Thursday, February 13, 2014

Pecan, Orange, Cardamom & Maple Butter Scones - Valentines Treat

I have a bit of a passion for scones so no surprise that my thoughts on Valentine's baking quickly settled on this homely, but perfect at any time treat. The modest scone always reliable, no fair weather 'bake' that yoyos in and out of fashion, a stalwart of British baking. So perfect to celebrate the warmth and comfort of sharing time with a loved one. But to mark the occasion I am spicing up the ingredients by popping in some warming cardamom, a spice with a reputation for being an aphrodisiac and some candied pecans, regularly described as 'heart friendly' for their cholesterol lowering properties, and orange zest another ingredient that is being looked at for its cholesterol lowering properties. And finally because butter or cream are almost obligatory to serve with a scone we are gilding the lily with some fantastic maple butter from the lovely people at Moose Maple Butter. This is a simple, but delicious blend of fresh butter and pure maple syrup.

I have quite a soft spot for anything 'moose' related so I have to admit the packaging on this one had me smitten before I had tried the product but I am delighted with the butter as well as the pot! I have quite a few moose shaped cookie cutters in my collection and had to see if I could use one here. So not perfect, but quite cheeky - moose shaped scone :

Scones always taste best when freshly baked but they can be popped into an oven for a couple of minutes to refresh if you are eating them the next day. I have also had success with keeping unbaked scones in the fridge for several hours. They go into the fridge on the baking tray, but are not glazed, and so long as they are covered to stop drying this allows the prep to be done well before the freshly baked scones are needed.

I have also heard of frequent scone bakers who keep bulk amounts of the prepared dry ingredients with the butter already rubbed-in, stored in tubs in their freezer.  That way small amounts can be removed, whatever flavourings added, and then enough milk/egg stirred in to mix up the dough.

The pecans in these scones were lightly candied first and this is not essential but enhances the pecan flavour and texture. You could also just lightly toast the nuts first but watch them carefully as pecans turn from nearly done to burnt cinders in the blink of an eye.

My method for candying pecans, walnuts or almonds is to lightly spritz the nuts with a clear alcohol like kirsch or schnapps, or vodka and then sprinkle lightly with icing sugar, turning the nuts over as the sugar is sprinkle over them with a small sieve (about 20g sugar per 250g of nuts). The nuts are then placed in a single layer on a non stick or lined baking tray and baked in an oven preheated to 160C for about 10-12 minutes. The baked nuts will have a light sugar glaze  and a nice crisp texture and toasty flavour.

The recipe

500g plain flour
20g baking powder
1/2tsp ground cardamom
50g caster sugar (or 75g if you prefer sweeter scones)
finely grated zest of 1 orange (untreated fruit or washed before zesting)
pinch of salt
75g butter
2 eggs lightly beaten
230 ml of milk (or a milk/yogurt mix)
100g of coarsely chopped candied/toasted pecans

Preheat your oven to 200C.

Line a heavy baking tray (the baking temperature is hot so thin trays often buckle/warp alarmingly).

  • Place the flour, baking powder, caster sugar, grated orange zest and pinch of salt into a mixing bowl.
  • Cut the butter into cubes, add to the flour mixture and using your finger tips blend the butter into the flour until it resembles a crumb like texture.

  • Add the pecans to the bowl, pour in all but about a tablespoon of the beaten egg (keep this portion for glazing) and add about three quarters of the milk. Stir lightly with a fork to bring the mixture together and add as much of the remaining milk as you need to bring together a coherent but not too sticky dough.
  •  You are aiming at a soft dough, if it is resisting forming into a ball then it is too dry and more milk should be added. When you get near to the point of bringing it together into a ball swap the fork for your hands. You should now be able to feel if the dough is too damp or too dry.

  •  Work it in the bowl a little before turning out onto the counter.

  • Only dust as much flour onto the counter as you absolutely need to keep the dough from sticking.

  • Roll or press the dough out with your hands to a thickness of about 3cm/1".
  • Stamp out the scones with a cutter or just divide the dough with a knife.
  • Place the scones onto the prepared baking tray.
  • Take the container that still has the tablespoon of beaten egg and dilute the egg with another tablespoon of milk. Use this to brush the tops of each scone. Just the top, not the sides. Egg on the sides may hamper the scones from rising evenly.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes until golden . If you forgot to preheat the oven just keep the scones cool until the oven temperature reaches 200C. Check after ten minutes to see if you need to rotate the baking tray to keep the heat evenly distributed. The baking time will depend on the size of your scones and the oven temperature being maintained. Ovens do vary as to how quickly they reheat each time the oven door is opened. 
  • Place the baked scones on a wire  cooling rack.

Take the maple butter out of the  fridge to soften a little while you are waiting for the scones to cool.

Enjoy the scones while still just warm, thickly spread with Moose Maple Butter, plain butter or a generous layer of clotted cream. Sprinkle with a few extra candied pecans if liked.

I am very grateful to Farrah from Moose Maple Butter for making it possible for me to feature their Maple Butter in this article. The product is going to become more widely available in the UK this year and for further information see Locate the Moose or follow them on Twitter @FarrahMoose. Is it just me or does anyone else read that twitter handle and instantly find them selves thinking of Freddie Mercury singing Bohemian Rhapsody?

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