Tuesdays With Dorie: Buttermilk Scones

Fumbling around the internet for cookie recipes or cake recipes made with lower amounts of sugar, seeking the What Happens When of reducing sugar in a recipe, trawling the sea of information for specifics that could only really be found in the mind of a food scientist or seasoned pastry chef, I bumped into Tuesdays With Dorie. Tuesdays With Dorie is a blog designed for people with blogs wishing to work through the recipes of Baking With Julia, and other books by Dorie Greenspan, over the course of a year, posting results on, yes, a Tuesday. As usual with internet searches, this was not what I was looking for but, intrigued, I signed up. I got the green light from the TWD élite in time for a March start.

I have owned Baking With Julia since purchasing my First Edition copy the year published, in 1996. I had fallen headlong in love with cooking and baking, was taking classes, feeding family and friends and coworkers, dreaming of little cafes. This book is a companion piece to one of Julia Childs’ PBS cooking shows. The series filmed in her kitchen, has the illustrious Julia keeping company with a variety of breadmakers, pastry chefs, restaurant owners, cookbook writers, each creating some of their signature baked items for her. I never watched many of the PBS episodes but have fiddled with several recipes in this book. For any number of reasons with me and cookbooks, I found the 2 or 3 recipes that became standards, and have rarely picked up the book since. Tuesdays With Dorie sounded like a motivating way to give the book another look and write more posts here. Happily, the first assignment for March is one of my standards: Buttermilk Scones.

One stipulation of TWD is that we are not to include recipes in our posts, instead encouraging others to purchase the beautiful book for themselves. For this rendition of scones, I have measured equal parts just-ground whole wheat and organic white unbleached all-purpose flours, salt, leaveners, cold butter in pieces, and coconut palm sugar. (Always try new recipes as written, then give yourself permission to try different flours or sugars or mix-ins, as long as they are in kind.)

mise en place
mise en place

The original method calls for combining the dry ingredients in a large bowl, and for working in the cold butter with fingers, a pastry cutter, or a knife & fork. I am comfortable with this method, but usually use a food processor for this first step of the process.

flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, and lemon zest
Ready for pulsing.

A food processor is powerful, so pulsing the mixture into a coarse meal happens in less than a minute. I am able to keep the cold butter away from my warm hands, processing it quickly so it stays cold. At this point, I pour the flour/butter mixture into a mixing bowl before adding the liquid.

Ready for buttermilk
Ready for buttermilk.

As these scones are Buttermilk Scones, the recipe calls for buttermilk. When I have buttermilk on hand, I always save 1 cup for scone-making. The slightly sour, thick liquid works a magic with the other ingredients. When I don’t have buttermilk, I can use 1 tablespoon of vinegar + enough milk to make 1 cup total. The recipe calls for lemon or orange zest to be added along with the buttermilk. I zest the fruit over the food processor bowl instead, letting the long strands from my zester pulse with the butter. Also at this point, you can add a few currants or other diced plump dried fruit. I have even mixed in blueberries or pieces of firm pear with great success. I mix the flour and milk with a fork until combined. Like biscuits, scones don’t want to be overworked. While still in the bowl, I work the dough/batter with my hand, kneading gently until I can gather into a ball.

Ready for the work surface.
Ready for the work surface.

On the counter, I gently knead the mass for 2 or 3 more turns. The ball of dough is then divided in half, flattened into disks, brushed with melted butter, and cut into wedges. The disks should be 6- to 7-inches in diameter. You can also sprinkle extra sugar over the brushed-on butter.

Ready for cutting.
Ready for cutting.

For tiny scones, I create 3 disks instead of 2, with a diameter of 4-inches or so. This makes a nice size scone for a tea-tray. With all the cut scones positioned on a parchment-lined baking sheet, we are ready for a hot oven.

Ready for the oven.
Ready for the oven.

These scones only bake for 10-12 minutes. The hot oven of 425F gets the cold butter melted, leaving little caverns for the steam and leaveners to push out further. The result, even with the whole wheat I use, is some lovely light, flakey, crisp outside, tender inside just-baked yum.

Mmmmm
Mmmmm!

With the light glistening off my mirabelle plum jam, I will excuse myself now to go enjoy some Baking With Julia goodness.

Buttermilk Scones • Baking With Julia • Contributing Baker: Marion Cunningham • pages 210-211

Mmmm Pie

Pie. Double crust chicken pot pie. Greg Atkinson’s Excellent Apple Pie. Pumpkin pie for morning-after breakfasts. Hand Pie. I love pie. My mom has always been a pie-maker. The patina on her rolling-pin is a testament to pie. Her pie dough was, and is, oil-based, rolled between layers of waxed paper to prevent sticking. The beauty of the thin dough, clinging for life to a single piece of waxed paper, hovering over the waiting pie dish, only to be lowered and released from its paper captor, soon to be filled with apples or berries or peaches, still lives in my memory.

The pie I love now owes its greatness to butter. France’s Pate Brisee sounds much more elegant than its English relation, Pie Dough. Pronouncing bree-zay is like speaking of the breeze, fresh air, being at the coast; all life and joy and light. Pie Dough sounds pedantic, plodding, heavy. Done right, however, pie dough is anything but heavy, regardless of what pronunciation you choose.

The pie I chose to make this day were little apple hand pies. The dough was a standard butter pastry. I will show you the filling first, then walk through the recipe for the dough. The filling consists of 2 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into a small dice, tossed with 1/4 cup of sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Here’s the method:

Peeling the apples in September!
I diced apples from the freezer which I peeled & cored in September!
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I tossed the apple with a little coconut palm sugar and cinnamon,
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cooked until apples softened, which if using fresh apples might take 7-8 minutes,
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and let the excess juice drain off.

Next came rolling and cutting the dough. For the hand pies, roll out one disc of dough to about 1/8-inch thick. Cut circles using anything with a 4 1/2- to 5-inch diameter. I used a mini tart pan.

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Gather scraps re-roll/cut. I cut 9 circles using a 4 1/2-inch cutter.

Each circle received 1 generous tablespoon of apple filling. Then one side folded over the other and the edges crimped with a fork. You can use some egg wash around the edge to make sure the crimped edge stays closed.

Pies in transition.
Pies in transition.

At this stage, the pies should be chilled for another 30 minutes while the oven heats to 425F. Ziploc’d, the pies can be frozen now for baking at a later date. When you are ready to bake, the pies should be pricked with a fork or sharp knife and then brushed with an egg wash.

Ready for the oven.
Ready for the oven.

The oven should start at 425F for 5-7 minutes. This high heat helps to set the bottom crust, avoiding any sogginess. For the remaining bake, reduce heat to 375F, checking on the pies after 15 minutes. Total baking time depends on the thickness of the dough. Bake the pies until golden brown and sort of cracked-looking on the surface.

These little pies were quick and easy, and oh so very tasty!

Yum!
Yum!

Pie Dough

enough for 1 double crust pie/16 or more hand pies

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups flour (1 used ½ white unbleached, ¼ emmer, ¼ whole wheat)

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter

5 to 6 tablespoons very cold water

How to:

1. Cut the butter into small pieces. Keep cold in the refrigerator.

2. Place the flour and salt into the food processor. Whiz to mix.

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3. Place cold butter into processor. Pulse the machine 5 times for 1 ½ seconds each time, until the butter is the size of green peas. Don’t over process!

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4. Add most of the water while quickly pulsing the machine so that the water can mix throughout the flour.

5. Turn off the machine. Remove the lid and test the dough by pinching some between your fingers. If it sticks together really well you are done. If it still wants to fall apart, add the rest of the water while quickly pulsing again. Don’t over mix or the dough will be tough.

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6. Dump contents onto work surface. Quickly push the bits together into a mound. Cut mound in half. Quickly form each part into a flat but thick disc, about 1-inch thick.

7. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.

8. Remove one disc from the fridge, unwrap on a lightly-floured work surface.

The dough is cold so may need to sit out for a few minutes before rolling.
The dough is cold so may need to sit out for a few minutes before rolling.

9. Start rolling from the center of the disc moving away from yourself. Pick up the dough, rotate a quarter turn, roll again from the center away from you. Repeat this until you reach the desired thickness.

If the dough the cracks or becomes grossly misshapen, take bits of dough from other areas and patch where needed. Roll the dough to press it together.

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10. Place the dough onto pie plate, ready to fill or use cutter to make hand pies.

11. Repeat process with the additional disc of dough.