It Rises to the Top

In September, right around the time that my friend Gayle wrote to tell me about a hand-me-down cookie contest in Edible Boston, Nana Parr had a mild stroke. She’s OK, really she is, but she had to move into an assisted living center, which meant giving up her oven, and, with that, her cookies.

cream scones

I’m really thankful I baked with her last fall, and I guess Edible Boston was too, because Nana’s cookie recipe was one of the winners of the contest. I haven’t been able to get my hands on a physical copy that I can bring up to Nana, but we were able to track it down online for you all to see.

As delicious as those sugar cookies are — and I promise you, they really are something — they are a bit involved. There’s the pastry cloth and all the rolling, but they’re totally worth it, a crowd favorite since my husband brought them to kindergarten nearly 30 years ago.

But when I’m squeezed for time and still want to bring a pastry somewhere, I’ve been turning to these scones. I’m embarrassed to admit how simple they are. Let me put it this way: By the time I clean up the food processor and wipe down my counter, they are ready to come out of the oven. It’s a 20 minute recipe, from start to finish. You can keep it proper and use currants, like I did in the photo. I’ve also used chopped candied ginger and some lemon zest, and baked one batch with chopped dried cherries.

making scones

They were a hit at a baby shower I went to a few weeks ago. (Hi Lucas Lee Gideon! Can’t wait to meet you!) You don’t need a pastry cloth to make these, although a food processor does make this recipe a cinch. (And no, I still haven’t found the missing piece.) It’s an ancient recipe from Smitten Kitchen, who found it in The America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook. It’s become a go-to recipe of mine, and now it’s time to share it with you.

A couple notes: Because the recipe calls for chilled butter, I always cube mine and toss it in the freezer as I assemble all my other ingredients and preheat the oven. Also, if I know I’m bringing these for a crowd, I cut each scone in half an additional time so that I end up with 16 cute mini-scones.

Cream Scones

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 Tablespoon baking powder
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 Tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup currants
1 cup heavy cream

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425°F.

Place flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in large bowl or work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Whisk together or pulse six times.

If making by hand, use two knives, a pastry blender or your fingertips and quickly cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few slightly larger butter lumps. Stir in currants. If using food processor, remove cover and distribute butter evenly over dry ingredients. Cover and pulse 12 times, each pulse lasting 1 second. Add currants and pulse one more time. Transfer dough to large bowl.

Stir in heavy cream with a rubber spatula or fork until dough begins to form, about 30 seconds.

Transfer dough and all dry, floury bits to countertop and knead dough by hand just until it comes together into a rough, sticky ball, 5 to 10 seconds. Form scones by either a) pressing the dough into an 8-inch cake pan, then turning the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, cutting the dough into 8 wedges with either a knife or bench scraper (the book’s suggestion) or b) patting the dough onto a lightly floured work surface into a 3/4-inch thick circle, cutting pieces with a biscuit cutter, and pressing remaining scraps back into another piece, and cutting until dough has been used up.

Place rounds or wedges on ungreased baking sheet and bake until scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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8 thoughts on “It Rises to the Top

  1. Molly, first of all, sorry to hear about Nana. Your comment about giving up her oven, and giving up her cookies, reminds me of how much food binds us across generations. You sound like you’re doing a good job of accepting the baton. As for scones, these sound great! With the exception of a couple of simple cakes and tarts, I almost exclusively bake bread, but I’ll make an exception for these, if only because its sounds as though if you get up a little early you can actually have fresh scones ready for everyone by the time they come down to breakfast. Thanks. Ken

    • My in-laws collected all of Nana’s kitchen equipment and cookbooks and set them aside for me. I ended up with all her baking recipes and I’ve slowly been working my way through them. There’s something about softening a stick of butter that has become very comforting to me this year. I consider myself to be much more of a cook than a baker, but, yes, it’s clear these recipes need to be continued. And please do make the scones. They are embarrassingly easy to make.

  2. Yeah for Edible Boston (page 46!) – I’m so glad they loved Nana Parr’s cookies. (I went out and bought a pastry cloth). These scones look great and easy, which is a great combination. I’m thinking dried tart cherries and maybe some orange or lime zest.

  3. I’m glad to hear your Nana is ok, although I know this must be a very emotional transition. She’s fortunate to have you to carry on her recipes and baking (as are we)! Cream scones are the best and I love the idea of little mini ones.

  4. I’ve made these for years after finding the recipe in Cook’s Illustrated (before the America’s Test Kitchen!). They are delicious with dried cranberries and orange zest or fresh blueberries! My husband’s favorite version is the one I make with cinnamon chips with lots of cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top!!! You’re right…….amazingly easy recipe and I never use the food processor as I’m too lazy to want to clean it. Thanks for sharing it.

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