The remainder of the pint of heavy cream that I had used to make my champagne mousse was hanging about in the fridge door, and the expiration date was getting dangerously close.
So what do you do when you have cream that needs to be used right now? Well, in my kitchen, I always make cream scones.
I have two enormous binders chock full of the recipes that I learned in culinary school. My school, unlike some of the more famous ones, does not issue its own cookbook or hand out textbooks to the students. Instead, every day during lecture, we were expected to take comprehensive notes of the recipes that were being demonstrated; and once we got home each night, we then had to supplement those notes with our own experience of making the recipes in class, and write them up. When exams came around, these notebooks were turned in to be graded by our instructors. You couldn’t be missing even the most insignificant technique or variation of a recipe without losing points. It’s no exaggeration to say that I basically wrote a cookbook and went to pastry arts school simultaneously.
I adore my notebooks. Although the recipes are intended, of course, for use in a bakery or restaurant kitchen, I make them in my home kitchen as well. And there is no recipe that makes its appearance more often than the one for cream scones.
Cream scones are ridiculously easy. There’s no fussing about with a pastry cutter or patiently rubbing your fingers into a bowl of flour to cut in the butter. All you need to do is whisk together some dry ingredients, toss in whatever flavoring suits your fancy, and then stir in the cream with a few lazy strokes of a wooden spoon.
The dough will be very wet and messy. You will undoubtedly think that you have to add more flour. But if you resist the temptation and forge bravely ahead with this soft and sticky mass of dough, you will be rewarded with some of the lightest and most incredibly moist scones you have ever tasted. Just forget about trying to use a rolling pin on it. Flour your counter liberally and pat the dough out with moistened fingers instead.
Then you can either form the dough into a large, rough square, slice it into nine smaller squares and cut each square crosswise into two triangles; or you can divide the dough in half and form each half into a round that gets cut into eight wedges. I find the squares a little easier to work with, but the circle-into-wedges method was the original way I was taught at school. Whichever way you choose, use a butter knife that has been dipped into a glass of water to cut the dough, wiping off and re-wetting the blade between each cut. The difference this makes is amazing. Using a wet knife to make cutting a wet dough easier seems rather counter-intuitive, but it works. Please don’t ask me why. I have no idea.
I had decided to flavor these scones with chocolate and lemon, so I swapped out some of the flour for cocoa powder and stirred in a handful of mini chocolate chips and a tablespoon of lemon zest. Chocolate and lemon, admittedly, does not get a whole lot of notice in the world of culinary combinations, but it’s one of my favorites. It’s a well-known fact that citrus works beautifully with chocolate. But somehow the wildly popular chocolate-and-orange and the bright, punchy chocolate-and-lime have completely overshadowed the potential of lemon with chocolate. I feel this is a great loss, and champion my beloved pairing whenever I can. But I had never tried it in a scone before.
Once the scones were out of the oven and had cooled on a wire rack for a few minutes, I eagerly picked one out to try. Its thin, delicate crust was a pale, shiny brown. I split it open and took a bite. The crumb was light and moist, speckled with fudgy bits where the chocolate chips had melted into the tender dough, but the crisp edges provided a bit of texture. The floral acidity of the lemon brought out the spicy fruit notes of the cocoa, and the flavor was powerfully chocolaty. These were not scones for a child’s tea party, but ones for thoroughly grown-up palates, dark and intense enough on their own to yield a cup of coffee superfluous. (Not that this should stop you, if you enjoy a cup of coffee with your scone.) A generous smear of sweet, creamy butter to play opposite the bittersweet cocoa was all that I wanted. And then I nibbled the scone as slowly as I could, treasuring every last bite.
Double Chocolate-Lemon Scones
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (7 oz.)
1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (3 oz.)
1/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (2 oz.)
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup mini dark chocolate chips (3 oz.)
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 1/3 cups heavy cream (11 oz.)
- Preheat the oven to 425°F/220°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
- Toss the mini chocolate chips and lemon zest with the dry ingredients until they are evenly distributed.
- Pour in the cream and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.
- Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sticky lump of dough out onto a well-floured countertop.
- To shape the scones, use lightly-moistened fingers to pat the dough out into a ½-inch thick square, or else divide the dough in half and shape each portion into a ½-inch thick round.
- If you’ve shaped your dough into the square, now cut it into nine equal pieces, three across and three down, and then cut each of these smaller squares diagonally into two triangles. For the rounds, cut each into eight wedges. To make the cleanest cuts, use a butter knife dipped into a glass of water, wiping off and re-wetting the blade between each cut.
- Place the scones on the lined baking sheet, arranging them with the pointed ends facing inside. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the scones look dry and are beginning to crisp around the edges.
- Transfer to a wire rack to cool, and then serve with the freshest, creamiest butter you can get your hands on. Clotted cream, if you are lucky enough to have it, would be even better.
- The scones should be eaten the same day they are baked, or else they can be stored in the freezer for two or three weeks and then re-warmed in a low oven before serving. Raw scones can be refrigerated for two days or frozen for two to three weeks before baking. If baking frozen scones, allow them to thaw to room temperature before baking. Raw scones thaw very quickly, so this should only take 20 minutes or so.
Square method yields 18 scones; round yields 16