Thursday, March 11, 2010
Irish Soda Scones with Raisins and Ginger
Simple Irish soda bread never gets old to me, but last week I was on the hunt for a new St. Patty's Day treat. I've already done Guinness cupcakes and was very tempted to bake up a batch of these Guinness brownies and call it a day. But holidays are the perfect time to be creative and take advantage of some festive inspiration, don't you think?.
Since I felt the chocolate options were well-represented here, I was leaning in the direction of buttery, pistachio-flecked something or other, but I couldn't quite get on board. I actually had a box of pistachio-flavored instant pudding in the cupboard purchased over 2 years ago to make these cookies. It never happened and the pudding came along when we moved from Florida to Chicago last summer. That was a wasted trip, since the stuff was marked with an expiration date that sadly passed over a year ago.
I wasn't too heart broken since cookies weren't quite what I wanted. Instead, I reverted to a favorite on this blog: big, hearty scones, studded with dried fruit and spices. This is a version of my absolute favorite recipe, with whole wheat pastry flour, oats and buttermilk. It also contains just enough butter to make the scones flavorful, not greasy, and the buttermilk (and gentle mixing) keeps them tender. They're much better tasting that a standard healthy scone recipe, but still quite good for you.
My favorite thing here is the contrast of the savory caraway seeds, which you usually find in rye bread, with the sweet pastry. It's a nice little surprise flavor that's still well-balanced. While sweet soda breads often contain raisins or currants, there are endless variations, and I swear I've seen ginger in the mix at some point. I used very finely chopped candied ginger and really liked the hit of spice and chewy texture.
Are you making anything special or traditional for St. Patrick's Day? Tell me about it in the comments!
Irish Soda Scones
This is an adaptation of my favorite scone recipe that I developed for a story on NPR.org. Click over for a cherry-walnut variation. If you can't find candied ginger, substitute 1/2 to 1 tsp ground; do not use fresh ginger. Coarse sugar is a pretty, simple topping that requires no extra work, but a vanilla and powdered sugar glaze would be delicious too.
3/4 cup oats, quick-cooking or regular
1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (210 g)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
6 Tbs cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/3 cup raisins
3 Tbs candied ginger, finely chopped
1 tsp caraway seeds
Coarse sugar (such as turbinado) for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg and vanilla.
Work the cold butter cubes into the flour mixture with a pastry blender, a fork or your fingers until you have a loose mixture with some chunks of butter remaining.
Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir for a few seconds to barely moisten the flour. Add the raisins, ginger and caraway seeds, and stir gently just until ingredients are combined. Do not over mix.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat it into a thick disk. Dust lightly with flour and roll it into a circle, about 8 inches in diameter and 3/4-inch thick. With a large, floured knife, cut dough into 8 wedges and place on prepared baking sheet, about 1 inch apart. Sprinkle with coarse sugar.
Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, or until bottoms are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.