Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 7, 2013

Foodie with Family: Frozen scones cut time

BY REBECCA LINDAMOOD
Local columnist

---- — My crew is about to embark on a new-to-us adventure.

For the last fifteen years, with very few exceptions, we have celebrated Thanksgiving all by ourselves. We’ve chosen to stay home instead of pinball between our parents’ houses.

Every year, I’ve cooked the entire Thanksgiving feast for our crew. This year, most everyone on my side of the family is coming to eat and celebrate Thanksgiving with us.

I’ll spare you the list and just say that this departure from the norm translates to 13 people more than usual at our Thanksgiving table. Clearly it would be madness for me to cook the whole feast solo, so I will be delegating dishes to everyone who is coming. Thankfully, everyone in my family cooks well, so it’s not that we’re afraid of a well-loved dish being “messed up,” it’s just, well, we are creatures of habit.

One of our habits for every major holiday is some sort of pastry breakfast. For my small army alone, this is a lot of pastry. Now imagine tripling the amount I usually do, because many of those who will dine with us may also stay the night before Thanksgiving. There is no way on Earth I could prepare pastries for that number of people without getting up at 3 a.m. People, I do not get up at 3 a.m. unless a child is throwing up on me.

Mercifully, I can whip up a bunch of something marvelous to keep in the freezer so that all I have to do on Thanksgiving morning is roll out of bed, wrap my robe tight and toddle downstairs, preheat my oven, lay the chosen goodies out on a tray, and slide them into the oven to let them bake while I start tea water and coffee. The magical pastry that allows me this luxury is the classic scone.

Scones are a perfect vehicle for sweet or savory mix-ins. Two of our favorites are Bacon, Cheddar, Scallion Scones and Cranberry, Orange, Dark Chocolate Scones. Both of these have the same basic ingredients. The dough for both of these can be made, formed, and frozen ahead of time. Both of these can be baked fresh at any time, and — glory be — both actually benefit from being frozen.

How can this be? Let’s talk about the structure of a scone for a moment. Scones are much like biscuits in that fat is cut into flour that has leavening in such a way that little pockets of fat remain when the dough is fully formed. The colder that fat is, the longer it takes to melt once it hits the hot oven. The longer it takes to melt, the more tender and flaky the final scone becomes. Thus, scones baked from frozen dough (when they are frozen properly) are more tender and flaky than their freshly baked counterparts.

I so look forward to spending Thanksgiving giving thanks for warm, toasty scones and the company of people who I have loved for years.

Freeze and Bake Scones

Bacon, Cheddar, Scallion Scones

4 c. (1 lb. 1 oz., by weight) all-purpose flour (preferably King Arthur all-purpose or Galahad flour.)

2 t. salt

2 T. baking powder

4 t. sugar

8 T. (a stick of butter or 4 oz. by weight), very cold and cut into 1/4-inch cubes, divided

1 1/2 c. finely diced cheddar cheese

1/2 c. finely minced scallion tops (green onions)

1 lb. of bacon, cooked ‘til crispy, then cooled and crumbled or chopped

1 1/2 c. heavy cream or half and half plus 1/4 c. (plus more, if needed, to make a cohesive dough.)

For Baking:

Additional cream for brushing prior to baking

Cranberry, Orange, Dark Chocolate Scones

4 c. (1 pound 1 ounce, by weight) all-purpose flour (preferably King Arthur all-purpose or Galahad flour.)

2 t. salt

2 T. baking powder

4 t. sugar

8 T. (a stick of butter or 4 oz. by weight), very cold and cut into 1/4-inch cubes, divided

1 c. dark chocolate chunks or semi-sweet chocolate chips

¾ c. dried cranberries

1 T. orange zest

1 1/2 c. heavy cream or half and half plus 1/4 cup (plus more, if needed, to make a cohesive dough.)

For Baking:

Additional cream for brushing prior to baking

Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add about 1/2 of the cubed butter and work in with a fork, two knives, a pastry cutter or your fingers until the mixture resembles lentils. Add the remaining butter and work in, leaving some slightly larger pea sized -or even larger- flakes of butter.

Add the cheese, bacon and scallion tops (or dark chocolate chunks, dried cranberries, and orange zest) and toss through gently until evenly distributed, taking care not to mash it in. Add 1 1/2 cups of the cream, sprinkling it over the top, then tossing to combine. Pick up a small amount of the mixture and try squeezing it gently together. If it crumbles, or if there are dry crumbs in the bottom of the bowl, add more cream — 1 tablespoon at a time — until you have a mixture that holds together as a shaggy dough when squeezed gently. Use a bench scraper or spatula to gently fold the dough in on itself until it forms a shaggy mass you can turn out onto a very lightly floured surface.

Divide the dough in half and gently pat out the dough into two 7-8 inch discs that are about 3/4 of an inch thick. Carefully transfer the discs to a parchment lined baking sheet. Use a bench knife or Chef’s knife to cut each disc into 8 wedges, cutting straight down and not sawing back and forth to help it rise higher in the oven. Gently separate the wedges so there is a little space between them.

Place the pan directly into the freezer. When the scones are frozen solid, individually wrap each of them tightly with plastic wrap then add to a resealable freezer bag. Keep frozen for up to three months.

Ready to Bake?

Preheat the oven to 425°. Remove desired number of scones from the freezer, unwrap and arrange with some space between them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush lightly with heavy cream and bake for 45 minutes or until browned and puffy.

Notes:

Don’t be afraid to add more heavy cream (or LESS for that matter) than specified in the recipe. Irene from King Arthur Flour suggests that you should use visual cues to determine how much or little to add. Start at the lower end of the recommended amount and watch how the dough behaves. If there are large amounts clumping together and little pockets of dry-ish crumbly bits, move the large clumps to the side and sprinkle just a little cream over the crumbly bits until they behave like the clumps. It takes patience, but the end result is so worth it.