Sometimes I feel like a kitchen wizard. Everything I make turns out just right, whether I’ve followed a recipe to the letter, made infinite tweaks, or just created something off the top of my head. At those times, it feels as though I have a culinary fairy godmother watching over my oven and zapping everything into perfection.
But some weeks, nothing I make turns out quite right. I don’t know whether this is just my perception, coincidence, manifestation, or if there is some sort of weird kitchen juju afoot turning everything bland, or dry, or crumbly.
This has been one of those weeks. I've made half a dozen tasty things, all of which I want to tell you about, but none of them are just right. There were one-bowl chocolate cupcakes, brushed with espresso rum syrup and dipped in rum ganache; but the ganache broke and never fully came back together, despite adding more liquid (and then more chocolate when it didn't set, and then more liquid when it broke again). There were the macaroons that I sandwiched with the broken ganache to get rid of it, but I didn’t like this macaroon recipe as much as another I’ve made in the past. There was shaved asparagus fettuccine with goat cheese and herbs, but the shaved asparagus seemed stringy; I think it would have been better slivered.
I made a vermillion strawberry-rhubarb compote laced with vanilla bean and ruby port, and served it with a ricotta cheesecake that tasted great, but had a somewhat cottony texture due to the whipped egg whites folded in at the end. There was a batch of spicy cardamom-honey granola, but it looks just like the stolen granola, and I plan to remake it with pistachios before giving it it's own post (though for now I've added the variation to the original post). Finally, there was a very involved chocolate babka, which, after hours and hours of kneading, rising, assembling, baking, and cooling, tasted over-proofed, heavy and salty (though, of course, I still ate it; I mean, we're talking chocolate babka, here).
So today I'm giving you the best recipe I've got. (I tried to do it yesterday, but Blogger’s been in ‘read-only mode’ while they fix some bugs - glory be!) It's a poppyseed mega scone, inspired by Heidi Swanson, slathered with meyer lemon curd made by a friend.
The scone dough consists of all-purpose and whole spelt flours, half and half instead of heavy cream to make them a touch less rich, poppy seeds and vanilla, as well as the other usual scone suspects. The dough is rolled out into a large rectangle, the middle third spread with the curd, and the whole thing folded into thirds like a letter. The slab is baked whole, and the baked mega scone gets sliced into whatever shapes you like. Crunchy edges contrast with the pocket of creamy curd within, and the crisp seeds exude their very unique flavor.
There is something so satisfying about making a dough, rolling it out, spreading it with something, and then rolling it up and baking it, as for cinnamon buns, or that pesky babka that I will try again, or this crazy thing that I can't stop thinking about. Making these scones satisfied that itch. I only wish they didn’t crumble quite so much when cut, but those browned bits that like to flake off are the best part; consider them your reward as the scone-cutter.
So while these scones may not be perfect, with a spot of extra lemon curd, they do make a perfectly lovely breakfast.
Hopefully, the elusive culinary fairy godmother has a thing for scones...
‘cause I’ve got some baking to do.
Seeds and scones:
One year ago:
Poppy Seed Mega Scone, with Meyer Lemon Curd
Inspired by 101 Cookbooks
Makes 6-8 scones
For the lemon curd, use the generous recipe posted here, or use my smaller recipe, with or without the lavender, posted here. Or get the store-bought stuff; the scones will still rock.
2 tablespoons poppy seeds, plus more for sprinkling
2/3 cup half and half, plus more for brushing
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole spelt (or whole wheat pastry) flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, cold, in 1/4" dice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup lemon curd (see headnote), chilled, plus more for serving
coarse sugar (such as sugar in the raw), for sprinkling
Combine the poppy seeds with the half and half, and set aside in the fridge while you get the rest of the recipe together.
Position a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat to 425º.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the butter, and work with your fingertips or a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal with some pea-sized butter bits remaining. (Optionally, freeze this mixture for 10-15 minutes to get it really cold; this will make the dough easier to roll out, and will result in tender-er scones.)
Stir the vanilla into the half and half, and drizzle the half and half mixture over the flour mixture a little at a time, scooping up the poppy seeds from the bottom and adding them in, tossing the mixture with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, and eventually with your hands, until the scone dough just comes together and no floury bits remain. You may need to add an extra drizzle of half and half, but try to keep the dough on the dry side; it will be easier to roll out, and will bake up crisper.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper, and roll it into a 12x9" rectangle, 3/8” or so thick, flouring and turning the dough as necessary to prevent it from sticking. (An easy way to flip the dough over when it starts to stick is to dust the top with flour, place another piece of parchment over the top, grasp the whole thing in your hands, and flip everything over. Peel off what is now the top piece of parchment, dust the dough with a bit of flour, and continue rolling it out.)
With a long side of the rolled-out dough facing you, spread 1/2 cup of lemon curd evenly over the middle third of the dough, leaving 1/2" boarder on either side (see photos in post, above). Fold the bottom third of the dough up over the curd, like folding a letter, then fold the top down. Brush the top and sides of the dough with more half and half, and sprinkle with poppy seeds and coarse sugar.
Slide the scone and its parchment paper onto a baking sheet. Bake the scone until golden on top, and the curd is bubbling, 25 - 30 minutes. The scone may crack in places and reveal its yellow interior.
Let the scone cool completely before cutting it into bars or triangles. Serve with additional lemon curd.
The scones will keep for a few days in the fridge. Heat them in a 350º oven or toaster oven to crisp them up a bit.