Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Currant Scones or Fat Rascals

Plate with currant scone and condiments
Classic Scone with Jam & Clotted Cream

Recipe adapted from The Secret Garden Cookbook

As of January 6, the holiday season is concluded and we enter a more quiet and contemplative time of year. Looking back on the joy of the holidays and the blessings we’ve received during 2013 helps us pre-pave the way for a happy 2014. No need to remember what’s less than pleasant; it’s a brand new year now. Even tiny successes make rewarding recollections—like how I learned a secret to making scones on Christmas morning.

Closeup of Currant Scone
For Perfect Texture Don't Overwork Dough
This simple scone recipe doesn’t rely upon large amounts of butter and cream like richer, more modern cream scone recipes. Published in the delightful Secret Garden Cookbook, this recipe hails from the mid 1850s, when baking powder was first invented. It uses milk instead of cream, plus a moderate amount of butter. I’ve added a bit of extra baking powder and more currants. The Secret Garden Cookbook, written for both adults and children, is a favorite source for simple historical recipes.

Circle of Dough cut into 8 Wedges
Eight Scones in the Making
My scone-making secret? Don’t mix the dough thoroughly in the bowl. You’ll be mixing it with your hands, and some areas will feel wet and others dry and floury. All of this will be corrected on the kneading board. Use just a light dusting of flour on the board, and don’t over-knead. Gather the dry parts of the dough into the wet and push together gently, only about 4 times. If after 2 kneads the dough seems too crumbly to come together, add a teaspoon or so of extra milk to a dry area of the dough. Then sprinkle on any crumbly parts, fold over and knead together gently once or twice only. It’s okay if there are small floury areas. They will be incorporated as you form the dough into its final shape. See the Tips for Scone Success at the bottom of this post for more.

Four Currant Scones on Snowman Platter
Christmas Morning Leftovers for Later Reference
Although scones taste best fresh from the oven, they will maintain most of their yum factor for several days if thoroughly cooled before storing. After cooling, store them loosely wrapped to maintain the crispy outside/moist inside appeal. These make lovely not-too-sweet treats for elders who cannot get around easily during the winter months, whether delivered in person or by mail.  Happy 2014!

Single Scone on Silver Platter
Last Scone Saved for Hubby
Currant Scones AKA Fat Rascals
makes 8 scones

2 cups flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. cold unsalted butter
2/3 cup milk or half & half
¾ - l cup currants
1 – 2 tsp. flour for kneading
~1 tbsp. milk for glaze
1-2 tbsp. raw sugar for glaze
Jam, clotted cream, butter, etc. for serving

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with baking parchment.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in medium mixing bowl.

Be sure that butter is well-chilled. Cut into about ½ inch cubes. If they soften, chill in freezer for about 5 minutes. Add butter pieces to dry ingredients using a knife to separate and scrape them into the bowl. Mix together butter and dry ingredients with your fingers until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Don’t over-mix!

Pour milk over butter-flour mixture and let soak in, tossing dough lightly. Add currants. Gently mix dough together with hands, bringing dry parts into contact with wet parts and squeezing until most of the dough is moistened. Don’t over-mix; there will be wet and dry (crumbly) areas.

Lightly flour a kneading board. Turn dough onto board, scraping bits from inside of bowl with rubber spatula. Knead until it just comes together, 3 – 4 times total. If mixture looks too dry after 2 kneads, add a teaspoon of milk and proceed, bringing dry areas in contact with wet and pressing. It’s fine if there are dry spots after kneading.

Form dough into a ball. Pat into a circle about ½ - ¾ inch thick.  Cut into 8 wedges. Place wedges on parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet with a metal spatula.

Brush tops of scones with milk and sprinkle with raw or other coarse-grained sugar.

Bake until lightly browned, 8 – 12 minutes. Serve immediately or cool completely on cooling racks and store lightly covered.

It’s traditional to serve these with jam and clotted cream. Greek yogurt makes a reasonable substitute for the latter. Guests split their own and apply the condiments as they like. Lemon curd is another tradition, typically with plain scones. At my house butter and cinnamon-sugar are popular, if nontraditional, accompaniments.

Tips for Scone Success

Cut up Chunks of Butter
Cut Butter into Small Pieces and Chill

Hand Mixing Butter and Flour to Proper Consistency
Mix Flour & Butter to Only to Coarse Breadcrumb Texture
Crumbly Dough Turned out onto Kneading Board
Dough Before Kneading: Don't Mix Thoroughly in Bowl
Dough During Kneading, Splashed with milk
Knead Dough 4 Times Only, Splash with Milk if Needed
Completed Ball of Dough
Crumbly Dough is Fine, Don't Overwork It

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