Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Spring brings Strawberries!

It's about time we celebrate Spring and the bounty of strawberries that it brings. Whoa...that sort of rhymed.

There are so many things a baker can do with strawberries, it's almost overwhelming! Today I'm presenting a classic scone recipe that features honey, ginger, black pepper and, of course, strawberries! As a result, these are called Strawberry Ginger Honey Scones! I love the combination of ginger and strawberries. I love the combination of honey and ginger. And, I love the combination of strawberries and black pepper. So, in summary, I love this recipe!

Scones are a type of quick bread, which is a dough that gets its height by chemical leavening agents, such as baking powder, instead of yeast. They do not require time to rise or proof, so they can be baked immediately. As a matter of fact, they should be baked immediately!

The first and most important step in making scones is to cut or rub very very cold butter into a blend of dry ingredients until it resembles course crumbs, with some pieces the size of small peas. These cold solid pieces of butter will produce localized bursts of steam (remember, butter is about 15% water) once they are exposed to the heat of a hot oven. The steam will separate layers of dough and create pockets of air that keep these scones tender.


If you're new to making scones, remember that the real trick is to stir and handle the dough as little as possible. This recipe in particular makes a wetter dough than my usual scone recipes, but it will keep the final product very moist if it is handled carefully. The wet dough also allows for making drop scones, as if you were making drop cookies, where mounds of dough are placed onto a baking sheet and baked for a more rustic look. To prevent the sticky dough from being unmanageable if you plan to make wedge-style scones, be sure to dust the surface with flour after you've transferred it to a floured working surface. This makes it easy to gently pat down the dough and form a disk before slicing. Also, make sure your hands are dry.

 

It is best to handle the dough as little as possible because the warmth of our hands can melt the butter and ruin our dreams of tenderness and flakiness. Over-working the dough can also develop gluten, which will toughen the texture of the scones (to read more about gluten, refer to my post on Orange Pecan Carrot Muffins). If you think you've handled the dough a bit too much and it feels too warm, refrigerate it for a few minutes to solidify the butter before baking. However, if you get overzealous, you might as well change the recipe to Strawberry Ginger Honey Bread.


For a hint of ginger as a background flavour to highlight the berries, just mix in 1 teaspoon of the freshly grated stuff. For those who really like ginger and want it to be more prominent, then add the full 2 teaspoons.

If you think the freshly cracked black pepper is a little strange, just try it and then make an educated decision. I bet you'll love it. The spiciness of black pepper pairs very well with sweet strawberries, and I could swear that it enhances the buttery creaminess of the scones.


Since it is strawberry season, and I am making scones, it would be absolutely immoral if I didn't make fresh strawberry jam. So, I made that too. Check back soon to read about the science and art of Classic Fresh Strawberry Jam.

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