Scones can be little clouds of joy, bliss and what I imagine heaven to be. As an avid coffee drinker (Peet’s Sumatra blend or their nonfat latte, in case you were thinking of surprising me with my favorite drink anytime soon), I hesitate to try my chances with an unknown scone while waiting in line at coffee shops because a solid 95 percent of the time they are not worth the extra heft they will inevitably bring to my lower half. Flavor is usually the first thing noticeably absent from most store-bought scones and their texture can lovingly be compared to a flour-laden brick. They are often sweeter than they need to be and I end up using my precious sips of coffee to force the chalky crumbs down my throat. I think Mark Bittman (the source of my favorite weekly recipes and accompnying videos) would agree with my scone sentiments; he made a simple, easy to make version a few weeks ago that are flawless.
But in usual Marguerite style, I could not settle for the simple version and over the weekend I traded Bittman’s recipe for a somewhat fancier one from the adorable (and yes, deeply talented) Dorie Greenspan. If you are very lucky, you are already well versed in Dorie’s cookbooks and have found baking nirvana with her recipes. She released a new cookbook earlier this month and it has shown a considerable amount of self-restraint that I haven’t already added it to my burgeoning library of cookbooks. I am not going to be able to hold out much longer.
My mom groomed me to be an almond lover from a young age (hello, marzipan shaped animals and fruit!) and these days I find myself gravitating to those baked goods and candy with as high ratio of almonds as possible. Of course, Dorie found a way to introduce a trifecta of almonds into the simple scone and I whole-heatedly applaud her efforts. The almond flavor has a strong presence, but does not overwhelm. Airy, with a light crumb, these scones deserve a permanent spot in your recipe collection. I just wish more coffee shops pastry suppliers shared her expertise. A girl can dream.
toasted almond scones
adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours
yields 12 scones
1c blanched almonds (whole, slivered or sliced), toasted
2T granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2c cold heavy cream
1/4c cold whole milk
1/8t pure almond extract
1-3/4c all purpose flour
1T baking powder
1 stick (8T) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4c sliced almonds (optional)
Make sure move your oven rack to the center rung and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper or a nonstick baking sheet and set aside.
In a food processor, pulse 1/2c of the toasted, blanched almonds with the sugar until fine. Make sure not to mix too long or the almonds will turn into butter. Finely chop the other 1/2 cup of almonds and set aside.
In a large bowl mix egg, cream, milk and almond extract together with a fork.
In the bowl of the food processor, add the flour, baking powder and salt and pulse until combined. Add the cubed butter and pulse about 10 times until the pieces are slightly broken up but still visible. Some pieces will be the size of peas, others will be flaky and resemble uncooked oatmeal — that’s what you are going for.
Pour the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients and mix carefully with a fork. Stop when the dough comes together; make sure not to over mix. Pour in the chopped almonds and mix. Switch to a rubber spatula and knead, in the bowl, about 8-10 times.
Dump the dough onto a floured work surface and divide the dough in half. Form each section of dough into a 5 to 6-inch disc.* Cut each disc into six wedges and top with the sliced almonds, if using. Transfer the scones onto the prepared baking sheet.** Bake for 19-22 minutes until the edges are starting to turn a golden brown and tops are firm-ish. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
*I used a 6-inch cake pan as a form, the best scone cheat I know.
**If your kitchen is warm (like mine), and you have a few minutes to spare, I recommend putting the baking sheet into the refrigerator to chill the dough. This will help the scones retain their shape while baking.