Make a holiday breakfast--or afternoon tea--really special with these sweet bakery treats.
Sunday morning. You've fetched the newspaper and are about to head for the bakery. Hold it right there. How about a warm scone from your own oven? If you've got the ingredients, it's possible to have a batch ready to go into the oven about as quickly as most people can get to the store and back.
Start by preheating the oven. Meanwhile, measure the dry ingredients into a bowl, add the butter, then your favorite dried fruit, and finally stir in the liquid ingredients. That's it. The dough's ready to shape.
There are several ways to incorporate butter into the dry ingredients for scones, biscuits or pie dough -- fingertips, a pastry cutter, two knives or forks, or the grating disk of a food processor. For a small batch of scones, I've found grating frozen butter on a box grater is much easier than any of those methods. For a larger batch, however, washing the food processor bowl may be preferable to hand-grating several sticks of butter.
Make sure the butter is frozen solid. Any softer and it will clog up the grater, clump together and not mix well with the dry ingredients; plus, the scones won't rise as high or be as flaky. Store some butter in the freezer so you don't have to wait for it to chill the next time you want to make scones (or biscuits or pie dough).
If you're short on time in the morning, mix and freeze the dry ingredients (with the incorporated butter) and refrigerate the egg-sour cream mixture the night before. The next morning, simply mix, form, cut and bake.
To keep the dough as cold as possible during mixing, stir it with a fork until clumps form. At that point, switch to your hand, pressing the clumps together and against the side of the bowl to form a ball. Because there's a minimum of liquid in the recipe (so the scones rise up, not out, as they bake), you may be tempted to add more, but don't. There should be enough liquid to bind the dough. If any crumbs linger, flick a few drops of water onto them and use the dough ball to pick them up.
No need for a rolling pin. Just pat the ball into a disk, sprinkle it with a little sugar for good looks, and cut it into wedges. You can double the recipe, but divide the dough in half to pat out and cut. Otherwise you'll end up with a big disk and long, skinny scones.
And make sure to adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position -- not the bottom. The dough has enough sugar that close proximity to the heat could produce dark bottoms.
Copyright 2004 USA Weekend and columnist Pam Anderson. All rights reserved.