Strawberry Basil Scones

I’m working on a new project right now – it involves testing a lot of recipes for scones (if you have a great family recipe, I’d love to hear your secrets!)  The other day I worked on two strawberry scone recipes.

Recipe Testing = kitchen disaster

The first recipe involved the food processor, a lot of cold butter,  and a rolling pin.  Pretty typical right? I combined the flour, sugar, and other ingredients, and then cut in the ice cold butter, mixed in a cream/egg mixture, then added the strawberries.  I rolled out the dough, cut the scones, brushed a little egg and dusted a little, and popped them into the oven.  Successful, I thought.  They came out warm and golden, slightly crisp on the outside, very inviting.  I couldn’t resist eating a pinch, but I waited for  batch #2 before performing the official taste test.  As the warm dough hit my mouth, my first bite was good, but my second was less than good.  I think the moment any combination of butter/sugar/flour/fruit first hits the mouth, the first reaction is always good, but it’s the second that is the tell-tale story.

The second scone recipe came from the America’s Test Kitchen cookbook, a Valentine’s gift from my husband! This recipe calls for a mixture of fats – butter, sour cream, and whole milk, a butter freezing-and-grating technique, no food processor, and a method of folding the dough to create fluff and softness.  I was a bit skeptical but I proceeded as instructed.

The first step was to freeze sticks of butter, grate them using a cheese grater, and then pop the grated butter back into the freeze while preparing the rest of your ingredients.

After mixing the dry ingredients, I poured the frozen butter shavings into the flour, coated them well, and mixed in the other fats.  This formed a relatively wet, inconsistent dough in the bowl, but once it was turned onto a floured surface and mixed a bit by hand, the dough was smooth and formed.  Using a rolling pin, I rolled it flat, folded it twice, and then spread the strawberries and basil to cover the surface.

Then, I rolled the dough like I would a jelly roll or cinnamon roll and pressed it into a flat rectangle.  By doing this, the berries were fully incorporated and layered, while maintaining the integrity of the dough.  Scones were cut, brushed, and sprinkled and then into the oven to bake.

These came out of the oven visually more fluffy and appealing than the first recipe.  My first bite of recipe #2 bursted with flavor, and the second had even more.  This time, I couldn’t stop tasting!

The texture was soft and light mixed with just the amount of crunch and structure from the exterior.  The flavor was complex with bright notes from the lemon zest and sour cream, sweet notes from the sugar, richness from the butter and cream, and freshness from the strawberries and basil.  This was the scone I had been searching for! Stage 2 of recipe testing: how do they fair over night and frozen…

The recipes…

Strawberry Basil Scones
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook

16 Tbsp (2 sticks) unsalted butter, frozen whole
1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, diced into medium chunks
1/4 cup basil, chiffonade
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for counter
1/2 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
Zest from 2 lemons

Preheat oven to 425.
Wash and cut strawberries.  Place in freezer until needed.
Chiffonade basil and place in refrigerator until needed.
Remove 1/2 of paper from each stick of frozen butter. Grate 8 Tbsp butter, using large holes of cheese grater. Put back into freezer until needed.
Whisk sour cream and milk together and refrigerate until needed.
In medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and lemon zest.  Add frozen butter to bowl and toss until butter is thoroughly covered in flour.
Add milk mixture to flour/butter and fold together until the dough comes together (the flour will not fully incorporate until the next step)
Turn dough onto a well-floured surface and dust the top with more flour.  Knead the dough (adding flour as needed) until it comes together (about 6-8 times).
Roll the dough into a 1/4″ thick square.  Fold length-wise into thirds and then fold ends up to form an approximate square.  Roll dough out again into 1/4″ thick square again.
Spread strawberries and basil over surface evenly.  Lightly press into dough.
Roll dough like a jelly roll to form a tube.  Using rolling pin, flatten tube into a rectangle, 1/2″ thick.
Cut scones into triangles.  Melt 1/4 stick of butter, brush over scones, and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, until browned on top.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

.. .enjoy!

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