May 17, 2017

Mixed Berry Lemon Scones

We're having a heat wave down in Georgia. At least that's what I'm telling myself because this impossibly hot 90-something degree weather with 90-something percent humidity can't last the entire summer. I'm moving back up north in a few weeks, but for now, the only things getting me through this never-ending sauna are light, fresh recipes like these lemony berry scones. They're fluffy, bright, and packed with gorgeous seasonal berries. The scones aren't too sweet (like scones should be) and are complemented by the gentle acidity from the lemons and the tartness of the berries. You can switch it up with some other citrus fruit or your favorite blend of berries, but for me, you can't top the lemon paired with strawberries and blueberries. I also drizzle the scones with a blueberry glaze, but you could easily swap it for another berry, a citrus glaze, or no glaze at all, though a crunchy oat streusel would also be delicious.

This recipe starts like all my other citrusy recipes: by rubbing the zest into the sugar. This allows the oils in the zest to permeate the sugar and therefore every bite of the scones. Just use your fingertips to rub the zest and sugar together; the sugar should become damp, fragrant, and take on a pale yellow hue.

That lemon sugar gets thrown in a food processor with the other dry ingredients, specifically flour, baking powder, and salt. Like most pie crust, biscuit, and scone recipes, I then add cold cubed butter and pulse just until small bits of butter remain. By this point, my food processor is pretty much full, so I'll usually dump this mixture out into a big bowl to finish the dough. You could technically do all of it by hand, but the summer is my chance to be lazy so you better believe I'm not going to mix butter nuggets in by hand if I have equipment to do it for me.

Once all the butter is mixed in, I stir in the wet ingredients. Normally I use buttermilk, but there's enough acidity from the added lemon juice that regular milk will suffice. For extra richness, I'll substitute half the milk for half and half (say that five times fast), though you can use just milk if that's all you have on hand or substitute in a splash of cream. Although vanilla isn't a main flavor here, I always add a spoonful when baking.

Now for the berry part of the scones. Since these are mixed berry scones, you can use whatever berries you want. Think raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, lingonberries, or whatever other blueberries you can find in stores, in fields, or on the internet. Take the internet results with a grain of salt because technically tomatoes, peaches, potatoes, and watermelon are all berries and, while delicious, wouldn't really work here. Today I chose a combination of strawberries and blueberries since I happened to have them and I knew the blueberries would make a gorgeous purple glaze, but that could easily change the next time I make this recipe.

Unfortunately, you can't just throw the berries into the scones even if you're using fresh ones. You have to macerate them to remove some of the water to avoid the extra moisture leaching into the scones and making them soggy. If that sounds scary, all you have to do is toss the chopped or whole berries with a few spoonfuls of sugar and let it sit for a few minutes. Because of changes in concentration (sugars and other molecules) inside and outside the berry cells, the water will move outside the fruit so you can drain it and avoid soggy scones. This is particularly important for frozen berries since the cells were already ruptured by ice crystals during freezing, which allows more of the juice to flow out more easily (so it's really important to drain it off before mixing into the dough).

After you fold the macerated berries into the dough (avoid over-mixing if you want to avoid tough scones), it's time to shape and bake. I like chubby little triangular scones, but you can shape these however you want. You can scoop them into round drop scones, make one big round cut into long/narrow triangles, or cut them however you like, though I can't guarantee they'll keep their shape. The trick is to keep them cold until you pop them in the oven, much like all the other scones, biscuits, and pie crusts I've made in the past. This makes the butter steam when it heats up to make the scones flaky.

The last part of this recipe is the glaze. Again, it's completely optional, but everyone who has seen and tasted these scones has commented on the beautiful purple glaze. It's so simple you can make it while the first batch of scones are baking, and it adds an extra pop of flavor and color. I had an extra cup of blueberries on hand, so I heated them up for a few minutes with some lemon juice until they started to burst and release liquid. I strained that liquid, let it cool, and mixed it with enough powdered sugar to create a thick, sweet glaze. I drizzled it all over the cooled scones, and you could sprinkle it with some extra lemon zest if you really love lemon. You could also make it with any other berry, though you might have to throw it in a food processor to make a smooth glaze instead of just straining it.

I apologize for the long post; this is just the first time in weeks I've actually had time to write this much. For those of you keeping up with my crazy college escapades, I'm home for the next few weeks cooking up a storm to build up a stockpile of recipes to publish for the rest of the year. Next month, I'm moving back up north to Chicago to start my internship working on flavoring at Wrigley. I'll keep posting recipes (and lots of Instagram pictures from all the cool restaurants I plan on visiting), so not much will change other than my home base and the lack of crazy roommates (hopefully). I plan on making my new roommates for the summer a batch of something yummy like these scones, and I'm sure I'll make them for some event like a Memorial Day party or a weekend barbecue, if you can even throw barbecues in Chicago. I'll keep you posted.

2 T Lemon Zest
1/2 Cup + 2 T Sugar
3 1/2 Cups Flour
1 1/2 T Baking Powder
3/4 tsp Salt
1 1/2 Sticks Butter, Chilled & Cubed
1 1/3 Cups Milk (or 2/3 Cup Milk plus 2/3 Cup Half & Half)
1 tsp Vanilla
3 T Lemon Juice
1 1/2 Cups Berries
Berry Glaze (Optional; See Below)

Heat oven to 425F. Line a cookie tray with parchment paper.

Toss the berries with 2T sugar and let sit for 15 minutes. Drain off the juice.

Rub the lemon zest into the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Transfer to a food processor and add the flour, baking powder, and salt; pulse until combined. Add the butter and pulse until small lumps remain. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Whisk the milk, vanilla, and lemon juice together. Stir into the scone base until just combined. Gently fold in the berries.

Cut the dough into quarters. Form each quarter into a circle and cut into quarters or shape as desired. Transfer to the baking sheet and bake for 14-16 minutes or until golden brown. When cool, drizzle with glaze if desired.

For the glaze, cook 1 cup berries with 3T lemon juice in a small pot over medium-low heat for 10 minutes or until juices are released, crushing the berries as necessary. Strain; there should be about 2/3 cup of juice. Add 3-4 cups powdered sugar and whisk until smooth.

Makes 16

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