Scones easy to conquer and delicious

The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionDecember 4, 2013 

Wet, sticky dough freaks me out. I get it on my hands, and I can't get it off. Do I wash, wipe, scrape or scream? It is this fear of buttery slodge, I believe, that has kept me from baking scones and biscuits.

My attitude changed recently when I tasted my neighbor Audrey Gatliff's adorable little pistachio-encrusted and strawberry-and-cream scones.

I thought: "If I could make scones this good, maybe I could conquer my fear of wet dough."

A super-talented, self-taught baker, Gatliff creates delicious cookies, candies, bars and other goodies and sells them under the name of Tiny Buffalo Baking Co. Over the holidays, she assembles gift boxes tucked with sea-salted caramels, cookies, granola and scones. Her dainty triangular scones are irresistible with a cup of tea or coffee, their diminutive stature a tribute to her belief that sweets can be delightfully indulgent but sensibly proportioned.

"Scones are easy to throw together and don't have to be large, crumbly and flavorless," Gatliff says, referring to the dry squares that give scones a bad name. With degrees in consumer foods and dietetics from the University of Georgia, this 28-year-old artisan baker has thought long and hard about her philosophy of "small but mighty."

A perfectionist with a quiet streak, she spends many hours tweaking her recipes and obsessing over flavor profiles. (Currently, she is on a quest for honey cinnamon and pear cardamom.) Gatliff's trick is cold dough made with cold butter: Every tray of scones is chilled in the freezer for 30 minutes before baking. (If you don't want to make a full batch, wrap the scones in plastic and leave them in the freezer until ready to bake.) Gatliff also suggests that you aren't overly kneady, which can result in a "tougher end product." Finally, she likes to add a glaze to moisten the scones and seal in freshness.

While many scone-ists like adding fruit, nuts, chocolate and other flavors to scones, one who does not is food writer Mark Bittman. His classic scones are proper English biscuits meant to be served with jam and clotted cream. The trick behind these light and ethereal scones is cake flour. Every time I do them, they bake like a dream. And because you mix them in a food processor and use just enough cream to form the dough into a ball, you won't find yourself floundering around the kitchen with buttery dough stuck between your fingers.

Recipe

This recipe is a great way to use two of Georgia's best fall crops, apples and pecans. That said, if you don't have pecans, consider walnuts.

Tiny Buffalo's apple-pecan-cinnamon scones

For the scones:

½ cup unsalted butter

2¾ cups all-purpose flour

1⁄3 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

1½ teaspoons cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¾ cup apple, chopped into ½ -inch pieces

½ cup chopped toasted pecans

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ to ½ cup heavy cream

For the glaze:

1½ cups confectioners' sugar

3 to 5 tablespoons water

¾ cup chopped toasted pecans

To make the scones: Line a large baking sheet with parchment.

Cut butter into small cubes and place in freezer for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger and ground nutmeg. Cut in butter, using a pastry blender, a fork or your fingers. Stir in chopped apple and pecans. In a small bowl, whisk eggs and vanilla extract, and gently stir into flour mixture. Add ¼ cup cream to form a dough that is just barely wet enough to stick together into a ball. Use more cream as needed to make the dough wet. Don't overmix.

Place the dough on a floured surface, and shape into an 8-inch-by-8-inch square about ¾-inch thick. Cut the square into four 4-inch-by-4-inch squares; you may use a pizza cutter to cut the squares. Take one of the squares, and slice it into four smaller squares; then slice each one into a triangle. Repeat with the remaining 4-inch-by-4-inch squares. You should have a total of 32 scones. (If you are having trouble visualizing this. Another method: Scoop up about ¼ of the dough with your hand, place on floured surface, shape into a 4-inch square and cut into eight triangles.) Place baking sheet in the freezer to chill for 30 minutes. Heat oven to 425 degrees. When scones have chilled, bake for 13 to 16 minutes, or until lightly browned on top. Cool on a wire rack.

To make the glaze: Place confectioners' sugar in a small bowl and add about 3 tablespoons water to thin; add more water until the sugar has formed a glaze. Spoon the glaze over the scones and top with chopped pecans. Let set for 2-3 minutes or until the glaze has set. Serve immediately. Makes: 32 scones.

Nutritional information per scone: 127 calories, 2 g. protein, 17 g. carbohydrates, 1 g. fiber, 6 g. fat, 24 mg. cholesterol, 101 mg. sodium.

Classic scones

2 cups cake flour, more as needed

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

3 tablespoons sugar, divided

5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces

1 egg

½ to ¾ cup heavy cream, more for brushing.

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Put the flour, salt, baking powder and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal.

Add the egg and just enough cream to form a slightly sticky dough. If it's too sticky, add a little flour, but very little; it should still stick a little to your hands.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead once or twice, then press it into a ¾-inch-thick circle and cut into 2-inch rounds with a biscuit cutter or glass. Put the rounds on an ungreased baking sheet. Gently reshape the leftover dough and cut again. Brush the top of each scone with a bit of cream and sprinkle with a little of the remaining sugar.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, or until the scones are a beautiful golden brown. Serve immediately. Makes 8-10 scones.

Adapted from a recipe in The New York Times by Mark Bittman.

Nutritional information per scone, based on 8: 240 calories, 3 g. protein, 27 g. carbohydrates, trace fiber, 14 g. fat, 66 mg. cholesterol, 343 mg. sodium.

These scones, from the kitchen of Atlanta actress Jill Jane Clements, are quick and easy to make. Instead of cranberries and orange, you might try dried apricots and lemon zest, or other flavor combinations of choice. For a moister scone, feel free to bump up the cream. If the dough gets too wet, just add more flour.

Jill Jane's lite cranberry and orange scones

2 cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup plus

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup dried cranberries

1 tablespoon plus

1 teaspoon orange zest

½ cup heavy whipping cream, plus more as needed to wet the dough

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Mix flour, ¼ cup sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Stir in cranberries and 1 tablespoon orange zest. Add whipping cream and stir until dough just forms, adding more cream as needed. Do not overmix, or the scones will be tough. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Form into a 10-inch round about ½ -inch thick. Cut dough into 12 wedges. (For larger scones, make an 8-inch round and cut into 8 wedges.) Transfer wedges to a baking sheet, spacing evenly.

Combine remaining 2 tablespoons sugar with remaining teaspoon orange zest peel in a small bowl. Brush scones with melted butter, then sprinkle tops with sugar mixture. Bake until light golden brown, about 13-15 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.

Nutritional information per scone: 153 calories, 2 g. protein, 23 g. carbohydrates, 1 g. fiber, 6 g. fat, 19 mg. cholesterol, 215 mg. sodium.

Audrey Gatliff, the baker-preneur behind Tiny Buffalo Baking Co., created this fall recipe. It's a good way to use up leftover fig preserves.

Tiny Buffalo's fig and mascarpone scones

For the scones:

½ cup unsalted butter

2¾ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

½ cup chopped dried figs

¼ to ½ cup heavy cream

2 large eggs

3 tablespoons mascarpone

2 tablespoons maple syrup

For the glaze:

¼ cup fig preserves or jam

2 to 3 tablespoons water

To make the scones: Line a large baking sheet with parchment.

Cut butter into small cubes and place in freezer for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter, using a pastry blender, a fork or your fingers. Stir in chopped figs.

In a small bowl, mix well ¼ cup of the cream, eggs, mascarpone and maple syrup. Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients, and mix until dough forms into a ball. If needed, add more cream, a tablespoon or two at a time, until the dough forms. Don't overmix.

Scoop dough onto baking sheet, using a No. 24 scoop (1½ ounces) or ¼-cup measuring cup. (No need to shape the dough into smooth balls; free-form dollops will create a rustic look.) Place baking sheet in freezer to chill for 30 minutes. Heat oven to 425 degrees.

When scones have chilled, bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until lightly browned on top. Cool on a wire rack.

To make the glaze: Place fig preserves in a small bowl and stir in water to thin. Heat microwave on high for about 1 minute, until quite warm. Stir again so that the mixture is smooth. (You also may make the glaze on the stove over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 3-5 minutes.) Drizzle the glaze over the scones, and allow to sit for about 5 minutes, or until the scones have absorbed the glaze. Serve immediately. Makes about 20 scones.

Nutritional information per scone: 163 calories, 3 g. protein, 23 g. carbohydrates, 1 g. fiber, 7 g. fat, 40 mg. cholesterol, 164 mg. sodium.

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