Oatmeal bacon scones

Scott got home late Thursday night from a flight that tipped him over the “100k miles flown in a year” mark. He has also spent more than 60 days away for business travel this year. So last night, to celebrate his return home from what should be his last trip of the year, I cooked a steak, a baked potato, and a salad per his request. I went to Ottomanelli & Sons on Bleeker Street in the West Village to get a dry aged porterhouse and a genial hard time by the old school butchers behind the counter. I love old school butcher shops; butchers usually seem to like their jobs, enjoy giving advice, and take pride in the meat that they sell, and with good reason in this case. The steak was exceptional.

I don’t generally do a lot for breakfast; I’m not usually great at measuring ingredients first thing in the morning, but since I was on a roll with the “Welcome home Scott/ holiday baking spirit” I made an exception today and baked. Combining three of Scott’s favorites- scones, bacon, and the healthfully virtuous feeling one gets from eating oatmeal- I combined bits of lots of scone recipes and the memory of eating “pannenkoeken met spek” (pancake with bacon)  years ago in the Netherlands (and persuaded a Waffle House cook to semi-replicate by putting an order of bacon into the waffle iron with my waffle batter) into a slightly sweet, hearty, flaky, just a little salty/bacony scone.

Oatmeal Bacon Scones

yield:8-10

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup rolled oats
1 very heaped tablespoon baking powder
2 very heaped tablespoons superfine or granulated sugar (I had some vanilla caster sugar which I used)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, cut into small dice, kept very cold

1/3 cup very crisp crumbled bacon (about 3 strips depending on size and thickness)
1/2 cup buttermilk (start with 1/3 cup and then add by the tablespoon until the dough is soft but not sticky)
1 egg, beaten

Turbinado or raw sugar

Preheat your oven to 400°F

 Cook your bacon until very crisp, to the point that it shatters into little bits when chopped with a knife. Drain on paper and allow it to completely cool before chopping it.

 In a large bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients from flour to bacon and stir to get them thoroughly combined.  Add the cold butter cubes and using either a pastry blender or your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until everything looks like breadcrumbs; the butter should still be a little chunky, but nothing larger than a pea.

 Whisk the buttermilk and beaten egg together and pour about ¾ of the mixture into the dry ingredients. Stir everything together, gently, just to get everything moist; try not to over-stir. If the mixture isn’t coming together into a soft dough, add the rest of the liquid in tablespoons so the dough doesn’t get too sticky.

 Turn the dough out onto a work surface. I like to use a flexible plastic cutting board for pastry because I don’t have to use extra flour to dust the surface, it allows me to move the dough onto the baking sheet easily, and it’s easy to clean up. Gently knead the dough a few times into a ball, then flatten it into a disc. Using a long bladed knife or a bench scraper, cut the dough into wedges (I did 8).

Transfer the disc onto the baking sheet.  It should still look like a disc with the wedges cut into it. Sprinkle the top generously with raw sugar crystals for a little sweet crunch on the top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the scones look like the epitome of Golden Brown and Delicious. Serve hot (or cold, either way they are delicious!)

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When life hands you lemons: Sweet Milk Scones with Candied Orange Peel

Every cook goes through slumps; meals that should have been spectacular are insipid, the weather sets the chemistry of a baked good off, the no-fail recipe is a dismal failure. All of the above happened to me this week. Venison steaks with blackberry mustard sauce, rhubarb strawberry crisp, and most spectacularly, candied orange peels, while not being inedible, we’re not what my mouth was set for when I started cooking.

So what does one do with two large baking trays of candied orange peels that just won’t dry? I’ve made candied citrus peels before. They should be tender, but not soft, the translucent color of shards of stained glass.These, not even close. More like those candy orange slices, which I realize is not a bad thing, but not what I was expecting.

But I started thinking about the cake I had heard of, a Southern recipe, that includes Orange Slices. A simpler thing to make would be candied orange scones. Scones are very similar to Southern biscuits with a hint of sweetness in the dough and usually some sort of fruit or flavoring mixed in. I found a basic sweet milk scone recipe by America’s Test Kitchen.

I incorporated about a half cup of the candied peel into the dry ingredients and formed it into a disk, cutting it into wedges before baking it instead of using a round biscuit cutter. I sprinkled some of the sugar from the peels over the top and into the oven it went.

Oh the agony of waiting! would I break my losing streak or break my teeth on a rock hard scone?

I think I did it! And the orange peel is perfect. It has subtly infused the scones with their fragrance, and are soft and chewy bursts of flavor through each bite I take. The blood orange lemon curd isn’t bad either. Perfect with a cup of black coffee.

Everyone has their off days (weeks). Sometimes it is equipment or ingredient failure. Sometimes the elements just don’t add up. Julia Child said “never apologize” and I think she has a good point. Just keep trying and looking forward to next time, when you can turn those lemons into candied orange peel scones.

Sweet Milk Scones with Candied Orange Peel

 2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbs sugar

4 Tbs unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces

3/4 cup milk

 Optional:

½ cup chopped candied orange peel

Granulated sugar to sprinkle over the top

 Preheat oven to 450F

 Whisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl until mixed. Add the cold butter pieces and use either a pastry cutter, a couple of forks, or your fingertips, mix the butter into the flour until the mixture has a pebbly texture.

 Add the candied orange peel and the milk, stirring just until the dry mixture is moistened and forms a ball, being careful not to overmix. Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead 4-5 times to form a ball. Flatten the ball into a round disk and place on parchment on a baking pan, in a large cast iron skillet or on a non-stick baking sheet.

 Using a bench scraper or other blade, score the disk of dough into wedges, like the spokes of a wheel. Sprinkle the top of the scones with a light coat of granulated sugar.

 Bake for 10-12 minutes until the top is golden.