Those evil scones

Nicola Griffith emailed to ask about the ginger scones at the Bad Monkeys publication party. The recipe is from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible, which all carbohydrate fans should own (while you’re at it, you’ll want to pick up a copy of Beranbaum’s Pie and Pastry Bible, too, and then you might as well complete the trilogy with The Cake Bible, although I don’t use that one as much).

My shorthand version of the recipe looks like this:

12 tablespoons of butter
3/4 cup of heavy cream
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2/3 cup crystallized ginger, cut into tiny pieces
additional cream and sugar for topping

1. Cut butter into 3/4-inch cubes and freeze for at least 15 minutes. Whip the cream until soft peaks form, then refrigerate.

2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, ground ginger, salt, and lemon zest in a food processor. Add frozen butter and process until the mixture resembles fine meal.

3. Empty the mixture into a large bowl and stir in the crystallized ginger. Make a well in the center, pour in the whipped cream, and use a spatula to stir it into the flour mixture until all of it is moistened. Knead the dough in the bowl until it holds together, then turn it out onto a floured surface. Continue kneading until it can be shaped into a smooth ball.

4. Divide the dough in two, and shape each half into a 3/4-inch thick disk about 6 inches in diameter. Wrap the disks individually in plastic wrap. Freeze for at least 15 minutes.

5. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a large cookie sheet. Using a sharp, heavy knife or cleaver, cut each dough disk into eight wedges. Arrange these on the cookie sheet with at least an inch and a half of space between them. Brush the top of each wedge with heavy cream, and sprinkle with sugar.

6. Bake the scones for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Enjoy.


* If you wear a wedding ring, you’ll want to remove it before sticking your hands in the bowl in step 3. The dough is incredibly sticky when you first start working with it, so if you don’t take the ring off now, you’re going to have to take it off later, over the sink, where it’s more likely to fall into a drain.

* Properly wrapped, the dough disks from step 4 will keep in the freezer for months. You can also wrap and freeze individual wedges, and bake yourself a single scone whenever the mood strikes you (this is good for portion control, bad for energy conservation — it’s not just a snack, it’s a moral dilemma!).

* Once you get the basic recipe down, you can substitute dried fruits for the crystallized ginger and other spices for the ground ginger — a version using dried apricots and 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves won the 2004 Issaquah Iron Chef competition.

* Although the scones are at their moistest immediately after baking, they won’t turn into hockey pucks if you leave them out overnight; they just get slightly crunchy.

The history of gluten?

This year’s Christmas breakfast:


1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup whole barley flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 to 2 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

Combine dry ingredients in one bowl, wet ingredients in another. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in wet ingredients all at once, mixing just until the batter comes together. Ladle batter onto a hot skillet 1/4 cup at a time, and cook until pancakes are golden brown on both sides.

The above recipe is from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking. The text claims that these pancakes “are so light you won’t believe they’re 100 percent grain!” which led to the following exchange at the breakfast table:

ME: Wow, these really are light pancakes. I’ve had white-flour pancakes that were heavier than these.
LISA: Part of that’s the mixing. If you overmix the batter, it starts to form gluten, and then the pancakes are tough.
ME: Hmm, I wonder who figured that out.

There are at least two whos being referred to here: the prehistoric chef who first worked out the whole “knead” vs. “don’t knead” dichotomy of baked goods preparation, and the more recent individual who nailed down the underlying chemistry and gave gluten its name. But who was that second person? Is there a History of Noteable Food Scientists I can look this up in?

And while we’re on the subject: what kind of sausage would you pair with triple ginger pancakes? I’m thinking something light and mildly sweet, like chicken-apple or chicken-blueberry.