Monday, April 21, 2008

Lemon Buttermilk Scones with Currants

I found a great scone recipe last week. I had a craving for lemon scones, or more specifically for that bright, fruity flavor you get when you pack a scone or a pancake with citrus zest. I had buttermilk on hand from making yet another batch of these whole wheat-cornmeal biscuits (mentioned in this post), which I'm absolutely addicted to. I often find myself throwing away buttermilk that's past it's expiration date, so if I can at least make two recipes with it before it spoils, I'm happy.

I set out to find a lemon scone recipe with buttermilk (as opposed to cream or regular milk), and this one, previously published in Sunset magazine perfectly fit the bill. Plus it called for dried currants which I really like and also had on hand. You could just as easily use raisins since currants can be hard to find outside the holiday season. I also think these scones would be wonderful with dried blueberries. And what about doing an orange-cranberry version?

The texture of the scones is moist and dense (which I like) and not too sweet (which I also like). The lemon glaze is a little tart, but so good. As usual, I made a few changes to the original recipe, mainly substituting whole wheat pastry flour for all-purpose. I also hear that the various white whole wheat flours now available (King Arthur and Eagle brand make versions) do really well in scone and cookie recipes, though I haven't tried them myself.

One last note on flour: I love to measure my flour by weight using a kitchen scale. It's so fast and easy, plus there's no futzing with measuring cups. However, I've had a few not-so-great experiences with too-flat cookies and scones lately, and the source of the problem finally dawned on me--most recipes are tested by spooning flour into a measuring cup and leveling it with a knife. This method results in a greater quantity of flour than if you measure by weight according to the label on the package where 1/4 cup equals 30 grams. When I went back to spooning and leveling for this recipe and another cookie recipe I tested last week, I had excellent results. The lesson is that you have to prepare a recipe the same way that it was made during testing. But, so I don't have to throw out my beloved scale, I'm going to take the weight of a spooned and leveled cup of flour and use that from now on.

Lemon Buttermilk Scones with Currants
Adapted from this recipe, originally published in Sunset magazine
Update: I used this recipe as the base for Pistachio Scones, but used white whole wheat flour and upped the butter to 8 Tbs. They were awesome!
A note on equipment: When I make cookies, I like using insulated or "double layer" baking sheets, which allow are to circulate below the cooking surface, between the two layers (one brand name is "Air Bake"), so the bottoms of cookies don't brown too quickly. BUT, when it comes to scones, a regular, heavy baking sheet works best and allows for even browning and baking. If you don't have whole wheat pastry flour, substitute all-purpose. Regular whole wheat flour will result in a strong wheaty flavor and heavier scone, so I'd advise against using it.

2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks and chilled
3/4 cup lowfat buttermilk
1 large egg
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1/3 cup dried currants
2/3 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Add flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda to the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to blend. Add the cold butter chunks and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal with a few larger chunks. You can also do this in a large mixing bowl with a pastry blender and/or your hands.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg, buttermilk and lemon zest until blended. Add the flour mixture and the currants to the egg mixture and stir just until thoroughly moistened. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead into a ball. Pat or roll the dough out into an 8-inch circle, about 1-inch thick. With a sharp, floured knife (flouring the knife before each cut prevents smashing the flaky layers when cutting), cut the dough into 8 wedges and place on prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 20 to 24 minutes, or until scones are lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean.

Let scones cool on pan for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. Place parchment paper under cooling rack to catch icing drips. Combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice to make a glaze. Drizzle over scones with a spoon while still warm. Allow icing to set and serve. These scones freeze very well; defrost, covered, at room temperature.


kj said...

These look just stunning. Thanks for the great variety of receipts!


Susan from Food Blogga said...

When you described them as "moist and dense," I was sold. And who wouldn't love the lemon glaze on top?

PJH said...

Hi Julie - the scones sound wonderful! Thanks. And yes, I'd try them using King Arthur white whole wheat flour. I actually use it for all my cookies, muffins, etc. It makes a somewhat more golden and somewhat more crumbly scone, but very tasty. Give it a try! - PJ Hamel, King Arthur Flour test kitchen baker

Tartelette said...

I was just thinking about making scones for next week! I think I'll give this recipe a try!

Anna said...

I wonder how they'd be with rosemary? I've been interested in trying something with lemon and rosemary.

Brilynn said...

Those look delicious! I've been on a bit of a scone kick lately and have been trying out different recipes, I look lemon in them!

Julie said...

Sheesh--I never responded to all your comments...forgive me!
KJ: thanks, and thanks for reading!
Susan: yep, I like my scones dense, and I don't see why that would ever be interpreted as "hockey puck-like." Scones get too much bad press if you ask me.
PJ: I am a huge fan of yours and all the KA products, actually. I'm so glad you started a blog! I bet the white whole wheat flour is awesome, but I actually like seeing the evidence of the whole grains in most baked goods. But I'm sure I will try it sometime soon...I bet it's great for cookies and lighter, sweeter muffins, like blueberry.
Helen: I want to see your take on scones!
Anna: That sounds awesome; I'd leave out the fruit and just do lemon-herb. How about lavendar? That's a combo I've been meaning to try.
Brilynn: I don't why, but scones are one of my fave things to bake.

Sophie said...

lemon anything is delicious! I love scones, haven't tried making any myself though :)...These look scrumptious :).

Nazarina said...

Scones and crumpets are the forte of the British and always served them at high tea. I love a scone in any form but yours has that health factor with all those wheat flours. I am definately going to try your recipe. It looks devine!