Friday, October 15, 2010

Lemony Thumbprint Scones

I don't always like Bon Appetit magazine - the recipes tend to be over-inflated with too many steps, ingredients that aren't easy to track down (at least in North Yorkshire, England), and (strangely) weird short-cuts like using pre-packaged or processed foods. It's like their test kitchen doesn't exist on a normal plane of existence - or their editor takes naps at inappropriate times.


The recipe for Double-Lemon Thumbprint Scones in the September 2010 issue is actually pretty wonderful - with the small exception that you really don't need to grate THREE large lemons to get 6 teaspoons of zest. Also: you don't need to cut the scones so big. If you want to reduce the calorie count to something a little more manageable, use a 1 1/2 inch diameter cookie cutter instead of the recommended 2 1/2 inch cutter - or do what I did and use an empty little can from a fruit cup, with the bottom cut out*. As the recipe helpfully suggests, the trick with scones is to mess with them as little as humanly possible. Mix the ingredients just enough to combine; knead just enough to bring the dough together; and pat or roll the dough just enough to get it flat enough to cut into circles. The resulting scone is so light, so fluffy, so melt-in-your-mouth delicious that you'll have trouble not eating the whole pan yourself.

I was lucky enough to have a jar of home-made rhubarb-strawberry jam from Alaska, but if you're not blessed with friends who grow or catch things, squish them into jars, and send them thousands of miles to you in a package along with a pretty card, you can use whatever sorts of preserves you have abandoned in the back of your fridge or cupboard. The husbandface suggested using poppy seed paste next time. Hrm. I think he's just angling for me to make these again...

I added a couple of ingredients, but you can stick with the original five-ingredient recipe if you don't feel like rummaging through the cabinets or trekking to the store.

2 or 3 large lemons
2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons chilled heavy whipping cream (double cream in the UK)
1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1 teaspoon orange flower essence (optional)
2 tablespoons (about) cherry, raspberry, or strawberry preserves

  • Preheat oven to 425F.
  • Line large heavy-duty baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Finely grate enough peel from lemons to measure 6 teaspoons. Squeeze enough juice from 1 lemon to measure 1 tablespoon (do something creative and interesting with the other denuded lemons).
  • Whisk flour and 1/2 cup sugar in medium bowl to blend. Add 1 1/4 cups chilled whipping cream, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon almond extract and 1 teaspoon orange flower essence (if using), plus 4 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel. Stir gently to combine all ingredients.
  • Gather dough together and turn out onto lightly floured work surface (this will be a little tricky, as it really doesn't stick together very well. If the ingredients are totally not coming together, add a little ice water, just a wee bit at a time (like, maybe a teaspoon) until you can form a very loose, scrappy dough.
  • Knead briefly - 4 to 5 turns only. Pat or roll out dough to 1 inch thick round (if you're going to cut smaller scones, pat out a little thinner - like, 3/4 inch or so) and cut out rounds using a 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 inch diameter cookie cutter or biscuit cutter dipped in flour. Re-roll dough scraps gently and cut out as many scones as you can get out of what's left. 
  • Transfer all your little dough rounds to that baking sheet, spacing about 1 inch apart. Now for the fun bit (this would be good to do with kids): using your thumb or the back of a melon-baller, push down center of each scone to make a deep indentation. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon preserves into indentation of each scone.
  • Whisk remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream, and 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel in small bowl to blend. Brush top of scones generously with lemon glaze. Bake scones until golden and a toothpick poked into one comes out clean - about 18 to 20 minutes.
  • Transfer thumbprint scones to rack and cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature (if they last that long).
*Cutting the bottom of your impromptu cookie cutter out (as well as the top) stops suction from forming from the trapped air and makes it easier to pop your little dough rounds out. Make sure you use a can opener that leaves smooth edges, or be very careful with any sharp edges created. This is kind of a one-use trick, as cans can and will rust if you're not really careful when you dry them, and Whiff of Rust is not really a flavor you should strive for.

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