Like my sleuth, Tally Jones, I've always been a color-inside-the-lines kind of gal. In short, I'm an expert rule-follower. That translates well into baking. The recipe says "pulse six seconds," and I'm counting "one Mississippi, two Mississippi . . ." The recipe says "sift flour before measuring," and I'll dirty four bowls to properly measure that flour. I'm patient, if not always inspired, so my biscuits come out flaky and light every time. But I rarely let myself go nuts playing with flavors.
The one exception to the "follow the rules" rule of baking is, oddly, with scones. I love, love, love scones. I have two recipes that I adore. One is butter-based (it involves freezing the butter and then grating it on a box grater before mixing with the flour, so you get these wonderful pockets of air when the butter melts during baking -- oy). It's incredible, and produces heavenly scones, but it's labor (and butter) intensive. I've made this butter scone with blueberries and raspberries, but I haven't been brave enough to play with it much . . . if I tried a variation and it came out nasty, I would feel like I'd wasted a lot of effort for no reward.
The other base recipe, though, is a cream scone ... and it's so easy, I can't even tell you. Five ingredients. One bowl. Thirty minutes, tops ... and you have light, moist, delicious scones.
Once I found this recipe and made it, oh, six or seven times, I started playing with flavor combinations. Because the base recipe is so simple, the investment in experimentation is small. And, boy, have the results been wonderful. So here is the basic cream scone recipe, along with three of my favorite tweaks. Don't be afraid to try your own ... and be sure to share if you come up with a winner!
2 c. flour (all purpose)
1/4 c. sugar
1 Tbs. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 c. whipping cream
Preheat oven to 425.
Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add whipping cream and fold gently until dough forms. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead ever-so-gently until the doug holds together. Form dough into a 1/2 inch thick square. Quarter the square, and then slice each square diagonally, to make a total of 8 triangles.
Place triangles on baking sheet (lined with parchment paper or sil-pat, if you have it). Bake 15 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool before serving.
Lemon Scones: Add 1 large lemon to your shopping list. Add 1 Tbs. finely grated lemon zest to the dry ingredients before adding the cream. After the scones have cooled, mix enough fresh, strained lemon juice to 3/4 c. powdered sugar to create a fairly thin glaze. Using the tines of a fork, drizzle the glaze over the cooled scones.
Cherry - Chocolate Chip Scones: Add 3/4 c. chopped dried cherries and 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips to the dry ingredients. Add 1/2 tsp. almond extract to the cream. Proceed as directed.
Raspberry Scones: Add one cup frozen raspberries (do not thaw, but chop relatively small) to the flour mixture. Add 1 tsp. vanilla to the cream. Proceed as directed, sprinkling a single Tbs. of sugar over the scones before baking and increase baking time to 20 minutes. Note, that the dough will be cold and wet and will turn a little pink ... that's o.k. They're delicious.
Guess what? I got the cover for the third Mystery a la Mode, "A Parfait Murder," which is due out in June. Isn't it yummy?
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