28 May 2013

Cinnamon Pecan Date Scones


What comes to your mind when you think of scones?  To me, the word conjures up images of lazy weekend brunches or elegant English teas.  To those who frequent coffee shops, it may remind them of the large and often over-sweetened pastries that are becoming popular.  But did you know that scones are traditionally from Scotland?  Not only that, they can be traced back hundreds of years, with the first mention of the word scone appearing in the Oxford English Dictionary in the year 1513.  They can be sweet or savory, baked in an oven or cooked on a griddle and made of wheat, barley, oats or even potatoes!

Because of the extent of British influence, there are varieties of scones to be found all over the world.  In the United States, we are most familiar with sweet scones of the coffee shop type.  Unfortunately, commercially made scones are often too sweet and not impressive.  The good news is that they are extremely simple to make, and are ready in about thirty minutes.  The even better news is that scones, while decent enough in good cafes, are a thousand times more delicious just out of the oven and served with a cup of home-brewed tea or coffee.

The following recipe takes a basic scone recipe and makes it a little more interesting with the addition of chopped dates and pecans.  If you don’t have either of those ingredients handy, you could substitute dried cherries and walnuts, which would make an equally delicious tea pastry.  These scones are also kid-friendly, as my four-year-old son will attest to.  He loves to help make them and can barely wait for them to cool off so he can eat them!

Ingredients:

·         2 cups all-purpose flour
·         3 tbsp sugar
·         ¼ tsp salt
·         1 tbsp baking powder
·         6 tbsp chilled butter
·         ½ cup pecans or walnuts, chopped
·         5 large Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
·         1 beaten egg
·         ½ cup half-and-half
·         1 tbsp half-and-half
·         2 tsp sugar
·         ½ tsp ground cinnamon





The first step is to combine your flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a large mixing bowl.  Now would also be a good time to preheat the oven to 400°F.  Next, cut the very cold butter into smallish cubes and add them to the flour mixture.








Next, cut the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs.  If you have a pastry blender, feel free to use that.  Other ways include using a couple of knives, a food processor or your clean hands.  I tend to use the latter, and this can also be a fun way to involve a young helper (who has obviously just thoroughly washed and dried his or her hands).  My son loves squishing the butter (working quickly) into the flour.






Once the butter is cut in, you can stir in the dates and nuts.  Stir thoroughly to break up any clumps that the dates might form.




Combine the egg and ½ cup of half-and-half.  Add all at once to the dry mixture and stir until just moistened.  If need be, add another small splash of half-and-half to pull in all of the flour at the bottom of the bowl.

Now turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it a little, about 15 strokes, until it is fairly smooth.  It won’t take long, and if you want, this is another great job for little helpers.






Next, shape the dough into a flat round.  You can do this directly on the baking sheet (ungreased) so that you won’t have to go through the acrobatics of trying to move a perfectly shaped round over to the baking sheet and dropping it or tearing it in half on the way.  Not that I’ve ever done that, of course.
Pat the round until you have it flattened to a thickness of between ¾ inch and one inch.  Eyeballing it is fine.





Cut the round into 8-10 wedges.  Pull them apart and smooth the edges to form individual scones.









Brush the top of each scone with the remaining tablespoon of half-and-half.  (Once again, this is a perfect job for small assistants!)  Stir together the remaining sugar and the cinnamon.  Sprinkle the tops generously with the cinnamon and sugar, and then pop them in the oven on the center rack for 15 to 20 minutes (or until golden brown).

Serve the scones hot and with your favorite tea or coffee (or milk for kids).  These make a lovely and easy addition to a brunch with friends or family or just a great afternoon treat!  Enjoy!