Thursday, January 19, 2012

Buttermilk Scones with Golden Raisins & Candied Orange Peel

Buttermilk Scones with Golden Raisins & Candied Orange Peel

Scones.  That quintessential British teatime treat.  I’ve been itching to whip up a batch for a while now.  Actually, I’ve been in the mood to play with all sorts of English cookery, as of late.   All thanks to Downton Abbey, I’m sure.  Are you in the loop?  Do you know yet about this awesome show?  I hope so, because I’d hate to think of any of you missing out on such a joy of a good time.  For those of you not yet in the know, let me fill you in.  Downton Abbey is a Masterpiece Classics miniseries on PBS, a turn of the century drama centered around the sensationally entertaining lives of an aristocratic English family and their household staff.  I am thoroughly addicted, absolutely hooked.  So is Ben.  So are my parents, and my sisters, and their husbands too.  So is, I’m sure, just about everyone who’s ever watched even two minute’s worth.  I think maybe, it’s officially the best television show ever made. Officially. 

Golden Raisins & Candied Orange Peel

Now, don’t fret if you’re only just finding out about Downton.  Season one can be streamed on Netflix, or you can download it from Amazon too.   But you’ll want to get up to speed, and pretty quickly, because season two just started.  (It airs on Sunday nights.)  By the way, second season episodes are also available for streaming, on the show’s home page.  And it won’t take all that long, relatively speaking, to catch yourself up – Season one is about eight hours total.  Eight hours, that if you ask me, couldn’t be better spent.   Honestly everybody, if you haven’t been watching already, get to it!  You’re in for a real treat! (I am so excited for you!!) 

Mixing the dough

Fresh out of the oven

Now, where were we again?  Oh yes, scones!  Nearly as delicious as the show that inspired me to make them, these English-style biscuits are a real treat, no matter on what side of the big pond you happen to live.  A far cry from the dense, dry triangles so many of of us have come to expect from stateside scones,  this recipe yields pure scone perfection.  Crackly, golden brown, sugar-speckled tops.  And moist, tender, crumbly insides.  Heavily studded with sweet, chewy specks of golden raisin and candied orange.  The basic scone formula comes from the Tartine Cookbook, and it’s the recipe I always turn to for scones.  It’s just perfect, and I wouldn’t change a thing.  At least not when it comes to the actual dough.  One thing I do like to change is the bits and pieces of goodness that go in them.  This time:  Candied orange and golden raisins.  Next time, who knows… Raspberries?  Figs?  Chocolate chips?  They all sound good to me.  No matter what you choose to tuck inside, I guarantee these scones will be the perfect thing to nibble on, perhaps alongside a cup of tea, as you settle into a comfy chair and tune in to what will hopefully be your new favorite TV show too.  Enjoy! 

Scone Perfection

Buttermilk Scones
Adapted from Tartine Cookbook by Elisabeth M. Prueitt & Chad Robertson
Makes 12 scones
Buttermilk Scone with Golden Raisins & Candied Orange Peel 
This recipe will give you some lovely scones speckled with sweet golden bits of raisin and candied orange peel.  If you’d like to make you’re own candied orange peel, you’ll find the recipe here.  If you’re not in the mood for this rather extensive extra step (and who could blame you for that?), there are all sorts of filling substitutions you could make, limited only by your imagination.  Any sort of dried fruit – currents, blueberries, cherries, apples, figs, dates, prunes - chopped up a bit, would fit in easily.  Just sub in 3/4-cup of whatever strikes your fancy, and leave out the raisins & orange.  Fresh berries too, can be wonderful.  To accomplish this, start with about 1 cup of berries.  Leave small berries like blueberries or raspberries whole, but coarsely chop larger fruits like strawberries.  Then freeze the whole or chopped berries in a single layer on a small baking sheet.  You can add them to the dough after adding the buttermilk.   Be careful all the while, not to mash the berries , or you’ll dye the dough with their juices. 
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup candied orange peel, chopped
4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 sticks plus 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, very cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated
For the topping:
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
large crystal sugar or granulated sugar, for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle position.  Generously butter a baking sheet, and set aside. 
In a small mixing bowl, cover the raisins with hot water, and set aside for about 15 minutes, until they are plump and tender.  Then drain well. 
Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda into a large mixing bowl (if mixing by hand), or the bowl of an electric stand mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment).  Add the sugar ad salt and stir well to combine with a wooden spoon.  Scatter the cold cubes of butter over the flour mixture.  If mixing by hand, use a pastry blender or 2 table knives to cut the butter into the flour mixture. Otherwise, pulse the electric mixer on and off a few times, until you have a coarse mixture with pea-sized lumps of butter still visible.  You don’t want to break down the butter too much. 
Add the buttermilk, lemon zest, drained raisins and candied orange peel.  Mix gently with a wooden spoon, or with the mixer set to low, mixing just until the dough holds together.  You still want to see bits and pieces of butter here and there, which will add to the flakiness. 
Lightly dust a work surface with flour, and turn the dough onto it.  Pat the dough into a rectangle about 18-inches long, 5-inches wide and 1 1/2-inches thick.  Brush the top with melted butter, then sprinkle with the sugar.  Slice the dough into 12 triangles.  Transfer the triangles to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1-inch apart. 
Bake the scones until the tops are lightly browned, about 30 to 35 minutes.  These are sensational right out of the oven, but can be served warm or at room temperature. 

Crumbs & Clementine

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