Andrew and I are taking care of his mom’s pets, Pepper, Chester (adorably muppet-esque shih tzus) and Sprinkles the cat this week. Naturally, this means as many puppy snuggles as my heart desires (more than you can imagine), so I’m a very happy lady.
Sprinkles the cheese monster
Sprinkles helps out by sampling my cooking; I’d say I’m kidding, but really, she’s a sprightly 20 years old, so I’ll cut her a little slack. I think when you’re that advanced in age you can eat as much cheese and whipped cream as you want, or at least that was my great-grandmother’s philosophy, and I’m sticking to it.
Overall, it’s been a bit of a bittersweet week, as it’s made clear how much I miss having animals around. I grew up in a house filled with animals, though if you asked an eight-year old me, I’d say that it was never quite enough; you see, I had big dreams of running a zoo someday. Countless hours were spent in a corner at the children’s library poring over books on animals, mundane and exotic; I even (somewhat rudely) would state loudly, and frequently that I preferred the company of animals to people. Naturally as a burgeoning zookeeper I had the usual suspects for pets: a pair of cats, a couple dogs, a hamster named Freckles, a string of gerbils.
It’s likely that my childhood diverged a bit from the norm when my mom brought home a hedgehog, who we dubbed Bubba, or perhaps the summer I kept a grasshopper (Chartreuse) in a beta-fish type of aquarium. I never had a bird (too loud), or any fish (not cuddly enough) but I did have a tank full of efts* whose names fail me now except for Big Al (I don’t know) and Newt Gingrich (no, I was not a young republican, I merely thought it funny that there was a man named Newt). Plenty of weekends were spent at my grandparent’s farmhouse in New Hampshire with my mom’s horses Woody and May; in fact we found the efts in the woods by their house there.
When Andrew first mentioned growing up with a pair of pet goats, and that his mom had a (descented) skunk as a girl, I knew that I’d fit in just fine. And really, Liz and I get along swimmingly, so I really lucked out there. Liz, thank you for letting me borrow the critters this week, we miss you!
Tangent aside, these scones are Sprinkles approved, so they must be good, right? A little bit indulgent, sure, but you deserve it, especially on a chilly winter day.
They’re delicious, really… Andrew is just a bit silly.
These are pretty fantastically indulgent as is, but I imagine these would make an exceptional breakfast sandwich if you split them and filled the two halves with a fried or poached egg, a slice of cheddar, and a couple strips of crisp bacon. That said, the next time I make these I plan on adding a bit of chopped cooked bacon to the dough; let me know if you try this out!
Adapted from a Peter Oleyer (of Calexico) recipe in NYMag, by way of Smitten Kitchen
Yield: 8 scones
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, diced 2 small or 1 large jalapeño peppers, minced 2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour 1 tablespoon baking powder heaping 1 teaspoon kosher salt 2 eggs ½ heavy cream, plus more for glazing
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, diced
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Over medium heat, melt ½ tablespoon of the butter in a small skillet; add the minced jalapeño, and sauté til softened. Allow to cool, then toss with the cheddar and one tablespoon of the flour; set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the remaining flour, baking powder and salt. Working quickly (so as not to heat up the butter too much), either using a pastry cutter, or your fingertips, cut (or rub) together the flour mixture and remaining butter, until it resembles coarse cornmeal, and there are no pieces of butter larger than a pea.
Whisk together the eggs and cream. Fold into the flour-butter mixture, until it begins to become cohesive. Add the jalapeño and cheddar mixture, and mix gently til combined; it’s OK if the mixture is still pretty shaggy at this point, really it’s better than overmixing.
Turn the dough out onto a floured board or countertop, and knead gently (no more than 10-15 times) til combined. Pat dough out so that its about one inch thick. Either cut into eight wedges or use a biscuit cutter to cut out shapes. Transfer the cut scones to a parchment lined baking sheet, leaving at least an inch of space between each scone. Brush the tops with cream. Bake for 23-25 minutes, until golden brown and the cheese is oozing out.
Transfer to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool for a few minutes.
Unless you’re particularly wimpy when it comes to spicy food (and there’s nothing wrong with that), I’d recommend keeping the membrane and seeds of the jalapeños intact. Their heat mellows quite a bit between the sautéing and time in the oven. I would describe the end product as being somewhere between mild and medium on the heat level.
If using a biscuit cutter, I wouldn’t pat together the scraps of dough more than once (too much working of the dough makes it tough, and no one wants a tough scone). So in order to not waste any precious dough, I usually just pat the scraps out into a rough circle and cut into wedges. Alternatively, if you want more round scones you can bake off the scraps from the second cutting as is, they won’t be very pretty, but will make a nice snack for the baker (you)!
Scones are best enjoyed on the day they are baked. Unless I’m planning on consuming an entire batch of scones within a day or two, I usually freeze any extra to be baked at a later time – they taste much fresher this way. To do this, only bake off as many scones as you plan on consuming at the time, and freeze any other wedges/circles of dough, unbaked and unglazed. When you get a craving for a scone all you have to do is preheat the oven to the original temperature and bake the frozen scones straight from the freezer; they will take 1-2 minutes longer to cook. To make things simpler, I label the frozen scone container with the oven temperature and baking time.