Before I decided that I liked eating scones, I liked the word scone. I like how the sound pours out of your mouth long and low like a church bell. I also liked the idea of a scone, evoking cloth napkins and china tea cups. Although what was a beautiful, auditory sound for me was paired with a dry, sandy mouthful of lumpy bread. This was made worse one unfortunate weekday morning when, in a groggy, decaffeinated state, I convinced myself that it would be a good idea to get a scone at Starbucks. Still dry, lumpy bread but with too much sugar.
But still, I was not ready to give up on the romanticized vision of china teacups. And the word scone falling off the tongue easier than, let's say, pancake. Not that I have anything against pancakes. Particularly if they are made with buttermilk and plump with blueberries (Janice!). And I will say it, I didn't like pancakes until I had them made that way. Proving yet again that it isn't the food alone but the approach. Brunch, like all of life's simple pleasures, should be artful.
The first batch of scones I made were my best scones. Back in the fall, after a very ambitious day of apple picking that became the inspiration to many an apple laden recipe (see here), I made apple cheddar scones. These were adapted from a recipe in "Once Upon a Tart" by Frank Mentesana and Jerome Audureau. I came upon this lovely little cookbook quite by accident. Or rather I should say that my mother came across this book in the library she was working in. I came to learn that this little cafe is located on Sullivan St. in Manhattan and if you are in the neighborhood it is most certainly worth a visit.
Back to the scone recipe. My scone adventure began with a simple recipe for Cheddar-Parmesan Scones with Fresh Dill. I was first intrigued by how simple the recipe was. I didn't even have to take out my Kitchenaid mixer. How could it hurt? I swapped out the Parmesan, cayenne and dill for apples, being that I had about a bushel on hand anyway. The result was not dry, but a delicately balanced, sweet and savory, steamy cloud of bread that drank butter when you spread it on. I thought that perhaps it was the apples that balanced out the texture but I have since made a few versions without that were almost as soft. (The apples do help a little.) My most recent version of this scone was closest to the original. But the recipe is so adaptable that you can find any combination of sweet or savory additions to make this work. Something to remember is that if the flavor you are adding is moist by nature it adds to that fluffy, soft, texture in your scone. The book does have a variety of scone recipes, all were the ratios are different depending on the types of ingredients being used, and is worth checking out (for other things too). My sincere thanks Frank and Jerome!
Cheddar-Asiago Scones with Chives
(adapted from Once upon a Tart by Frank Mentesana and Jerome Audureau with Carolynn Carreno)
2 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick of butter, cut in 8 pieces
3 large eggs,
1/2 cup cold milk
2 tablespoons chopped chives
2 cups cheddar cheese
1/3 cup grated asiago
Position one of your oven racks in the center of your oven and preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Dump the dry ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and pulse so that they are mixed evenly. Add the butter run your food processor for 15 seconds. Continue to pulse if there are still chunks of butter. It should look a little like bread crumbs. Then dump the mixture into a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk the eggs o break the yolks. Whisk in milk followed but chives and cheeses. Then pour the wet ingredients in with the dry and stir with a wooden spoon. Note that it will seem very dry at first but it will come together. Once you have a dough- like consistency scoop up about a 1/2 cup of it in your hands and plop in on the parchment paper. They should be about 2 inches apart. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.