Friday, June 15, 2012

Maple Drop Scones

This past Winter I made batch after batch of Maple Drop Scones, developing and perfecting the recipe for the Spring issue of the new Edible Green Mountains.  The scones are now a family favorite and I hope a favorite of many Vermonters who picked up the Spring Issue of Edible Green Mountains.  A friend who tried the recipe was impressed that she finally found a scone recipe she could make at home that produced a moist scone that did not fall apart.  They were created to celebrate the Spring crop of Vermont Maple Syrup, but they are perfect any time of the year.  I have grown to love them with rhubarb jam dolloped on the top but I also love them plain.

Scones have always been a breakfast favorite in my house, easy enough to bake even without having had any coffee yet. However these maple drop scones can even be made the night before, because the maple syrup helps them retain their tender crumb without drying out. I spent two weeks baking several variations of these scones before I found the balance I was looking for. By the final batch I began to fear my family would grow tired of them and refuse to eat them for months. After eating the last scone my 7 year old glared at the now empty baking tray, complaining that there were none left. It is rare to find any baked good that can be coveted by my picky children after eating it several times a day for two weeks!

The maple in these is admittedly subtle; however, none of my testers would allow me to think about adding more. “If you hadn’t told me these were maple scones, I would not have known what the amazing flavor came from. Don’t change a thing, though; they are perfect. I don’t usually think of food as making me happy, but eating this is making me happy.” I think the scones are a balance between sweet and rich with a slight nutty flavor from the wheat and an elusive taste from the maple syrup. Every person I have shared them with has loved them, never noticing the whole wheat flour. A first grader, who was not my child, took a bite and stopped running, looking down at the scone in his hand with a look of surprise. “Whoa! This is so good.” I have to remember to give food to other people’s children more frequently. Although my kids did each give me 20 digits up (yes, I scored fingers and toes), there wasn’t the same level of surprise and awe.

Maple Drop Scones

When I make these scones I use a measured scoop to portion the dough. Measured scoops look like ice cream scoops and are available in a range of sizes at kitchen supply stores. I always hated the fiddly task of scooping dough with one spoon and then using a second spoon to scrape it out. The end result is never even and places sticky dough all over me and my kitchen. With these, I just scoop, and then squeeze the trigger to release the dough. If you don’t have a scoop, you can always use a small measuring cup and a spoon to measure the dough.

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat
1 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 cup cold, unsalted, butter cut into chunks or tablespoons
1 egg
1/4 cup grade B maple syrup
1 1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 375° (or 325° if using convection)

Pulse the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor to mix. Add the cold butter and pulse the food processor until the mixture is broken into course crumbs with no large pieces of butter. Add the heavy cream, maple syrup and egg to the dry ingredients and pulse again until the dough is mixed and comes together. Use a light hand when mixing the wet ingredients in; if you mix the dough too much, the scones will be tough.

Scones can also be made by hand: Mix the dry ingredients well in a large bowl before adding the cold butter cut into chunks. Use a pastry blender, 2 knives, or your hands to mix the butter into the dry ingredients until it is broken up into coarse crumbs with no large pieces left. Beat the egg lightly and add it with the maple syrup and heavy cream, mixing thoroughly but gently. Be careful not to mix the dough anymore than what is necessary to combine everything evenly. Extra mixing will lead to tough scones.

Scoop out the dough onto two half sheet pans, using a commercial scooper, leaving 1 ½ inches between scones. Use anywhere from a #16 (5 ½ tablespoons) to #30 (2 ½ tablespoons) scooper. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes depending on size, or until some of the scones are toasty brown around the edge.

Note: If you want a more obvious maple flavor, replace the sugar with ¼ cup maple syrup, and reduce the amount of heavy cream by 2 tablespoons. That being said, I suggest you try them as is first.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Strawberry Freezer Jam Workshop!

This Wednesday, June 13th, from 7 to 8 pm I will be teaching a workshop at Buttered Noodles on making strawberry freezer jam.  Freezer jam is a great way to capture the brief Vermont strawberry season for the rest of the year.  Strawberries are the only fruit I don't preserve in a traditional jam because I prefer the uncooked strawberry flavor.  Plus this jam is such a staple in my house and the season is so brief I am not sure I could make enough cooked jam to last more then 2 months.

After the workshop all participants are welcome to shop with a 10% discount (very few items are excluded from the discount).

Buttered Noodles
64 Harvest Lane
Williston, VT 05495
(802) 764-1810

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Creme Fraiche Rhubarb Pound Cake

The end of the school year is approaching and with it comes talk of summer plans,  classroom assessments, field trips, crazy hair day, school dances, the end of homework, and playing with rhubarb in the kitchen.  I have already created a rhubarb jam that is now my favorite topping for french toast, waffles, toast, ice cream and anything else I can think of.  So now I have been experimenting with rhubarb pound cake, playing with different flours and spices to balance the tart rhubarb.

This morning we had my most recent attempt for breakfast and at first both of my boys complained.  "It's not sweet enough.  Why is there no lemon in this.  You should have made the other one."  Once they were done complaining they both happily asked for seconds.  Personally this version is my favorite, the flavor is rich from creme fraiche and barley flour with juicy interruptions from chunks of rhubarb. The barley in the batter not only adds flavor but it also makes the crumb fine and light.  Plus, the lack of sweetness my boys complained about at first make this cake a perfect breakfast treat.

The crumb is so light the cake needs to cool completely in the pans before slicing or removing.  A fact I discovered when I tried to put one cake on a cooling rack, as you can see in the photo above.  Part of the lightness and fragility is from the barley flour, which contains very little any gluten and so does not have the structure of whole wheat flour.  With half barley flour you don't have to be so nervous about gluten formation when mixing, it would still be possible to toughen the cake with over mixing but it might take a little work. The barley also has a sweetness and rich flavor that pairs really well with the rhubarb.

Creme Fraiche Rhubarb Pound Cake
6 Tbsp butter, plus more for greasing the pan
1 cup barley flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground cardamom
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1 egg
2 cups chopped rhubarb

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Generously butter a 1.5 qt loaf pan.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and set aside while you prep the other ingredients.  Mix the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cardamom in a large bowl and set aside.

Add the milk to a clear 2 cup measuring cup and add the creme fraiche until the total volume of the milk and creme fraiche is 1 1/4 cups (3/4 cups milk plus 1/2 cup creme fraiche is 1 1/4 cups).  Add the eggs to the measuring cup and whisk the liquid ingredients well (I place the whisk in the measuring cup and spin the handle between my hands).

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir a few times with the whisk before adding the butter and mixing until everything is fully incorporated.  Add the rhubarb and fold in well with a spatula, making sure to fold all the way down to the bottom of the bowl.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake in the center of the oven until a cake tester or sharp knife when inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes in my oven.  Allow to cool completely in the pan before serving or taking out of the pan.