Scones are an overlooked baked good in my little repertoire, which is strange, because I used to make them all the time when I was little. We had a recipe for orange currant scones, which I believe my mother found on the back of the currant box, and I would whip them up regularly in the afternoons after school. My love of scones was closely tied up with my intense Anglophilia, and every time I took a bite I imagined that I was a character in a Jane Austen novel taking a scone with my tea. Yes, I was that cool.
But now, in my twenties, I’ve largely forgotten about scones, perhaps because I no longer have the time to obsess over 19th century English literature, which was really at the heart of my obsession with England. And the scones I usually encounter at bakeries or pastry cases are largely sad, bloated affairs – stuffed with too much sugar and sweeteners and much more akin to a cake than the craggy, buttery, tender scones of my youth. But last weekend I was trying to figure out what to do with the excess of strawberry rhubarb jam I had left over, and it came to me: scones. I should serve jam on scones.
I didn’t want to make just any scone, however – and I certainly didn’t want to recreate those bakery case monstrosities. So I decided to go high tech. I modified a recipe from The Bread Bible, By Rose Levy Beranbaum for ginger cream scones, which added whipped cream as the liquid in the batter for a rich final product. Beranbaum also has you freeze the butter before cutting it into the flour with a food processor, making the scones incredibly flaky and tender. I also added some lime zest, which I thought would pair nicely with the strawberry rhubarb jam. And, because I’ve been rather obsessed with cornmeal lately, I added cornmeal to the flour mixture.
The resulting scones were tender, rich, and intensely buttery, with a nice lime and cornmeal flavor. My only problem with them is that I still thought they were too sweet – next time, I’ll cut the sugar in half. I like my scones a little sweet, to be sure, but I like them to taste more of butter and flour than sugar, which is why they’re the perfect vehicle for a really lovely jam. Still, these scones made me remember why I made those scones over and over again when I was little. Next time, I may even revisit the orange currant scone, and see if I can’t improve them.
Lime and Cornmeal Cream Scones
Makes 12 to 16 scones
12 tbs unsalted butter, cold
3/4 cup heavy cream (plus a little more for glazing scones)
1 1/2 cups bleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbs baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
Zest of two limes
If you’re using a food processor to mix the dough, cut the butter into 3/4 inch pieces and place in the freezer for at least 15 minutes (the butter should be frozen solid). If you’re mixing the dough by hand, place butter in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, until firm. Whip cream until it holds soft peaks and place in the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 400° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, sugar and lime zest in the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse for 10-15 seconds, until the mixture resembles fine meal. Transfer to a bowl.
If mixing by hand, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, sugar and lime zest in a medium bowl. Add the butter and cut into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter or yoour fingers.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the whipped cream. Stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until all the dry ingredients are moistened and a rough dough forms. If the mixture is too try, add a little more heavy cream until the dough just comes together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead a couple times, until it can be shaped.
Divide the dough in two and shape into two balls. Press and shape the balls into disks of dough, six inches in diameter and 3/4 inches high. Freeze for 15 minutes.
With a sharp knife, cut each disk into 6 or 8 wedges. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with heavy creams. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Transfer to a rack to cool.