Sunday, June 21, 2009

Don't Mess with a Good Thing

I've had a lingering scone craving for a couple of weeks now. First, I saw this recipe for Strawberry Sour Cream scones with brown sugar crumble. I'm not going to looked good, but not necessarily like something I was going to run out and make right away. I have a pretty amazing standby scone recipe which has been giving the thumbs up by BRITISH foodies. The new recipe was also SO different from the old one - slightly more liquid with HALF the flour. How does that even make sense? Let's just say it made me nervous. But then a friend tried out these strawberry scones and raved, which made me wonder if maybe there was room for improvement.

Anyway, I also I saw this a few days later, which then led to a craving for clotted cream. And obviously a scone is the best vehicle for that.

And THEN...(oh god I know you're thinking "where the hell is this story going?? I swear there's a light a the end of the tunnel) I went to a Wine and Spirit festival in the Distillery where I had a DELICIOUS strawberry daquiri and it was brought to my attention that strawberry season in Ontario has officially started, as of this week. And all of a sudden, this recipe that I wasn't so enthusiastic about at first turned into something I HAD to have NOW.

So. I went running around to acquire the ingredients for this recipe. The clotted cream was surprisingly easy to find. Loblaws sells "Devon Cream" in most of its stores, and according to that article above Devon cream is just clotted cream from Devon. Now, I've heard some other whispers about Devon cream not being the same thing outside of London, but this stuff was apparently imported from London so I was willing to give it a shot. But on an equally surprising note, the strawberries were NOT so easy to find. I'm almost embarassed to say, but after visiting two grocery stores and a strawberry farm which had sadly sold out of strawberries for the day, I was reduced to buying imported strawberries from California. Ugh. But by this point I NEEDED to try these scones, so this would have to do.

And....well, I'm sad to say my instinct was right. The author does point out that this makes an "extremely light and flaky scone" with an extremely wet batter. It was light...but too light. And way too moist. Not like a real scone at all. And not enough butter to really make them flaky versus just fluffy. They were definitely good in their own right, but overall I was disappointed.

What I WASN'T disappointed with, though were the Devon cream (I haven't had real clotted cream in about a year, but this seemed like the stuff I remembered...mmm) and the brown sugar crumble. Though I might not appreciate this topping on a "real" scone, it definitely added to the moist and fluffy pastry that this recipe produced.

Anyway...the moral of this story for me is...sometimes it's just not worth trying to completely reinvent the wheel. Just tweak the already great one that you're already using.

Strawberry Sour-cream Scones with Brown Sugar Crumble (adapted from theKitchn)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
4 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp butter (generally recipes say to use unsalted butter. I do keep separate butter for baking but as I was at my parents' place for the weekend I used salted)
1 cup strawberries, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream
1/4 milk (I was supposed to use whole milk or cream. I do understand this adds to the richness of a recipe but I NEVER have either of these around. I used 2%. Maybe this was the problem, but I really doubt it would have completely changed my opinion)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Brown sugar crumble
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit (about 200 degrees Celsius)

1. Combine dry ingredients (the first four items) in a large bowl. Cut in butter*. Toss in strawberries and coat in flour mixture.
2. Whisk liquid ingredients (everything else) together. Add to the dry mixture and stir until a wet dough forms (it's going to be REALLY wet).
3. Pat the dough into two circles if you can, and cut into six wedges each. Or you can just drop spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet if it's too wet to handle.
4. To make crumble, combine brown sugar, flour and butter in a small bowl and mush with your fingers until a crumble forms. Sprinkle onto the scones**
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until scones are golden in spots. Let cool for five minutes on the pan.

*Cutting in butter: I've always had issues with this step because I don't own a pastry blender or stand mixer, which are the standard tools you would use here. You can either use two knives (run them in opposite directions to "cut" the butter into the flour mixture) or freeze the fat for about 20 minutes and grate into the flour mixture, and toss to coat. I saw Anna Olsen do this once on Sugar and I thought it was absolutely brilliant. I always do this now.

**The original recipe says to only do this if you're planning on eating the scones on the same day, as the crumble topping will otherwise get soggy. So if you're planning on having leftovers, don't use the topping and just swipe on some butter and sprinkle with brown sugar when eating.

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