Sunday, February 7, 2010

to bake, perchance to sleep

On winter nights when I cannot sleep, I like to bake scones.

Nights when the wind is brutal and rattles my windows, when midnight has passed and the world is quiet, I turn on the oven and ready my mixing bowl.

Though I have declared myself to be on a quest for the perfect scone, I am in no hurry to find it. The pleasure of baking scones lies in the process, in playing with the recipe, and the motions soothe a restless mind.

Baking soda, baking powder, a mixture of both. Wet, sticky dough for dense, moist scones. Dry, butter-rich dough for light, crumbly scones. Rolled scones, stamped out using a small-mouthed jam jar. Wedge scones, from rounds of dough cut into sixths.

Scones with milk, with buttermilk, with light cream. Scones with yogurt, with sour cream. Even scones with fresh apple cider, in the absence of dairy.

New variations pique my interest. The latest: a scone with cream, not butter, studded with dried cherries, scented with orange zest and vanilla. Folding the gently whipped cream into flour is like working with a pillowy cloud. The dough is soft and airy, carefully shaped into rounds, cut into wedges with a table knife.

The scones bake at moderate heat until pale gold in color, set on a wire rack to cool. They fill the room with their warm aroma. In the morning, breakfast holds the promise of a soft, tender crumb, a sweetness punctuated by bursts of tart, bright fruit.

Restless thoughts quieted, I turn to bed. The scent of baking lingers, easing my dreams.

Cream Scones with Dried Cherries and Orange Zest

If you can't find dried cherries, this recipe also works with cranberries.

(Inspired by this recipe from Orangette. Makes one dozen.)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together three cups of flour, two teaspoons baking powder, one-third of a cup of white sugar, and a half-teaspoon of salt. Grate in the zest from one orange, and set aside.

In a second bowl, whip two cups of heavy cream with a half-teaspoon of vanilla essence until it just holds soft peaks. Fold in one cup of tart dried cherries.

Pour the cream into the flour mixture and fold gently with your hands until a soft dough forms. Don’t worry about getting it perfectly smooth – some crumbly bits are fine.

Divide the dough into two halves. Shape each half into a round, and cut each round into sixths. Place the wedges on the baking trays and put the trays in the oven.

Bake for fifteen minutes, then switch the position of the trays, and bake for another fifteen to twenty minutes, or until the scones are just starting to brown on top.

Transfer to a cooling rack. Serve with tea or coffee.

13 comments:

Virgin In The Volcano said...

These were so good. The texture was really fantastic, right up there with the best scones I've ever had in any country. I wanted them just a tad sweeter though, but solved that with jam. Guess I have an American sweet tooth to your foreign hybrid, huh? ;)

adele said...

Virgin - Tell you what. The next time I bake them, I'll do a few with sugar sprinkled on top.

Julia (alias Yulinka Cooks) said...

I have no trouble sleeping, but sometimes I do like having a little snack before bed to help me relax fall asleep... Usually milk and something doughy/chocolaty. Like a scone. Actually, this reminds me to make yogurt scones that I found on Chocolate and Zucchini a few years back. Not a perfect recipe, but it did have a nice tangy/sourdough flavor.

adele said...

Julia - Mmm, midnight snacks. :)

~~louise~~ said...

This read like an ode to the perfect scone. Just enough "sweetness" to usher me into a pleasant night of dreams. I'm on a crusade to find the perfect scone and perfect muffin to my liking. I will begin with yours as soon as I muster up the time. Thanks for sharing, Adele. Nighty night...

Lindsey@pickyeatings said...

I bake on the weekends to de-stress. But I have actually never made scones, my husband claims he doesn't like them, so I would end up eating all of them...

adele said...

Louise - I'm enjoying this variation. It has a lovely crumb. :)

Lindsey - If your husband has only experienced the dry, frosting-slathered horrors they sell at chain coffee shops, I wouldn't blame him. But I'd be impressed if he couldn't resist just a taste when they're still a little warm from the oven. :)

Cakelaw said...

One word - YUM!

adele said...

Cakelaw - I agree! :)

Anonymous said...

basilqueen.blogspot.com; You saved my day again.

adele said...

Anonymous - You're welcome?

librariane said...

You know, the process of making tea is also to be a calming ritual. How perfect that these things go together!

I'd make these now, but my hubby has lemon blueberry ones already on our schedule...

adele said...

librariane - Well, when the lemon blueberry scones have all been eaten... :)