Monday, October 3, 2011

Maple Oat Scones

Is it possible that my love of baking was passed down to me by my mother and her mother before her?  That on some little chromosome deep in my cells lies a series of chemicals that means I was destined to want to spend every waking moment elbow deep in flour, sugar, eggs, and butter?  Is there a baking gene?  Or is it just that, as a little girl, I spent my days along side my mother and grandmother at the bakery my grandparents owned kneading bread and cutting out cookies?  Were those days so influential in my life that I can't help but want to recreate them over and over again as an adult?  These are the things I think about (the many genetics classes I've taken over the years and 10 years teaching science don't help to quiet the debate in my head).

In the end, I suppose I'll never know the answer, but I suspect it's a little of both- nature and nurture.  What it really boils to is that I bake because it tells a story about me- it is the expression of who I am at that moment.  My emotions fuel my choices.  Some of my best creations come from the highs and lows of my life.  Ever taste a brownie that was baked in anger or sadness?  It's deep, dark and rich and in an instant you're comforted.  Or a wedding cake made at a time of pure joy?  You can taste the happiness in the lightness of the cake and the sweetness of the raspberry filling.  I bake when I'm bored, lonely, excited, or anxious.  And most especially, I bake out of love.

These scones are my expression of contentment and happiness.  Isn't that what a scone should be?  Made on a lazy weekend morning as a treat for your family or for friends coming over to share coffee and stories of their lives?

Maple Oat Scones
Adapted from Ina Garten's recipe found on the Martha Stewart site
I love scones.  When I was still teaching, not a day would go by without a chai tea latte and a pumpkin scone accompanying me on my 45 minute drive to work.  I haven't tried to re-create the pumpkin scones yet (though there seem to be scores of recipes for them on the internet), but these maple oat scones are a close second in terms of my favorites.  I've lightened the original recipe of some of it's butter and added a bit of cinnamon in the glaze, but other than that I didn't tinker with it too much.  Next time you're feeling happy or content, bake up a batch of these- you'll thank me.

Makes 7 or 8 large scones

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat, it has the same nutritional value, but a more subtle flavor.  Bob's Red Mill and Kind Arthur Flour are two companies that carry it.)
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 tbs baking powder
1 tbs brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 eggs
2 tbs heavy cream (for brushing on the tops of the unbaked scones)
For the glaze:
1/2 cup plus 1 tbs powdered sugar 
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flours, oats, sugar, and baking powder and mix to distribute the dry ingredients evenly.  Add the butter to the bowl and mix on low until the butter in is small, pea-sized pieces.  In a separate smaller bowl, mix together the buttermilk, maple syrup and eggs.  Pour the wet ingredients into the flour and butter mixture.  Mix until the ingredients just come together.  The dough will be slightly sticky.  You could mix the dough by hand if you were so inclined.  Simply use a pastry blender, two forks or your fingers to cut the butter in and use your hands or a wooden spoon for the rest of the mixing..

Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  With lightly floured hands, pat the dough out into a rectangle that measures between 3/4 of an inch to 1 inch thick.  Using a 3 inch round biscuit or cookie cutter, cut the dough into as many scones as you can (you'll probably get about 5).  Place the unbaked scones on the baking sheet.  Gather the scraps of dough gently and re-pat it to the same thickness as the first scones you cut.  Again, use the 3 inch cutter to cut out as many scones as you can and place them on the baking sheet.  If there is enough dough left, repeat the process or pat the last of the dough into a final scone.  Brush the tops of the scones with the heavy cream.  If you want to get these ready ahead of time, you can make the scones up to this point, cover the tray and refrigerate them overnight.  Take the tray out of the fridge while you preheat the oven in the morning.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until the tops are lightly browned.  Let the scones cool on a rack for about 5 minutes.  In the meantime, make the glaze by mixing all the ingredients in a small bowl.

When the scones are cool, spoon about a tablespoon of the glaze over each one.  Let the glaze harden for a minute or two and enjoy!

Weekend Bloggy Reading

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