May 13, 2011

On the topic of scones

My mother used to make whole wheat scones when my brothers and I were quite young. I especially remember the brown sugar topping crusting the surface, a sweet counterpoint to the nutty wholesome goodness of wheat flour. I've always had a fondness for whole wheat breads, as my siblings and I were raised on it. Wheat imparts a lot of flavor and, although I know some people don't care for it, either the taste or texture, I miss it after occasional bouts of white bread only sprees.

As for those wheat scones, I don't know what ever happened to the recipe. I've been on a search for the same or at least something similar on and off in the last few years but have never been able to make anything like them, as far as my memory serves me. Nothing has quite captured the essence of those scones. My mom doesn't even recall the recipe nor can she find it. As far as we know, it's long lost and mostly forgotten. I doubt if my brothers even remember eating them. We all have a nostalgia for certain foods, often from childhood it seems, and those scones are fondly remembered, by me and only me, apparently.

In the meantime, I have found a different type of wheat scone that is good enough to merit an addition to my recipe files. It's not a replacement for the scones of my single digit years, because I'd still like to find that one somehow, but it's a good one all the same, lighter in texture, and with dried cranberries (or whatever type of dried fruit you prefer). I'm partial to dried cranberries in my scones. I like their tartness.

These scones are not a hundred percent whole wheat, but there is enough whole wheat pastry flour in them to give the same wheaty flavor and texture I crave and enough white flour to balance it all out and prevent the scones from becoming leaden weights. I would imagine that's the source of the aversion to all things labeled "whole wheat" for some. If not handled well, whole wheat can indeed become dense and unpleasant in breads and pastry.

A bit more dry and less rich than the cream scones I've previously posted, these ones are only barely sweet and seem more like breakfast scones and less like dessert scones. Don't be fooled by that, though. Butter and cream are still put to good use here, just in smaller amounts. Feel free to use half-and-half, if you're not so into the heavy cream.

Whole Wheat Scones
Adapted from Orangette

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
6 Tbsp (½ stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
½ cup dried cranberries or other dried fruit
½ cup heavy cream, plus extra
1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 425° F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together both flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and blend with a pastry blender (or two knifes) until the mixture resembles a coarse meal with pea-sized lumps. Stir in the dried cranberries.

Pour the cream into a measuring cup, add the egg, and beat with a fork to mix well. Pour into the flour mixture, and stir with the fork to just combine. The dough will look shaggy and rough, and there may be some unincorporated flour at the bottom of the bowl. Using your hands, gently press and shape the dough, so that it holds together in a messy clump. Turn the dough and any excess flour out onto a lightly floured surface, and press and gather and knead it a few times until it just comes together. As soon as the dough holds together, pat it into a rough circle about 1 ½ inches thick. Cut into 8 wedges.

Place the wedges on the prepared baking sheet. Pour a tablespoon or two of cream into a small bowl, and, using a pastry brush, brush the tops of the scones with a thin coat of cream. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until pale golden. Transfer scones to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm.

Makes 8 small scones

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