Friday, March 23, 2007

Honey Cornmeal Scones

Sometimes I think breakfast pastries make me even happier than dessert. After all, I can consider them an actual meal even though they tend to be mostly simple carbs. Then I eat a proper dessert like a chocolate mousse tart or really good tiramisu and know that no muffin or scone could ever match its creamy decadence.

Happily, I don’t have to choose between these two loves, although I try not to indulge in a sweet breakfast and a fabulous dessert on the same day (always moderation!). My favorite kind of baked breakfast item is the scone. The scone is a much maligned and misunderstood food, and I can understand why. Many, especially the big, American coffeehouse-style scones, are way too sweet and have a tendency to leave you with a leaden feeling in your stomach and butter oozing out of your pores. They are good for a few bites, but regret inevitably follows.

I generally like all kinds of scones from the light and dry English style to the dense, substantial types, loaded with fruit, nuts, oats and anything else that strikes your fancy. One thing I have discovered is that shocking amounts of butter and sugar are not required to make a good, moist scone.

I adapted the recipe for these honey-cornmeal lovelies from Once Upon a Tart, a cookbook from two New York City bakery owners who clearly have jumped on the heavy American scone bandwagon. There are over a dozen enticing scone recipes all loaded down with butter and sugar. I love butter (click here and scroll down for butter-related rant). I believe in its power, but this was too much. The original version of this scone has 16 tablespoons and I reduced it to 10. I cut the brown sugar from ½ cup to ¼ cup. I also replaced two cups of the AP flour with whole wheat pastry flour, and I swear, you would never know it.

The point of all this tinkering was not to make a healthier scone or a low-calorie scone; but, in my opinion, a better scone. I think I succeeded. Cutting the sugar allows the flavor of the honey to come forward, and the scone is still pleasingly sweet, like a denser version of cornbread covered in honey butter. As long as you use the right technique—mixing cold cubes of butter into the flour mixture just until it looks like coarse crumbs and quickly folding in the liquid until just combined—there is plenty of butter to give the scones ample moisture and richness. They may never measure up to your favorite dessert, but these scones make breakfast a treat.

Honey Cornmeal Scones
Adapted from Once Upon a Tart by Frank Mentesana and Jerome Audureau

Makes 12 scones

2 large eggs
1 c. buttermilk
½ c. honey
1 scant tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 ½ c. yellow cornmeal (medium ground if you like a little crunch; fine ground if you don’t)
1 tbs. plus 1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ c. packed light brown sugar
10 tbs. unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and chilled for at least 20 minutes before using
1 egg, beat with 1 tsp. water, for glazing (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk the 2 eggs, buttermilk, honey and vanilla together in a large bowl. Set aside.

In another large bowl, whisk together the flours, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and brown sugar. Add the cold, cubed butter and mix it in with your fingers to create a very loose, sandy consistency. You want to smoosh and break up the butter cubes slightly with your fingers, as long as you don’t cause them to melt into the dough.

Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and gently combine just until all the flour is moistened (if you over mix, you will get tough dough).

Use a half-cup size measuring cup to scoop the dough out onto the cookie sheet into 12 free-form scones. Use a pastry brush to dab the scones with the glaze. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until tops are golden and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on baking sheets for a couple of minutes, then move to wire racks to finish cooling.

More scones to try from other bloggers:
Scottish Scones from Orangette--I tried this recipe myself, and they make a delicious simple scone, not too heavy or light, with minimal butter and sugar.
Yogurt Scones from Chocolate and Zucchini--I've never used yogurt before; must give these a try!
Sweet Potato & Vidalia Onion Scones from Tartelette--Now I can eat scones for lunch and dinner too!
Lemon Poppy Seed Scones from The Wednesday Chef
Meyer Lemon Scones from Baking Sheet--Another way to use my favorite lemons!

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Helene said...

These sound really great for a sunday brunch!

Freya and Paul said...

I love scones, I used to hate them as a kid growing up in the UK but as my tastes have mutured I really appreciate them now! YOurs look delicious!

rachel said...

That's great! I just bought a scone pan today and was flipping through my cookbooks for a recipe. I hadn't hit the blogs yet. Thanks for posting a few links!

pom d'api said...

I love this recipe! Your blog it's so great.
Nice to meet you

Julie said...

Helene: Absolutely; they would be great beside a light frittata and champagne.
Freya: That's funny--maybe the scones of your childhood weren't as moist and tender as American scones are nowadays.
Rachel: I'm glad you enjoyed the links! I love seeing what other blogs are doing that may be similar to mine.
Pom: thanks; lovely to meet you too!

LisaRene said...

Hi, I stumbled upon your blog and I too am a scone addict. I totally agree that most coffee house scones are way, way to sweet. Homemade is definitely the way to go. A couple years back I did a ton of "scone experiments" with my motivation being to make a scone that was healthier and lower calorie so I could eat more of them :) Scones, muffins and bread are my favorite foods and I would take any one of them over a dessert any day, so you are not alone!

Have you ever made a cream scone where you use heavy cream but no butter? Haven't tried it yet. I have also come across some scone recipes where they use cream cheese in place of part of the butter. That sounds pretty good :)

Julie said...

Hi Lisa,
Thanks for your comment. I've never made a non-butter scone. I have been wanting to try a very traditional Scottish scone (often cooked on a griddle); they have just a little butter in the batter. There was a recipe in the February issue of Gourmet I believe. I also think the cream cheese would be tasty but haven't tried it...may be similar in flavor to a buttermilk scone, which is more like a biscuit! I like your site too...great photos!

Jenna said...

I absolutely love this recipe. Thanks for posting it.
Just a suggestion regarding the use of honey. If you want variety, you could try the honeys from Holy Food Imports since they are produced in Israel. My family and friends absolutely love the honeys from them.

Melani said...

I just made these and they are so good! Thanks for posting the recipe.

Julie said...

Melani: Thanks for letting me know you liked the recipe! These are one of my fave scones.