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
1/4 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.