Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cornmeal Cranberry Scones

Last weekend a friend took me out to tea. How I love saying that! Took me to tea... maybe it's the alliteration, maybe it's because I love tea so much, maybe it's because it was such a terribly lovely surprise. It's no secret, I do so love tea. Not just the drink itself, but also the preparation of it, the vessels that hold and serve it, and the traditions behind it.

Tea is the perfect thing to drink in solitude and yet is even more enjoyable when shared with someone else. Tea can pick you up when you're down, and calm you down when you're wound up. Beautiful poured into a delicate bone china teacup; comforting drunk from a hand-thrown pottery mug. The nibbles that traditionally accompany tea offer up their own kind of comfort as well, whether dainty or rustic in nature. Some things are just so right together.

Cornmeal Cranberry Scones
Adapted from this recipe that I had torn out of an old BHG magazine but couldn't make because I didn't have: buttermilk, limes, or blueberries.

1 - 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp brown sugar, packed
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup (cold) butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 egg
zest from a small lemon
1 cup dried cranberries (or "Craisins" if, like me, you couldn't find plain ones at the store)

Preheat oven to 450°. Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugars, baking powder, baking soda and salt (or pulse a few times in a food processor). Add the zest and whisk into the dry ingredients (or pulse a couple time in the food processor). Using a pastry blender, cut the butter in until the mixture looks like very course clumpy sand (or add it to the food processor and pulse 10 or 15 times for the same result). If using the food processor, dump the contents into a mixing bowl now.

Add the yogurt and egg and mix them together a little bit in the bowl with a fork or rubber spatula. Add the cranberries to the bowl. Working quickly, fold everything together, scraping down the side and back up with one hand and rotating the bowl with the other. Do this only until the mixture is evenly moistened. It will be wet and clumpy.

Pat the mixture into a rectangle or circle (1/2 to 3/4" high) and cut into wedges, or use a biscuit cutter. Alternatively, you can drop blobs of it onto the baking sheet for "drop scones". Transfer scones to the baking sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden on top. Make the optional icing while scones cool slightly on rack.

Optional Icing: 
lemon juice
powdered sugar
sliced almonds, toasted

Put 1/2 cup to 1 cup of powdered sugar in a small bowl and add lemon juice a little bit at a time while whisking together with a fork until thin enough to "syrupy". Drizzle over warm scones and immediately sprinkle a few toasted, sliced almonds over each one if you like. If freezing the scones, leave the icing off until ready to serve.

Notes: In addition to not having the buttermilk, limes and blueberries for the original recipe, I also didn't really have the cornmeal. What I had was the course-ground kind for making polenta with. I measured it out and whirred it around in the food processor for 20-30 seconds. Probably could have used even more time, but it seemed to work o.k These scones are supposed to have a little crunch, right? I also used the food processor to cut in the butter (note to self: 1/3 cup is not the same as 1/3 of a stick). Instead of making drop scones, I patted the dough flat and cut out circles using an empty tomato paste can as a biscuit cutter. Ended up with 17 small scones.
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