Friday, November 14, 2014

Cornmeal Herb Scones

Last Year's Post: Thai Lettuce Wraps
Two Years Ago:  Brandied Cranberries

Breakfast is one of my favorite meals, especially weekend breakfast - there's something luxurious about taking the time to have something special.  In a previous life, "something special" often involved large amounts of eggs, potatoes, and toast, or plates of pancakes or french toast that would make me feel like doing nothing more than laying on the couch for the rest of the day.  Ah, the good old days.  I still like a special weekend (or holiday!) breakfast, but I've learned to exercise a little restraint and these days it more often involves a bagel or pastry with a cup of really good coffee.  It's still a treat, it's just a smaller treat.

Hence the scones.  I've discovered that scones purchased in a bakery or restaurant can vary from cakey - much like a muffin - to hard and dry, so I've learned to rely on making them at home.  My ideal scone is tender and somewhat crumbly, but not cakey and not overly sweet.  I was attracted to this recipe because I like crunchiness of cornmeal and had never put it in scones before.  The original recipe called for a fingerprint of plum jam on top of each scone, which I swapped in favor of some minced herbs.  I expected the scone to be on the savory side, but was very surprised that it went incredibly well with raspberry jam - something about the herbs really complemented the flavor of the jam.  The scone itself is lightly crunchy from the cornmeal, yet not really what I would call overly savory or sweet - just right in the middle.  I was very pleased with the recipe.

The scones are very easy to make in a food processor, and they freeze beautifully.  You could make them a day in advance if you want to serve them right away in the morning, then reheat them briefly in the microwave.  (Ideal for busy holiday mornings.)

The recipe calls for the egg and the butter to be at room temperature which I've noticed before, and led me to wonder why.

Here's what I found at after a little searching:

At room temperature, eggs, butter, and milk bond and form an emulsion that traps air. During baking, the air expands, producing light, airy, evenly baked treats. Batters made with room temperature ingredients are smooth and evenly incorporated. Cold ingredients don’t incorporate evenly to bond, resulting in dense cookies, rock-hard breads, and clumpy cheesecakes. Batters made with cold ingredients won’t come together smoothly.

Take eggs, butter, and other dairy products out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour before baking. 

If you’re short on time, cut your butter into small pieces and microwave for a few seconds at a time, checking often, until they’re just malleable. Make sure to keep eye on it because microwaves vary.  Bring cold eggs to room temperature by placing them in a bowl of warm water for 15 minutes. Don’t use hot water or put eggs on top of a hot oven—this will heat them unevenly, and the whites will start to set.

I always thought "room temperature" meant the ingredients had to sit out for hours, so I was glad to find this info.

printable recipe
Cornmeal Herb Scones
Makes 8 scones

¾ c heavy cream
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon minced mixed herbs (thyme and rosemary)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Heat oven to 400d.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the egg and cream.

In a food processor, pulse together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt and herbs.  Add the butter and pulse until the mixture forms coarse crumbs.  Drizzle in as much of the cream mixture as you need to make a smooth, moist but not wet dough.  Save remaining cream mixture for brushing.

Turn dough out onto prepared baking sheet.  Pat into a 1 ¼ -inch thick round.  Using a small knife, cut into 8 pie-shaped wedges and push them ½” apart using a small spatula.  Brush dough with the remaining cream mixture.

Transfer pan to oven and bake until uniformly golden brown, 15 to 17 minutes, rotating once.  Cool 5 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Serve scones with butter and jam.

Note:  the scones freeze well wrapped in foil or in a zip top bag.  Thaw and reheat briefly in a microwave oven.

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