January 7, 2013

Whole Wheat Cranberry Scones

I think the world might be a better place if everyone had their one source for no-fail recipes.  Some people swear by single cookbooks, some might run to allrecipes.com or foodnetwork.com (maybe even have a favorite TV chef), just as long as you knew where to look when you really want to make a good _____ but don't know how (fill in the blank with whatever dish you can think of).  I personally like to turn to blogs.  Maybe it's because of this little blog, but I enjoy a personal story, some good action photos, and the promise of lots of reader comments to filter through.  Recently, my personal favorite (I know, I'm wayyy late to this show) is Deb Perelman at Smitten Kitchen.

Her blog is lovely, charming, funny, and adorable all at once- and that's before you even get to the food.  The recipes are creative but straightforward, and all of them will give you that perfect product for which you were looking.  I sound like a crazy fan-girl, but truth is, I kind of am.  The chance to see her at a recent stint at the Philadelphia Library sealed the deal- she's even more of all the previously named adjectives in person.  Her freshly produced cookbook The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook made its way into my Christmas gifts this year (thanks, J!) and I wanted to dive into it immediately.

The first recipe I tried is ironically also featured on her blog: Whole Wheat Raspberry Scones.  Even though it was a recipe she specifically created for the cookbook, she's transparent (and kind) enough to share it on the blog as well- although this is not the case for all of the recipes (go buy it-- I swear I'm not making commission here!).  Since I'm admittedly a terrible baker, I followed the recipe almost exactly, subbing only the fruit component.

Whole Wheat Cranberry Scones
makes 8

1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 c. + 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut to small cubes
3/4 c. ricotta (Deb prefers full fat, I used part skim with great results)
1/3 c. heavy cream
1 c. fresh cranberries

While Deb included raspberries, I found myself with a half bag of cranberries leftover from the holidays.  In order to produce a softer fruit with less bitterness, I pre-cooked the cranberries by simply heating them in a saucepan with 2 Tbsp. of sugar for about five minutes and things started getting a little juicy.

Remove from heat and allow to cool while you start preparing the dough.  Combine the first five ingredients together (sans the sugar you already used...) in a bowl and cut or blend in the cold butter until it is well incorporated, no large chunks remain, and the dough "resembles a coarse meal."

Stir in the cranberries, then add the ricotta and cream.  Mix with a spoon or spatula until most of the flour is incorporated and then get your hands in there to finish the job.  It'll be super sticky but don't worry- you won't have to work with it much.  Scrape all of the dough onto a well-floured surface, shape into a smooth mound with the spatula and sprinkle flour across the top.  This will make it MUCH easier to shape into a square- about 1-1.5" high.

Deb instructs readers to cut this square into 9 smaller squares, but in my opinion, a scone isn't a scone unless it's triangular.  I cut each of the corners off and then formed the remaining square into four additional triangles by drawing an X through it with my knife.  Transfer the scones to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or simply coated with cooking spray.

The recipe comes with great instructions for the next step, depending on when you plan to eat the scones.  Making them in advance?  Slip the pan (covered with plastic wrap) into the freezer until you're ready to bake.  No defrosting necessary when it comes time to enjoy.  Since we were eating them for breakfast the following day, we did just that.

The next morning, I pulled them out of the freezer and straight into a 400 degree oven (after removing the plastic wrap for those of you needing literal instructions).  After baking 18-20 minutes, the scones should be golden brown at the edges- just how you want them.  If the dough isn't frozen, check them at 15 minutes.

I honestly didn't know my kitchen was capable of producing such perfect baked goods- they actually looked like Deb's pictures, they were soft and crumbly with a richness from the cream and ricotta and the perfect mix of sweet and tart from the cranberries (pre-cooking them was definitely the right way to go).  I want to make these every weekend for the rest of winter-- but I also keep eyeing the recipe on the opposite page (Chocolate Chip Brioche Soft Pretzels OMG).  I know this will be a cookbook I use and enjoy for a long while!

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