Saturday at the Farmer’s Market, the dance of the summer season is in full swing; while the flood of strawberries is starting to dwindle, the cherries are in their prime, and blueberries are just starting to appear in gorgeous array.
The colors of blueberries are amazing. I say colors because they are not a single hue, but show varied tones on each individual berry, from the frosted lavender bloom over the glossy indigo skin to the deep violet interior, each small round berry is a work of art. And when they are fully ripe and freshly picked, each one is a revelation in flavor that bursts in the mouth in an explosion of inky juice.
So, of course, even though I had already bought a quart of sour cherries in order to make a pie for dessert that night, I saw quarts of blueberries sitting in neat rows on a table, and had to have them, too.
I resisted the urge to bake them together in a pie, though I think that might have been interesting, and would be a worthy experiment someday. Instead, I decided on making a cake, coffee cake or scones. I would have made muffins, but Morganna pleaded that I not, because she had recently had a blueberry muffin and had gotten quite sick on it, and thus was not ready to brave another any time soon.
So, cake or scones it was.
I decided upon scones, and realized when I researched recipes that I could make two batches of them–one to have for breakfast Sunday morning before we drove Morganna back to her father’s house, and one to give to my father instead of a birthday cake.
Thinking I was insufferably clever, I got up early Sunday morning and proceeded to bake two batches of blueberry scones from a recipe I had never used before. I set out two mixing bowls, measured out the rinsed berries into two other bowls, and measured all the ingredients in sequence: two and a quarter cups of flour for this bowl, and the same for that one. And so forth.
I even utilized my new trick of rubbing the butter into the flour with my fingers, emboldened by the flakiness of the pie I had made the day before and the galette from several days previously. That went fine. In fact, all was well until it came time to mix the dough and then knead the fresh berries into it until they were evenly distributed.
The recipe, which I had never used before, came from Leslie Weiner and Barbara Albright’s wee book, Simply Scones, which is still in print and available used as well. I will admit to playing with it a bit, mostly in terms of flavoring, but also in the sequence of mixing, but really, I didn’t do anything that would radically alter the dough in a significant way.
And in truth, the authors mentioned that the dough was sticky.
But, I am sorry. To my mind, sticky does not adequately warn the unwary baker of the wily, unruly nature of this particular dough. It is fractious, cantankerous, gluey and goopy in the extreme, and mixing it together with a spoon first thing in the morning sans coffee was a frustrating exercise in patience. I was extremely glad for my well-developed forearm muscles, as the dough fought being mixed together as tenaciously as a pitbull terrier who is desperately trying to hold onto a favored toy. I stirred, it pulled. I pushed, it glopped. I folded, and it attempted to evade.
And of course, after finally getting the first batch mixed up, I was winded, but had to face another bowl of the stuff with shaking hands and frazzled nerves. I nearly put all of it in the fridge to face at another time, but I really wanted to give a sweet to Dad for his birthday, so I took a deep breath, counted to twenty and dove in with renewed vigor and an iron will.
And lo, the dough was done. I just needed to knead the berries into the twin piles of rich yellow stickiness.
The authors blithely warned that I might want to use “lightly floured hands” to accomplish this task, but their admonition was to no avail. I floured my hands lightly and ended up with dough up to my elbows, and blueberries attempting escape at every turn. I felt like B’rer Rabbit and the tarbaby, only I was smart and did not try to use my feet to free my hands.
I did manage to mix the berries in, though I have no idea how evenly I did it. By the time I was done with the first batch, I didn’t much care how evenly it had turned out. I just eyed the second dough ball, scraped as much dough from my hands as possible, turned the sink tap on with a relatively clean elbow and scrubbed my fingers and palms clean.
I then dried my hands, dug out the Baker’s Joy, sprayed my hands liberally, and set to work on the second batch.
Baker’s Joy is my friend. Not only is it a good alternative to greasing and flouring cake pans, it can make instant teflon for the hands when it comes to herculean baking jobs such as kneading some fresh berries into cthuloid scone dough. The second batch was subdued in half the time it took for me to wrangle the berries into the first batch.
All that was left was the shaping of the scones, and putting the crumb topping on, then cutting them and baking them.
Ah, yes, the crumb topping.
Instead of making two batches of it, I simply doubled the recipe and made a typical struesel sort of topping. But after I shaped both sticky piles of dough into relatively flat, round disks on silpat-lined baking sheets, I eyed the bowl of crumbly goodness and then looked at the scone dough.
And realized with a sinking heart that there was absolutely no way I was going to put all of those crumbs on top of those two batches of scones. The recipe had instructed me to make way too much stuesel stuff.
I did the best I could to scoop and pat the crumbs onto the top of the sticky rounds, but I still ended up with lots of crummy bits decorating the silpats. As it was, when I finally stopped with the patting and squishing, there was still a good handful of struesel left.
I gave it to the dogs. It was probably not a good idea, healthwise, but the dogs were happy with the arrangement. They thought I was just showing them how much I loved them.
After that, I cut the scones into eight wedges each and baked them. The cutting, of course, made more of a crummy mess, but that was okay. They baked up beautifully, with a delicate, cakey texture and a scrumtious flavor. The crumbs really added a lot to the scones, such that I do not regret using them. I just will adjust the recipe next time to make fewer, or put the excess in the freezer. Or, give them to the dogs again, since they liked them so much the first time.
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 firmly packed brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 cup chilled butter
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cups raw sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup chilled butter
2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon double strength vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lay silpat on baking sheet and spray lightly with canola oil spray, or Baker’s Joy. Or just smear slightly with butter.
Mix the dry ingredients for the crumb topping thoroughly. Cut the butter into it until it looks like coarse crumbs. Set aside until needed.
In a large bowl, stir together dry ingredients. Cut the butter stick into 1/2 inch cubes and distribute evenly over the flour mixture. Using whatever method you prefer, cut butter into the flour until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. (Again, if you use your fingers, it will look more like flakes or shavings rather than shaggy crumbs.)
In a small bowl, mix together eggs, milk and vanilla. Make a well in the butter and flour mixture, and pour liquids into well, then with a sturdy spoon and a great deal of muscle power, stir until well combined. It will be very sticky. That is okay, it is the way it is supposed to be.
Spray your hands with Baker’s Joy and knead the fresh berries into the dough. It will look like you have too many berries and the dough won’t hold together. Don’t worry, it will hold. It will also taste good.
Scoop dough out of bowl, and dump it onto the silpat. Sort of smoosh and pat it into a 9 or 10 inch circle and flatten it on top. Wash your hands.
Scoop up the crumbs and squish and pat it onto the top of the dough circle. This is messy. Do not fret, it will taste fine when it is done. Do this until you have used most of the crumbs.
Spray a bench knife or chef’s knife with Baker’s Joy and use it to cut the dough circle into eight wedges. This is also messy–lots of crumbs attempt escape at this point. If you want, pick them up and press them back on top of the dough. If not, don’t worry over it.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned Cool for ten minutes on baking sheet, then remove to a wire rack to cool. Recut into wedges. Serve warm.
They turned out exceedingly well–very fragrant, with a moist tender crumb that contrasted with the crunchy struesel. The berries were sweet and oozed with floral juice.
Of course, by the time I took Dad his batch, I found out that blueberries are his least favorite berries. And Mom, apparently, despises them.
Oops. But, Dad said he would try them anyway, because they looked awfully good.
I told him that if he didn’t like them, to let me know, and I would bake him whatever cake he would like for his birthday and bring it next week when we passed through on our way to Morganna’s father’s house.
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.