Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pumpkin Scones and Making Your Own Buttermilk

On November 9th, 2009, I declared that I was on 'Mission Scone Mastery'. Three months, 2 days, and 0 scones later, I am ready to recommit to the Mission.

And to prove it, I made some pumpkin scones. They came out with a very light, delicate flavor. Not too sweet, so they would be good in the morning. And, since you make them with pumpkin, they have a little bit more of a bready/biscuity texture than some other scones. Also nice for the mornings.

But, pumpkin scones aside, I have some life-changing information about buttermilk to share with you. Life-changing.

Now, I don't know about you, but I don't always have fresh buttermilk lying around in my frig. So, what do you do when you want to make scones or biscuits or muffins or anything calling for buttermilk, and you don't want to go to the store?

You make your own.

As long as you have milk and either white vinegar, cider vinegar, or lemon juice, you are in business.
Apparently, you can make buttermilke with milk and one of the aforementioned acids. Just add 1 tablespoon of the acid to 1 cup of milk, let it stand for 10 minutes, and bingo-bango: buttermilk! As I said, life-changing information here.

Back to the scones... and to making the scones. The first thing to do is cut up the butter and put it back in the frig. You want it as cold as possible for the flakiest scones possible.
Then, if you need it, make your buttermilk: I used 1/2 cup of milk and 1/2 Tablespoon of cider vinegar. And let it stand for 5 to 10 minutes.
Next, get your dry ingredients together: flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Whisk those up.
Get out your butter, and add it to the dry ingredients.
Now, use your pastry blender, and cut the butter in.
You are done when the flour mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Now, add in some chopped, toasted pecans and raisins. (Its easy to toast nuts: put them in a dry skillet over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. They are done when you can smell them. I think pecans, especially benefit from toasting.)
Stir that up.
In another bowl, mix together your pumpkin, buttermilk, and vanilla.
Make a well in your dry ingredients, and pour your wet ingredients into the dry.
Stir until just combined. Overstirring is a very bad idea. And don't worry if the dough is sticky, it should be.
Now, you are going to want to get the dough out onto a floured surface. Speaking of floured surfaces... do you know about Silpat counter mats? Silpat mats are silicone, heat resistant mats that can fit inside baking sheets. They act as a non-stick surface, performing the same function as parchment paper. But Silpat also makes counter mats:
That's right, it is a mat big enough to cover your counter. Just imagine how easy it makes clean up. And look how much fits on it!
I am madly in love with my Silpat counter mat, and I think the world should know.

Back to the pumpkin scones... Once the dough is on your floured surface, you want to lightly knead it four or five times. Bust out your ruler. Then pat it out into a circle that is 7 inches across.
And 1 1/2 inches high.
Cut it in half, and then cut each half into four wedges. You may need to flour your knife if the dough is too sticky.
Get those on a parchment lined baking sheet, and put that baking sheet inside another baking sheet. And, if you were following the recipe, you would now coat each scone with an egg wash. If you, um, fail to read directions and overlook this step, don't worry. They will come out just fine. The egg wash is mostly to make them shiny and pretty.
Pull them out after 20 minutes, when they are just lightly browned.
Then put them on a wire rack to cool.
Something tells me Mission Scone Mastery is going to be a marvelous part of 2010.

Pumpkin Scones (from
2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup light or dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup toasted and chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
1/3-1/2 cup buttermilk*
1/2 cup canned pumpkin**
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Egg wash:
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk or cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place rack in center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, spices, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into flour with a pastry blender or two knives. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Stir in the raisins and pecans, if using. In a separate bowl mix together the buttermilk, pumpkin puree and vanilla and then add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Mix just until the dough comes together. Do not overmix.

Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead dough gently four or five times and then pat the dough into a circle that is about 7 inches round and about 1 1/2 inches thick. Cut this circle in half, then cut each halt into 4 pie-shaped wedges. Place the scones on the baking sheet. Brush the tops of the scones with the egg wash.

Place the baking sheet inside another baking sheet to prevent the bottoms of the scones from over browning. Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

*You can make your own buttermilk: for every 1 cup of milk, add 1 tablespoon of white distilled vinegar, cider vinegar, or lemon juice. Let it stand for 5-10 minutes.
**I would have liked a little more robust pumpkin flavor in these scones, so next time I may try adding more pumpkin

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