, using a Molly O’Neill recipe from The New York Times (courtesy of Amanda Hesser.) Are you ready? Here we go.

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A Muffin with a Cupcake Complex: Pumpkin Muffins with Molasses-Ginger Glaze

I scan recipes in magazines the same way I scan menus at restaurants: I’m looking for something bizarre, something new, something I’ve never before experienced. Sometimes the results are icky (see squash-sausage soup below), and sometimes they’re delightful. Case in point: pumpkin molasses ginger muffins.

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What might pumpkin, crystallized ginger and molasses taste like in a muffin? That’s the question that sends me out to the grocery store late at night, on a quest for ingredients; it’s what causes me to spend the time it takes to prep the muffin tins, to prepare the ingredients, to mix it all together and to clean it when it’s over. I am a man on a mission: a mission for unexpected flavors combos; the genesis of something new on the tongue. I am also on a mission to make you click to read more. You know you love it!

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Everybody Ought To Have A Scone

If there was a betting pool and the bet was: “Is Adam pregnant?” you may do well to put aside preconceived notions about gender and childbirth and take seriously the following fact. I have strange cravings for scones in the middle of the night. Not only do I have these cravings, I listen to them and answer them by making scones very very late at night. Biology be damned—either I’m pregnant or I really really like scones. Or maybe both?

This scone recipe comes from (where else?) The Barefoot Contessa cookbook. These are the lightest scones I’ve ever had. Light as a feather and stiff as a board. You can throw them together really quickly. [Here’s the finished product photo, to get you excited.]

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The recipe calls for dried strawberries but I subbed raisins and that was fine. Here’s what you’ll need: (I halved the recipe, but here’s the full recipe in case you’re really really REALLY pregnant). Makes 14 to 16 large scones.

4 cups plus 1 Tbs all-purpose flour

2 Tbs sugar, plus additional for sprinkling

2 Tbs baking powder

2 tsps salt

3/4 lb cold unsalted butter, diced

4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup cold heavy cream

3/4 cup small-diced dried strawberries

1 egg beaten with 2 Tbs water or milk, for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 4 cups of flour, 2 Tbs sugar, baking powder, and salt. Blend in the cold butter at the lowest speed and mix until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Combine the eggs and heavy cream and quickly add them to the flour and butter mixture. Combine until just blended. Toss the strawberries with 1 Tbs of flour, and add them to the dough, and mix quickly. The dough may be a bit sticky.

Dump the dough out onto a well-floured surface and be sure it is well combined.

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Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough 3/4 inch thick. You should see lumps of butter in the dough. Cut into squares with a 4 inch plain or fluted cutter and then cut them in half diagonally to make triangles. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

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Brush the tops with egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the outsides are crisp and the insides are fully baked.

That’s it! I will say: (1) these are best right out of the oven, slathered with butter or–in my case–raspberry jam (confiture?) from Le Pain Quotidien; and (2) they were a tiny bit salty for my taste. So maybe less salt? But all in all, me and my baby are glad I made them. They really hit the spot.

Impulsive Late Night Biscuit Ecstasy

Say what you will about me—call me bitter, call me mean, call me sometime, won’t you?—there’s one thing you can’t say: that I’m not impulsive.

Take these biscuits for example.

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I had absolutely no reason to make them. I have bran muffins from the other night, remember? And I’m studying for the bar, remember? But I got bit by the biscuit bug and after reading a simple-enough sounding recipe in Cook’s Illustrated I vowed to whip up a batch at 11 and have them ready by 12.

Well my expectations were wildly surpassed: the biscuits were done at 11:40 and, more importantly, they were the best I’ve ever had. BETTER than the Silver Skillet’s which refused to share their recipe. Now I don’t need it.

Very quickly then I will share the recipe with you since I think you should make them too. The only strange ingredient you’ll need is buttermilk. I say strange because you’re not likely to have it in your fridge, but not strange in that you can’t run out and get it anywhere. And it adds a lot to the finished product.

Here is our ingredients list:

Dough:

2 cups (10 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 Tbs double-acting baking powder

1 Tbs sugar

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

4 Tbs cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

1.5 cups cold buttermilk, preferably low fat

To form and finish biscuits:

1 cup (5 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour, distributed in rimmed baking sheet

2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted

Now for the recipe. I’ll interspirce the steps with pictures from the process:

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 500 degrees. Spray 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Generously spray inside and outside of 1/4 cup dry measure with nonstick cooking spray.

2. FOR THE DOUGH: In food processor, pulse flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda to combine, about six 1-second pulses. Scatter butter cubes evenly over dry ingredients;

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pulse until mixture resembles pebbly, coarse cornmeal, eight to ten 1-second pulses. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Add buttermilk to dry ingredients

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and stir with rubber spatula until just incorporated (dough will be very wet and slightly lumpy).

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3. TO FORM AND BAKE BISCUITS: Using 1/4 cup dry measure and working quickly, scoop level amount of dough; drop dough from measuring cup into flour on baking sheet (if dough sticks to cup, use small spoon to pull it free). Repeat with remaining dough, forming 12 evenly sized mounds.

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Dust tops of each piece of dough with flour from baking sheet. With floured hands, gently pick up piece of dough and coat with flour; gently shape dough into rough ball, shake off excess flour, and place in prepared cake pan. Repeat with remaining dough, arranging 9 rounds around perimeter of cake pan and 3 in center. Brush rounds with hot melted butter, taking care not to flatten them.

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Bake 5 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 450 degrees; continue to bake until biscuits are deep golden brown, about 15 minutes longer.

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Cool in pan 2 minutes, then invert biscuits from pan onto clean kitchen towl;

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Turn biscuits right side up and break apart. Cool 5 minutes longer and serve.

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It’s times like these where those who insist on using prepared dough from a tube baffle me. This took me NO TIME and the results were, to quote Will Farrell as James Lipton: “Strumtrulescent.”

Seriously, these biscuits were light as a feather and tasty and buttery and perfect. As a bonus, I opened up my Nectarine-Apricot-Ginger jam and dammmmmmn girlfriend it tasted great. What a great combo. All on a whim. And what a whim it was.