Here in the U.S.–as opposed to the UK and Ireland where scones are a little more demure– we happily load scone dough with big chocolate chunks, any sort of fruit on hand, coconut, nuts, citrus, and often a little more sugar just because. Icing or at least a drizzle–vanilla, lemon, orange, maple, dark chocolate with salt– is not out of the question on top! And we STILL could gild that lily with a little more butter. What?? We seem to always go big or go home on this side of the Atlantic. I’ve made them every which way over time, though not yet with icing, (scroll down to IF YOU LIKED THIS… to see other More Time scones ), and being an American of Scots descent, I like to consider my options. With a big box of ripe Italian plums resting in my fridge, I opted to 1. freeze most of them for later–hello, Thanksgiving desserts and 2. make some decadent, American-style scones. Had I heard of or made plum scones before? No, but that wouldn’t stop me, would it? I just might be more American than Scots.
While bakers on both sides of the Atlantic now have home ovens, some folks are still attached to baking on the girdle (griddle) on the stovetop, according to Sue Lawrence author of SCOTTISH BAKING. Perhaps you know Sue, a Scottish baking expert, as the author of a few British mysteries! It may be quicker, cooler, and use less energy but it could just be fun to hold on to tradition whenever we can. Many people make English muffins using this method. See link below in pink box for recipe in case you’d like to give it a go. My own mom, a lovely baker, often baked biscuits and cornbread, etc., on the stovetop in a heavy cast iron pan or round griddle; I’ve thought her grandmother, who raised Mom, did the same in the 1920’s in rural Mississippi on a wood-burning stove –no electricity yet. I, too, make cornmeal cakes or sometimes zucchini cakes or potato cakes –nothing like tattie scones but the idea is similar– on a griddle or in a skillet. While I’ve yet to “bake” (dry-fry is another term but I’m not so sure about that?) regular sorts of scones this way, it’s on my list to try. You?
Read up about baking scones on the girdle (known here as a griddle/THE LASS IN THE APRON.
Because it’s easy to continue to forever make a baked good in the same old, same old way but just as easy to change it up, I decided to change this up. I’d add a little cornmeal to the flour mix for color and textural interest — one of my favorite variations for quick or other breads. Sliced almonds (I adore almonds) would grace the top and become toasted in the oven without my having to toast them before hand. A splash of almond extract brings out and highlights the nutty goodness. (Skip it if it’s not your cup of tea.) A little sugar on top is good the for the soul and I include that just because………….and because it gives the scones a deepened golden color.
ABOUT THE CORNMEAL: By the way, in my research about scones, I read a few of bread maven Beth Hensperger's scone recipes and background information in the fun volume, THE ART OF QUICK BREADS: SIMPLE EVERYDAY BAKING, an older (1994) book well worth owning. Beth indicates a cornmeal scone recipe, of which I hadn't heard before I decided to make one, could contain as much as 3/4 cup of cornmeal to replace that exact amount of all purpose flour. Another of her brilliant ideas --a Santa Fe Scone with cumin, Monterey Jack, and peppers -- uses 1/2 cup cornmeal in addition to 2 cups all purpose flour and still makes just 8 scones.
Here’s what it looked like when I made these scones. I’m partial to the food processor for cutting in the (frozen) butter but you can use a large bowl and a pastry cutter or the very best tool, your own fingers (don’t freeze the butter if using your fingers), which many prefer:
Whether you bake in the oven or “dry-fry” my Cornmeal Plum Scones with Almonds, I think you’ll be eating well when you try this:
Cornmeal Plum Scones with Almonds
- 1¾ cups (224 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour-plus more for dusting the counter or board
- ¼ cup (40 grams) yellow cornmeal (I like Quaker brand.)
- ½ cup (100 grams) brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup (4 oz/115 grams frozen salted butter cut into 1/2-inch slices or pieces (Use cold butter, not frozen, if rubbing butter in with your fingers instead of cutting in with food processor or pastry cutter.)
- 1 cup (190 grams) peeled, pitted, fresh ripe plums, patted dry with paper or cloth towels and diced into ½-inch pieces
- ½ cup (190 ml) sour cream or full-fat Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup (60 ml) milk
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water (can sub 1 tablespoon milk)–to brush on top of the scones before sprinkling w/ sugar and baking
- Granulated sugar for sprinkling on the dough
- 1/3 cup sliced almonds
- PREP: Preheat oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the upper third. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- MIX DRY INGREDIENTS/CUT IN BUTTER: In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade (or in a large bowl using a pastry cutter or your fingers), measure in the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Pulse/stir a few times to mix. Add the pieces of butter and pulse/cut in/rub into the flour carefully until you have pea-sized and smaller pieces of butter.
- TURN OUT FLOUR MIXTURE INTO A LARGE BOWL (if using the food processor/if you're using a pastry cutter or your fingers, the mixture will already be in the bowl) and stir in the diced plums. In a measuring cup, whisk together the sour cream or yogurt, milk, and almond extract, and pour that into the bowl. Using a table fork, stir until all the dry bits are incorporated, but the dough is still shaggy. Knead a few times until the dough barely holds together, then turn it out onto a lightly floured counter or board. The dough shouldn’t be uniform, smooth, or neat. Do not overwork the dough. (If by chance the dough is too sticky to work –and it shouldn't be if you've patted the fruit with paper towels — sprinkle with another tablespoon of flour.)
- PAT DOUGH with floured hands into a 1-inch-thick rectangle approximately 6” x 10”. Brush with lightly with about a tablespoon of the egg mixture and sprinkle with a little granulated sugar— 1 or 2 teaspoons. (You will have egg leftover you can cook for yourself or the dog.) Sprinkle the sliced almonds evenly on top and pat gently into the dough. Using a bench scraper or a knife, cut into first 2, then 4, then 8 (or then 16 for small scones—chill an hour before baking) rectangles. I like using the bench scraper to move the scones to the sheet pan. Place on prepared sheet pan as far apart as possible.
- BAKE scones until golden on top and crispy on the bottom—about 20 minutes. Remove to a rack and cool for a minute or two before serving warm. Scones will keep for a day or two, well-covered but are best the day they're made. To reheat, split in half lengthwise, spread lightly with butter, and grill until toasty and hot in a stove top grill pan or skillet. Wrap well, place in freezer bag, and freeze baked scones for a month only if necessary.
TIP: Dice butter, then freeze an hour ahead.
Change it up?
- Just below, scroll down to see a few options for using other fruit: peaches, strawberries, blueberries… Or try a combination of fruit. (King Arthur has a Fresh Apple Cinnamon Scone Recipe.)
- Don’t like cornmeal? Skip it and add an additional 1/4 cup all purpose flour for a total of 2 cups.
- No almonds? Skip nuts or use finely-chopped almonds, pecans, or hazelnuts.
- No nuts at all? Nut allergies? Skip nuts but also remember to skip the almond extract. Replace with vanilla extract and the zest of one orange. (Add the zest with the plums.) Top with two tablespoons old-fashioned oats instead of the sliced almonds for visual interest and a little crunch.
- Even if you’re not omitting nuts, citrus zest is a winner for scones. Add a tablespoon orange zest to the plum or peach scones. Try the same amount of lemon zest for the blueberry or strawberry.
- Add ground cinnamon to the granulated sugar on top of the scones for a little warmth. Try 1/4 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon sugar.
- A dusting of powdered sugar would be pretty over the almonds.
- Add a vanilla drizzle or glaze.
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LIFE GOES ON:
I’m busy getting ready to teach a large cooking class next week, “French Fall Dinner Party.” While I’ve taught it two or three times before, I’ve done so with small, intimate numbers — no more than eight and in my own home with a lovely dinner at the end! This group will be in a commercial kitchen and students will number over 30. The class must then be tailored to lesser amounts of hands-on and greater amounts of lecture, not the best way to teach cooking but there’s no doubt we’ll have fun. It’s the main ingredient. If you’ve taken the class before, you might like to know I’ve thrown a few new things into the mix. Hors d’oeuvres will be an herb goat cheese spread–nearly instant and always changing. I’ll see what herbs look freshest in the garden come the weekend; it’s getting on toward the end of the herb garden for 2023. While we’ll make Potage Crécy (first course carrot soup) and Chicken Fricassée (plat principal-simmered chicken and vegetables in sauce, though I’m looking at a different version) — two old favorites, we’ll also consider Poached Salmon with Tarragon-Chive Aioli as another choice for the plat principal (main course). Instead of one of the dessert mousses or pots de crème, this group will toss together a plum clafoutis. Because, certainement, I have some plums!! I’m still working on the wine pairings but they will be easy buys and basic French choices like a sparkler, a Sauvignon Blanc along with inexpensive white or red Burgundies. Still on the fence!
Thanks for being in my kitchen this week; you’re excellent company and encouragement. By the way, I made these scones twice in three days so I could test the recipe using both volume and weight measurements. Today I made them yet again skipping the nuts. I sent some on a trip with a loved one, took some to a class, and gave a few away to neighbors. I ate
two three! Yummy reviews all around. Just might make more.
Enjoy the fall and if you get your hands on some plums, scone up!