09 February 2010

Gifts from the Tropics & Ginger Cream Scones

On Sunday, my parents returned from their annual holiday in Hawaii.  Every winter for more than 20 years now, they leave the cold, bleak winters of Alberta for a month of sun and sand in Oahu.  I can only imagine how difficult it must be some years, to leave the ocean and warm breezes of Hawaii and return to bundling up in layers and shoveling snow until spring arrives.  I would hope that the month of reprieve from the cold makes the last few months of winter that much easier to bear.

When she returned home this year, my mom brought me a few little treats in the form of flavourful syrups.  Hawaiian Ginger syrup, Thai Ginger syrup and Coconut syrup - tasty treats for me to play with in the kitchen.  Perhaps I should have waited a few days for my Rice Pudding experiment - guess I'll just have to try again and see if I can improve the results - but that will have to wait for another day.  Being short on time this morning, I decided to try out one of my new ingredients in a much quicker recipe...

Cream Scones are incredibly simple to make and taste like home.  A friend made these for us when we arrived in London for a visit, served up with strawberry jam and double cream (the likes of which I have yet to taste again outside of the UK).  I myself make these at least once a month and enjoy them with a nice hot cup of coffee on a Saturday or Sunday morning.  Omit the ginger and you have a simple biscuit that is still elegant enough to be served as dessert, split open and served with fresh berries and softly whipped cream.  Add some dried currants or cranberries to the dough and you won't need a thing to serve with them, they're delicious and flavourful.  The trick is to work the dough as little as possible once you add the cream and you will be rewarded with scones that are light and fluffy and delectable.  Overwork that dough and you'll end up with something you should probably use as a door-stop.  In this case, the candied ginger makes them as much a treat as any cookie would be.

Ginger Cream  Scones
(makes 8 scones)

2 Cups (284 g) all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp (16 g) baking powder
3 Tbsp (45 g) sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 Cup (60 g) crystallized ginger, minced
5 Tbsp (71 g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1 Cup (240 ml) heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbsp heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp ginger syrup

1. Preheat oven to 425F and move rack to middle position in oven.
2. In the bowl of a food processor, (you can also make these by hand in a large bowl), blend together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and ginger.
3. Add in the butter pieces and blend with three or four 1-second pulses (or cut the butter in by hand as you would for pie dough).
4. Pour in the cream and vanilla and pulse three more times, until the cream is just barely incorporated into the flour mixture (you will still have some pockets of dry ingredients).
5. Turn the mixture out onto a clean countertop and gently knead by hand just until the dough comes together in one cohesive ball - remember not to overwork it!   Flatten the dough out into a rectangle or circle about 3/4 inch thick.  Cut into equal sized pieces and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart.
In a small bowl, mix together the 3 Tbsp cream and syrup.  Brush mixture onto each of the raw scones and then sprinkle them with sugar.  Place in oven for 11-15 minutes, until puffy and the tops are just golden brown around the edges.  Serve when still warm from the oven.

NOTE: Because these are so simple, they don't keep long.  If you wish to make a smaller batch, follow steps 1 through 3 as above.  Take half of the flour and butter mixture, cover and refrigerate for use at a later date.  This mixture will keep for up to 5 days.  To the remaining half of the mixture, add 1/2 Cup of cream and 1/2 tsp of vanilla and prepare as as directed.  Ditto for the "leftover" batch, when you are ready to make them.

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