The table as the gravitational center of our lives.

Cream Scones with Wild Blueberries & Lemon Zest

“It happens every time.  They all become blueberries.” -Gene Wilder, quirky American actor (and once-upon-a-time husband to the amazing Gilda Radner) as Willy Wonka in the brilliant 1971 film adaptation of Roald Dahl‘s beloved book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

I’ve felt thoroughly out of sorts recently.  But, well, recently is a relative term when you consider that when my father passed away a year-and-a-half ago completely out of the blue, it was pretty much the equivalent of a nuclear bomb going off right in the middle of your life.  Some days it’s hard to think of the “forest re-growth” I talked about in my very first post because some days it feels like whatever is taking root now just won’t ever grow like it used to.  It feels all my fruit and flowers might just wind up sort of mutated and limp.  The soil’s not right anymore, or something, and things don’t seem to want to take hold yet.  When I then lost my job back in October in a corporate takeover followed by a significant layoff sweep, the divide between “what I was before” and “what I am trying to become” seemed to just get wider and deeper, and a far more difficult span to bridge.

Maybe it’s just been a bad few weeks and maybe I’m being extra hard on myself right now, I don’t know.  But I do know this.  When life hands you a big fat bowl full of blues, make blueberry scones.

Scones are basically awesome.  Typically considered British, a scone is really just an old-fashioned quick bread similar to a buttermilk biscuit.  The Americanized version almost always contains some sort of fruit, most traditionally currants.  I sort of think of them as a hybrid of a buttermilk biscuit and a muffin.  I’m not a fan, though, of most of the ones I find in stores and bakeries around town.  They’re usually too sweet, and the texture is often stiff and dry.  And as much as I love turbinado sugar in other situations, that awful turbinado topping that’s so popular with scones makes me feel like I’m eating mouthfuls of gravel.  No thanks!

For this recipe, I turned to one of my most valuable resources, The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, for guidance.  They rarely steer me wrong.  I made a few practical adjustments to their recipe for cream scones and wound up with a fairly successful result.  Though I would have liked to see them get a bit thicker and puffier in the baking process, the flavor is totally there (you can’t go wrong with the combination of blueberries and lemon), the texture was perfectly crumbly and buttery, and for me the level of sweetness was perfect after a minor tweak (included below).  Plus it makes a super fun (and rather beautiful, actually) purple-y dough once you add the blueberries into the mix.  I will continue to experiment with various scone recipes and see if I can figure out how to get them to rise a little bit better.  In the meantime, here’s a great, fast, and easy cure for life’s little blues.

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

3 tbsp. sugar, plus more for sprinkling

1 tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

5 tbsp. butter, cut into small cubes and reserved in the refrigerator to keep cold

Zest of 1 lemon

1 cup heavy cream, reserved in the refrigerator to keep cold

1/2 cup fresh or frozen wild (or regular) blueberries (NOTE:  I used Wild Harvest Frozen Wild Blueberries)

2-3 tbsp. butter, melted

Instructions:

1.  Preheat oven to 450ºF.

2.  In a food processor, add the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt, and pulse a few times to incorporate evenly.

3.  Remove the butter cubes from the refrigerator, and add them to the food processor, distributing them around the flour mixture as evenly as possible.  Add the lemon zest as well.  Pulse a few more times until the mixture looks similar to sand, but you can still see a few chunks of butter in it.  Dump the flour/butter mixture into a large mixing bowl.

4.  Working quickly, add the cold heavy cream and mix with a rubber spatula until the dough forms.  As soon as it seems pretty much evenly incorporated and you know you can have it all hold together if you picked it up in your hands, you’re done.

5.  Add the blueberries, and mix them in evenly and gently by hand so you don’t smush them all.  Again, try to work quickly here, as you don’t want your hands to melt the butter.  Press the dough out in an 8-9″ pie or cake pan (sprayed with a very light layer of non-stick cooking spray, if necessary to prevent sticking) in an even layer.  Try not to press too hard on the dough, and try not to over-work it.  Lightly packed and even thickness is what you’re going for here.

6.  Un-mold the dough onto a sheet of parchment paper or onto a lightly floured countertop and cut the circle into 8 wedges like you would a pizza.  Arrange the wedges one by one on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat.  Brush each one lightly with some of the melted butter, and sprinkle each one with a light dusting of sugar.

7.  Place in the preheated oven to bake for 10-15 minutes or until tops are nicely golden-brown.  (NOTE:  When I checked on mine after 10 minutes, it looked like the bottoms were browning too fast and the tops were hardly browning at all.  My solution was to stop the baking process in my oven and instead get them under the broiler for the last few minutes of cooking.  It totally worked and they came out with perfect color.  Just be sure to watch them if you go this route, because it won’t take more than a minute or two before they start to burn.)

Yield: 8 hefty wedges of blues-killing scone power

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