Saturday, November 5, 2011

Pumpkin Scones

My sister and niece recently visited and shortly after their arrival they said 'we want to make scones.'  My sister is an accomplished biscotti baker, and well known for her many excellent cookie recipes.  But she hadn't made scones and wanted to give them a try.  As such we began to research the subject, as scones had not been in my repertoire either. 

Brother and Sister in the Kitchen
A scone is a small Scottish quick bread which has become popular throughout the United Kingdom.  Here in the United States a variation has also become popular.  However, we learned that the two types of scones are somewhat different.

Scones are usually made of wheat, barley or oatmeal, with baking powder as a leavening agent.  The scone is a basic component of the cream tea or Devonshire tea in England, where the scone is just slightly sweet, most always round, and eaten with butter or clotted cream, and jam for flavor.  While these are delicious with your afternoon tea, they don't make for the on-the-go meal many Americans equate with breakfast, where scones are often purchased at the coffee shop on your way to work. Americans eat scones plain (no jam or butter) with a cup of morning coffee.  As such, the American 'scone' is larger, generally cut into a triangular shape (to differentiate it from a dinner biscuit) and has significantly more flavoring and sugar added. 

American vs. English Pumpkin Scones
As we had decided we wanted to make pumpkin scones, we tested classic English scone recipes as well as American recipes from highly regarded sources.  In the end, we came up with the following recipe of our own, borrowing from several sources both in ingredients as well as techniques.  Please note this recipe is for an American pumpkin scone.   This recipe will produce a flavorful, pumpkin scone suitable for your morning breakfast without the need for any additional toppings.  However, you must follow the directions precisely.  Using a food processor to mix the ingredients or using traditional American butter will produce significant substandard results. 

Advance Preparation Note:  Purchase European cultured butter with 12 grams of fat in an 8 ounce package.  You are looking for approximately 84% butter fat in the butter.  Freeze 4 ounces of the butter at least 24 hours before grating.  Grate the butter using a food processor (use the large shredding disc;  will look like shredded cheese when complete.  If you do not have a food processor, use large whole of a box grater working very quickly.)  Place grated butter in container and return to freezer for at least 2 hours.

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

8 tablespoons (4 oz) unsalted butter
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans nuts (optional)
1/2 raisins (optional)

1/8 cup flour (for use on the work surface)
1/8 cup sugar (for use on the work surface)

2 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup sanding sugar
Preheat oven to 425.  Line a baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients.  Add the grated frozen butter. Quickly toss to coat.  Using a pastry cutter, quickly cut in the butter.  Add the pumpkin (and the optional chopped nuts and raisins).  Fold in (using a classic figure 8 pattern, do not stir) using a spatula being careful not to overwork the pastry to ensure the butter does not melt and remains intact.

Once the mixture is nearly combined, scrape the dough out onto a work surface sprinkled with a combination of flour and sugar.  Lightly knead (turning no more than 4-6 times) using additional sugar/flour as needed to keep from sticking.  Shape into a rough square of 3/4 inch thick.

Cut into smaller squares and then into triangles.  Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sanding sugar.  Place onto the baking sheet, so that they do not touch.

Bake for about 17 minutes or until they are no longer soft to the touch. They will be light brown on the bottoms and the tops.  Remove from oven.  Let cool on tray for 10 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack.   

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