Halliefest Scones.
Sunday, June 21, 2009 at 10:53AM
Sandra in breakfast, in the kitchen, my life


Every couple of years or so, a dear friend named Hallie, who lives in San Diego, comes back to D.C. for a visit.  She used to live here and we met while I was in law school over a decade ago.  My law school is a block away from a gym and every Friday night many of us would cram into the aerobics studio for a particular step class (please remember that I said this was over ten years ago, so step aerobics and thong leotards were the rage.  I try to block out the memories of the thong leotards and ask that you do too). 

Most girls were a little territorial about their spots in class.  And by a little territorial I mean major stinkeye if you got too close.  But not Hallie.  She noticed I always rushed in with barely enough time to set up my step (I had a school class that ended minutes before the step class and leaving 10 minutes early from Real Property--my preference--was not going to fly).  So one day Hallie set up my step for me and I've latched on to her and her good karma ever since.

Hallie is sort of like that to everyone.  That means she has a lot of super close friends who would move Heaven and earth for her.  When she comes back to D.C., I usually host a brunch to celebrate and people crowd in just to get a minute with her :) so I nicknamed the event Halliefest.  Next time I'm putting up a velvet rope.

At Halliefest '08 I served some scones that have become a family favorite.  The recipe came from a friend I worked with--he told me it was from The America's Test Kitchen Cookbook so I knew straight away the scones would be terrific and they are.  As further proof, one of my favorite food bloggers of all times, Smitten Kitchen, also proclaimed this recipe The One for perfect scones, so there.

Now the recipe calls for heavy cream which does ensure a flaky experience that I have been known to go on and on about.  But to be honest, for everyday consumption, I use half and half because that's what I always have on hand to use in my coffee.  If you do that, you don't need a full cup...closer to a generous 3/4...and you'll get a dough that you can just drop onto your baking sheet rather than shaping and cutting.  The texture is different, more chewy, but on top of cutting out some fat, an added bonus is it's less crumbly--something that might be a good thing if little hands are eating one, two, or five. 

Please promise that you will not do the half and half biscuit style and proclaim these a dud as far as scones go--the heavy cream version is what will sell you on this recipe so you should really start there (and then build on it and marvel how Starbucks can call a sugary hockey puck a scone).  I made these today as part of our Father's Day breakfast.  But in the spirit of Hallie's countless good deeds, I also piled some on plates for the boys to deliver to a few dads in our neighborhood as an unexpected treat.

Cream Scones

from The America's Test Kitchen Cookbook

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425°F.

2. Place flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in large bowl (this is what I do) or work bowl of a food processor fitted with steel blade.  Whisk together or pulse six times.

3. If making by hand, use two knives, a pastry blender or your fingertips (what I do) and quickly cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few slightly larger butter lumps. Stir in dried fruit. If using a food processor (I don't like cleaning extra things so I never do it in a food processor), remove cover and distribute butter evenly over dry ingredients. Cover and pulse 12 times, each pulse lasting 1 second. Add currants and pulse one more time. Transfer dough to large bowl.

4. Stir in heavy cream with a rubber spatula or fork until dough begins to form, about 30 seconds (do NOT over mix.  Do you see the picture above with some dry bits--that's what you want).

5. Transfer dough and all dry, floury bits to countertop and knead dough by hand just until it comes together into a rough, sticky ball, 5 to 10 seconds (again, do not over mix).  Form scones by shaping into an 8-inch circle (book says to use a cake pan but I don't because I don't want to dirty another item),  and cut the dough into 8 wedges with either a knife or bench scraper.  Place wedges on ungreased baking sheet.  If using half and half, drop directly onto baking sheet, shooting for about 8 servings.

6.  Bake until scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes (mine go 14 minutes when I use heavy cream, 12 minutes when I use half and half).  Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

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