Feeling Wordy

August 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

I don’t take a lot of chances. Risk-averse I think it’s called.

I’m not one to try just anything. A natural shyness around people who I’ve never met has historically kept me from attending events or social outings if I’m not 100% sure a familiar face will be present. I never used to take cooking risks either; it seemed like such a waste if I “messed up,” and recipes seemed, to me, infallible, sitting there on the printed page. I’m a good rule follower, except for speed limits and exercise regimens.

I credit my friend Alison largely with helping me loosen up in the the kitchen (and many a heartfelt prayer has helped me achieve more boldness in social situations), omitting or substituting in a recipe if we didn’t have exactly everything on hand. Or, maybe because we failed to see the importance of a certain ingredient. The years we aimed to cook together once a week, at her apartment or mine, hold such fond memories for me, mostly filled with hysterical laughter and the delectable dinners we made and devoured.

Our one misstep was an ill-advised butternut squash soup recipe from a publication that will remain nameless with too much onion or apple or Indian spices (or all 3) that turned an unappealing color often associated with baby diapers when puréed. Still, in our four-plus years at it, there was only that one lamentable moment. We still cook together, albeit the distance of our domiciles now dictates less frequency.

I always think of her when I’m cooking, especially if I feel like taking a risk. This week, I decided to make apricot scones for my dad and called upon some of her laid-back approach in doing so. The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco and Mindy Fox was my starting point and pretty much held my hand through it. Their book is designed to help you “craft” your own take on some basic baking staples. This gave me the confidence to make some substitutions and one shining addition.

The recipe I followed was for rum raisin scones. As I was using apricots and didn’t have any rum, I turned a curious eye toward the bottle of Disaronno in the cabinet and thought why not? Further sleuthing revealed that this type of amaretto liqueur is made using part of the apricot kernel. Perfect! My gamble was beautifully rewarded as the scones had ample sweet and nutty flavor just from the bit of amaretto I added after steeping the dried apricot pieces in it.

Alas, I can’t call this experiment a total success as my dough was too wet and spread across the pan like a reverse time-lapse of the tectonic plates shifting. Hence, the lack of photos in this post. Maybe due to a measuring error? I subbed buttermilk for cream, too. And, I knew it probably needed more flour as I was forming the dough, but I didn’t want to add too much and make them tough. I’ll do some more research and try for round 2. Maybe with dried cherries next?

Here’s what I did this time:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp  and 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
  • slightly less than 1/2 cup amaretto liqueur
  • 6 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut in to small pieces
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

Chop the apricots and put them in a small pan with 1 cup of water and heat until boiling. Remove from heat and strain off the water. Place the apricots in a bowl and add the amaretto. Let steep at least 1 hour.

Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt into a bowl. Add the butter pieces. Put bowl in freezer until butter hardens. I used a pastry blender to then incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients until it was broken up into pebble-sized pieces.

Drain your apricots, but save the amaretto. Add a quarter cup of amaretto to your 3/4 cup of buttermilk and set aside. Add apricots to the flour mixture and stir to combine. Mix in buttermilk mixture just until dough forms. Using your (floured!) hands, knead the mixture in the bowl to bring the dough completely together. (This was where I should have added more flour for mine, I think).

Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and shape into a 7-inch round, about 3/4-inch thick. Cut into wedges, about 12. Transfer the wedges, or blobs of dough that were once wedge-shaped, onto a baking sheet. Pop this into the fridge for an hour covered in plastic wrap. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and brush the scones with a bit more buttermilk and sprinkle them with turbinado sugar. Bake, rotating pan once, for about 20-25 minutes. Eat straight from the pan as they cool.




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