More often than not, what I’m cooking is a direct result of reading a recipe and pondering how I might tweak it to better suit my tastes. But every once in a while it’s a bit more organic than that. I used to scribble these thoughts down on a legal pad, but I noticed that these kept disappearing (I’m looking at you Andrew), so I went ahead and bought the least male-friendly notepad I could find. Now these ideas are contained in a delightfully tacky glittery neon lion notepad, and are safely sitting by for when I feel like fiddling around in the kitchen.
Inspiration for these scones struck recently while eating broiled grapefruit with a ginger and brown sugar cap; which was delicious in its own right, but left me wanting something a bit more substantial. Something about the combination of ginger and grapefruit left my taste buds abuzz, and it was almost all I could think about until I set forth to create these treats.
My first attempt at grapefruit curd was a bitter bland mess; I guess that’s what I get for taking a recipe for lemon curd and just replacing anything lemon with grapefruit. Luckily I gave it a second (very successful) shot, leaving me with what I’m sharing here now, and an insane quantity of leftover egg whites. So I guess, when life gives you egg whites you make meringue?
So please, snuggle up with a good book, a cup of earl grey, and a scone or two. Trust me, you’ll feel any lingering feelings of blah from the dreary winter light (or lack thereof) start to melt away.
These scones are made in more of the British/Scottish tradition than what is typically found in the US. By that I mean that they are not very sweet, and more flaky than tender. They are excellent on their own, though I find they really shine when spread with a healthy pat of butter or glossy citrus curd. Ginger and grapefruit pairs especially well, but I’d imagine lemon curd would be a fantastic substitute, if that’s more your speed.
Scottish Ginger Scones:
Yield: 8 Scones
2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
heaping ½ teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons finely grated grapefruit zest
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cold, cut into ½-inch cubes
¼ cup (1.5 ounces) finely chopped crystallized ginger
½ cup half and half, plus more for glazing
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, grated ginger and grapefruit zest. Working quickly (so as not to heat up the butter too much), either using a pastry cutter, or your hands, cut (or rub) together the flour mixture and cubed butter, until it resembles coarse cornmeal, and there are no pieces of butter larger than a pea. Add the crystalized ginger, and mix til incorporated.
Add the half and half and beaten egg, and mix gently (using a silicone spatula or wooden spoon) til a shaggy dough forms. Turn the dough, and any unincorporated flour from the bowl, out onto a lightly floured surface (e.g. a large cutting board, or countertop). Knead the dough gently*, until it is just cohesive, then form into a rough disc, approximately 1 inch thick. Cut the disk into 8 wedges.
Place the dough wedges on the parchment-lined baking sheet, with about 1-inch of space between each**. Brush each scone lightly with half and half (this will aid in browning). Bake for 10 to 14 minutes, or until the scones have puffed up and are pale golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm with grapefruit curd, or butter.
*It’s important not to overknead the dough, or you’ll be left with tough chewy scones, rather than light and flaky. If you’ve ever made biscuits or pie pastry it’s a very similar process.
**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 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.
. . .
8 large egg yolks
½ cup freshly squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice (from 1-2 grapefruits)
½ cup + 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 2-3 lemons)
finely grated zest of 1 ruby red grapefruit ≈ 2 teaspoons
1 cup granulated sugar
heaping ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
10 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature, cut into pieces
In a medium saucepan*, combine yolks, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, zest, sugar and salt thoroughly with a whisk. Set over medium heat, mixing constantly with a silicone spatula, being especially careful to scrape around the edges of the pan. The curd will be done cooking when it is thick enough to coat the back of the spatula; I’ve found that the time varies quite a bit, but budget in 20-25 minutes, though it may be done considerably before that**.
Off the heat, add in the pieces of butter a few at a time and mix til incorporated completely. Strain the curd through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium bowl (do NOT skip this step), and gently press plastic wrap on to the surface of the curd, to prevent a skin forming. Refrigerate til chilled (it will also thicken considerably), and serve with scones, toast, or eat with a spoon :).
Curd will keep, refrigerated, for about a week.
*If you’re a bit nervous when it comes to egg cookery, you can use a double boiler (I improvise one by setting a large glass or stainless-steel bowl over a smaller pot with a couple inches of simmering water in it – the water level should not touch the bottom of the bowl), but it will take considerably longer. On the plus side it requires less constant tending to. Having made curd both ways, I’m now more of the camp that cooks it directly in a saucepan, just make sure to continually mix to avoid over-cooking, and ALWAYS strain the cooked curd to ensure that any scrambled bits (and excess zest) is removed.
** Since you will be standing by mixing the curd anyway, I find it easiest to rely on visual cues for doneness. It’s pretty hard to miss when the curd thickens.