This blog turned two over a week ago without so much as a happy birthday wish from me let alone a post to commemorate the fact, which says a lot about the sorry state of things over here. One year ago I had recently left my job as an editor and was working in my first kitchen, and it was great. Yes it was a bit draining, but I still managed to spend a good chunk of my free time cooking and writing, and I still enjoyed it more than anything else. Three kitchen jobs later, I’m feeling a little less excited. I still cook nearly every day, but it’s of a completely different type. I used to spend hours (hours! how did I have the time?) paging through my cookbooks and the Internet, bookmarking recipes I needed to make, making lists of when I was going to make them and post about them, going to the grocery store with long-ass lists. Now, I look in my cabinets and fridge, take stock of what’s there, and throw something together. I go to the grocery store and buy what looks good. If they’re out of something I wanted, I don’t freak out and go to another grocery store; I just buy a substitute or forget it altogether. I hardly ever follow recipes anymore, preferring instead to either use my head and wing it, or to make a variation or improvement upon a dish I’ve made before. Cooking this way is much less stressful. It also feels much less blogworthy.
Another thing that’s happened to my cooking: instead of always trying something new, I’ve been making the same things, or the same types of things or variations of those things, over and over again. And I’m not worried about it. There hasn’t been a meat dish on here since May 11. I don’t care. This scone recipe hails from the same cookbook the rye crumble bars came from. So what? I’m going through a kale/whole-grain flour phase and I’ve only had time to look at one cookbook recently.
At my current job I make a lot of scones, so why on earth would I want to make them at home? Well besides the fact that these are a bit special, made with butter that is liquefied and browned and then resolidified in the freezer (the component of the recipe that both repelled and attracted me), making a batch of scones at home and eating them warm and fresh from the oven is a completely different thing from churning out huge amounts of dough in an industrial mixer to ultimately be consumed by strangers I will never meet. And so now I truly appreciate the process of mixing cream in by hand, patting the dough into small disks, cutting it into slightly imperfect wedges, and baking it off for me and mine alone.
These scones are very similar to the oatmeal scones I was making at Bluebird, but these incorporate brown sugar as well as white, whole wheat flour, and brown butter, of course. They’re also bereft of dried fruit and nuts; I debated putting some in, but I didn’t want anything to interfere with the caramely flavor of the browned butter. I wanted to make sure I could taste it. More than flavor, though, browned butter imparts an aroma that is truly intoxicating, and it’s worth doing for this scent alone. You get it twice: first when you brown the butter, and then again when the scones are baking.
So here’s looking forward to another year. I hope that in addition to whatever else it brings, it brings me here more. Although I’m not going to make any promises, the outlook is good: cooking is still the closest thing to my heart. Besides Joey, that is. Oh, and the husband.
Brown Butter Scones, adapted from Good to the Grain
- 1 stick (4 oz) butter
- 1/2 cup (2.4 oz) whole wheat pastry flour or regular whole wheat flour
- 1 cup (4.5 oz) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (3.3 oz) whole rolled oats
- 1/4 cup (2.2 oz/63 g) dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup (1.85 oz/53 g) sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 cup (4 oz) heavy cream, plus more for brushing
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- granulated sugar or turbinado, for sprinkling
- Melt the butter in a high-sided saucepan over medium heat. Swirl the pan to encourage even melting. At first the butter will melt to gold, followed by white foam that bubbles around the edges and then moves toward the center. It sounds almost like popcorn popping. Next, the butter solids form a bubbling raft. Small brown flecks will dot the surface. Give the pan a swirl and continue cooking until the bottom of the pan is covered in dark brown flecks and your kitchen smells toasty. If the butter is about to overflow, stick a metal whisk in it and it will descend.
- Pour the brown butter into a wide, shallow container, scraping all of the dark flecks at the bottom of the pan into the container (that color is flavor), and freeze until solid. The larger the surface area of the container, the faster the butter will freeze. This step can be done a day or more ahead of time.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment, or butter or spray it.
- Measure the dry ingredients into the bowl of a food processor. Cut the frozen butter into pieces and add it to the dry ingredients. Pulse until the butter is ground to coarse meal, about 10 seconds. Pour the mixture into a large bowl. (You can also do this step by hand.)
- In a small bowl, whisk the cream, egg, and vanilla until combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir gently to combine.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and fold together a few times to form a cohesive ball. Flatten the dough into a disk about 1 inch thick and 7 inches wide, taking care to soften the edges with your hands to keep them from cracking. Cut the disk into 8 wedges.
- Place the wedges onto the baking sheet spaced a few inches apart. Brush the tops of the scones lightly with cream, then sprinkle generously with sugar.
- Bake for 28 to 34 minutes, until the scones are browning around the edges and on top.
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