Friday, March 20, 2015

Scones and Lemon Curd

I take great exception to the huge pastries that are ubiquitous in every American bakery and supermarket that they call “scones.”  Sweet and filled with all kinds of fruit from cranberries to apricots and the size of a doughnut, these pastries, while some may like them, are not scones.  Indeed they defy the entire spirit and quiet beauty of a scone.  First, a scone should be eaten hot from the oven.  Cold, they lose half of their appeal. Second, the scones should have very little flavoring, just a small smattering of sugar, and perhaps a bit of lemon zest or a small amount of currants, if you must.  Then, scones should be eaten with strawberry jam or lemon curd (or both!), and either whipped cream or clotted cream.  The contrast between the warm, flakey, buttery biscuit and the sweet jam mixing with the richness of the cream is sublime.  Don’t settle for less.  Make these and understand why scones are so beloved.  You will never eat a grocery store scone again.

Cream Scones

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons of COLD butter (60 grams)
1/2 cup cream
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 425F (220C).  

With a food processor:
 In a food processor, pour in the dry ingredients.  Pulse for a few seconds to combine.  Add the butter and pulse for about 20 to 30 seconds until the mixture resembles cornmeal.

By hand:

In a large bowl, pour in the dry ingredients.  Add the butter and cut it with a knife or pastry cutter until it is in small pieces.  You can also take your fingers and smoosh the butter and flour between your fingers.  You want the butter to be in tiny pieces, so don't overwork it.

Measure out the cream in a masuring cup.  Add the eggs into the cup and beat well with a fork to combine.  Pour the cream mixture into the food
processor and pulse until the mixture is nicely combined but do not mix more than necessary.  If mixing by hand, pour the cream and egg mixture into the bowl and use a fork to mix into the dry ingredients.  Stir until the mixture comes together and starts to form a ball.

Turn out the dough onto a floured board.  The mixture will be sticky and fairly loose.  Dust your hands with plenty of flour and knead the dough for 30 seconds or so.  Roll or pat the dough out with your hands to about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick.  Cut into wedges, diamonds, or squares.   You can cut circles out, also, but the more you re-knead the dough, the less flakey the scones will be.  Place on a buttered baking sheet.  Bake until puffed and golden brown.

For small scones, about 24, bake 8 to 10 minutes.
For medium sized scones, about 12, bake about 15 minutes.

Serve hot with jam or lemon curd and whipped cream or clotted cream.

Lemon Curd

Makes about 2 cups (500ml)

4 large lemons, zest and juice (about 1 1/3 cups/250 ml)
150 grams butter
200 to 250 grams sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 eggs plus 2 yolks

Zest the lemons into a large heat-proof boil that you can put over a pan of boiling water.  Juice the lemons and pour into the bowl. Add the sugar, cornstarch, and butter.  You can adjust the sugar more or less, depending on how sweet you would like your curd and how much juice your lemons give. Heat some water in the pan to boiling, making sure that the water is below the level of the bowl. When the water is boiling, put the bowl on top of the pot and stir or whisk until all the ingredients are incorporated.  For the next 5 minutes, stir occassionally, keeping a close eye on the bowl.  For the next 5 to 10 minutes, stir constantly until the mixture starts to thicken. Do not despair if nothing appears to be happening, it will thicken when it gets to about 170 F degrees, just under boiling temperature, and how long this takes depends on the heat of your stove and the size of your pot.

Once you feel the mixture thicken, it should start to feel heavier on your spoon or whisk.  Continue stirring for another two minutes, but do not let the mixture come to a boil or it will curdle. The mixture should be able to coat the back of a spoon, but will still be runny.  It will thicken a bit more as it cools.  Pour the curd into very clean jars and refrigerate.  It will keep a week or two, more if you steralize the jars and seal them.

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