Monday, October 4, 2010

Scones ~ Barefoot Contessa Style

Monday, Monday, Monday~ You get the point! You'll cheer up as soon as you try this recipe for scones. Before I give you the recipe, I'll give you a bit of history, because it's a very old bread traditionally connected to the British Isles--Scotland, England, and Ireland. No one knows exactly where the name originated, but a Scottish poet was the first to mention them in print. Scones are also related to an ancient Welsh tradition of cooking small, round yeast cakes on bakestones, and later on griddles.

There is a Scottish claim that scones are named for the Stone (scone) of Destiny, a stone upon which Scottish kings once sat after they were crowned. The Abbey of Scone can still be found upriver from Perth, Scotland. The Oxford English Dictionary chooses to favor the connections with the Dutch "schoonbrot" meaning fine white bread, and the closely-related German "sconbrot" meaning fine or beautiful bread.

Originally, scones were made with oats, shaped into a large round dough, and scored into four to six triangles, then baked on a griddle over an open fire. With ovens, the wedges are separated. Today scones are quick breads much like biscuits. And they may be wedges, or round, or square or even triangles. And recipes vary because of the use of different flours, fats, liquids and ingredients, such as, dried fruits or nuts.

You can pronounce scone like Scotland and Northern England: skahn...rhymes with gone. Or as the U.S. and Canada do: skoan...rhymes with own.
Ina Garten perfected her recipes for scones in The Barefoot Contessa, her specialty food store in the Hamptons. This is her recipe for a scone with cheese and dill. There is one for a strawberry scone and a maple-oatmeal scone, which I may share later. They all sound delicious and so easy. In England, they serve scones at high tea with clotted cream and jam. Wouldn't that be a pleasure!?  

Cheddar-dill Scones
Makes 16 large scones

4     cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2     tablespoons baking powder
2     teaspoons salt
3/4  pound cold unsalted butter, diced
4     extra-large eggs, beaten slightly
1     cup cold heavy cream
1/2  pound extra-sharp yellow cheddar cheese, small-diced
1     cup minced fresh dill
1     egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water or milk, for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine 4 cups of flour, the baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is in peas-sized pieces. Mix the eggs and heavy cream and quickly add them to the flour-and-butter ixture. Combine until just blended. Toss together the cheddar, dill, and 1 tablespoon of flour and add them to the dough. Mix until they are almost incorporated.

Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead it for 1 minute, until the cheddar and dill are well distributed. Roll the dough 3/4-inch thick. Cut into 4-inch squares and then in half diagonally to make triangles. Brush the tops with egg wash. Bake on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for 20-25 minutes, until the outside is crusty and the inside is fully baked.

Ina says that white cheddar is usually sharper, but yellow cheddar looks better in the scones. It gives a beautiful golden glow to them. Ina also says to be sure that the dill is free of all sand before you add it. So even if it's MONDAY, you can lift your soul with thanksgiving for all our great food and especially for these beautiful, tasty scones!


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