I’m preparing for Thanksgiving and for my sole visitor, my father, who loves a proper English scone. Unfortunately, these currant scones, I am fairly certain are not proper by any British standards, and I’m fairly certain that serving them with lemon cream is not proper either. What I am certain about, however, is that after one bite, my father will tell me that what I have created is not in fact a proper British scon. And then he’ll proceed to devour two or three, slathering each with lemon cream, uttering mumbles of approval all along the way. I can’t wait.
I’m sorry to bore you with a recipe I’ve posted about before, but when I find a recipe I like, I tend to stick with it. Tartine’s buttermilk scone recipe is the one I use year-round, studded with berries in the summer and currants in the winter. The recipe yields a huge batch, too, which is nice when planning for visitors, so I froze eight unbaked scones for Thanksgiving morning.
With scone dough stashed away, I thought it would be fun to have some of Tartine’s lemon cream on hand, too, a recipe I overlooked in the cookbook but have had bookmarked since seeing it on Food52 a few months ago. The cream is as luscious as promised, and I cannot wait to serve it, though I suspect my father is going to ask if I’ve got any clotted cream around. Also, just a note: these scones certainly don’t need anything as spectacular as homemade lemon cream — they honestly don’t even need a dab of butter — but if you’re feeling the gilding-the-lily spirit that is the holiday season, then go for it.
Incidentally, I have been watching Call the Midwife — amazing! — and have been craving proper English scons since hearing the midwives giggle about them in the last episode. I might have to give a proper recipe a try — these look promising. British Readers, thank you for alerting my attention to CTM. It is as wonderful as you said. Just when I thought I couldn’t love a character more than DCS Foyle, Chummy walked into my life.
Lemon cream ingredients:
Tartine’s Buttermilk Scones with Currants
Yield = 12 to 16 scones, depending how you cut them
3/4 cup (3.5oz/100g) Zante currants
4 3/4 cups (24oz/680g) of flour
1 tablespoon (15ml) baking powder
3/4 teaspoon (3.75ml) baking soda
1/2 cup (3.5oz/100g) sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon (6.25ml) salt (I use table salt)
1 teaspoon (5ml) grated lemon zest
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (9oz/255g) cold, unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (12oz/375ml) buttermilk
3 tablespoons (45ml) melted butter
sugar for sprinkling
1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Butter a baking sheet (or line it with parchment paper). Combine the currants with warm water to cover in a small bowl and set aside for about 10 minutes until the currants are plumped. Drain well. (I drain them and then wrap them in paper towels to soak up excess moisture.)
2. Whisk together flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add sugar, salt and lemon zest and stir to combine. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes and scatter the cubes over the dry ingredients. Use a pastry blender or the back of a fork to cut the butter into the dry ingredients. When you are finished, the butter should be dispersed throughout the flour in pea-sized lumps (or bigger… mine always are).
3. Add the buttermilk all at once along with the currants and mix gently with a wooden spoon until the dough holds together. If the mixture seems dry, add a little bit more buttermilk. (I added 6 more tablespoons of buttermilk.)
4. Dust your work surface with flour and turn the dough out onto it. Divide the dough into two even portions. Using your hands, pat each portion into a circular disk about 1 1/2 inches thick. (Or, if you want to follow Tartine’s instructions, pat the dough into a rectangle about 18 inches long, 5 inches wide, and 1 1/2 inches thick). Brush the top with melted butter. Sprinkle with sugar. Using a biscuit cutter or any round cutter, cut each disk into 8 circles, gathering the scraps together to shape the final circle. (I forgot to butter and sprinkle with sugar until after I cut up the disks. Also, obviously, you can cut the disk into triangles, which is easier. I just love the circular shape.)
5. Transfer the triangles to baking sheet. Bake until the tops of the scones are lightly browned, about 25 to 35 minutes. (Mine were done at 20 minutes.) Remove from the oven, let cool briefly, then serve with butter, lemon cream, clotted cream, jam or nothing at all.
Tartine’s Lemon Cream
Yield = 2.5 cups
Notes: Definitely check out the Food52 website for a beautiful slideshow that documents the process. Making lemon cream from scratch is really fun. Truthfully, I do not think the scones need any lemon cream at all, but it is kind of fun to have on hand. I also think I could have gotten away with adding less butter. I don’t even care about things like this, but it tasted so good when I tasted it after half of the butter was added that I thought about stopping then. It’s your call. Also, the lemon cream can be used as a filling for tarts and trifles and mixed with whipped cream to spread over layer cakes. I’m still unsure of what I’m going to do with the bulk of mine.
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (5oz/155ml) lemon juice
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup (6oz/170g) sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup (8oz/225g) unsalted butter, cool
1. Pour water to a depth of about 2 inches into a saucepan, place over medium heat, and bring to a simmer.
2. Combine the lemon juice, whole eggs, yolk, sugar, and salt in a stainless steel bowl that will rest securely in the rim of a saucepan over, not touching, the water. (Never let the egg yolks and sugar sit together for more than a moment without stirring; the sugar will cook the yolks and turn them granular.) Place the bowl over the saucepan and continue to whisk until the mixture becomes very thick and registers 180° F on a thermometer. This will take 10 to 12 minutes. (Note: I do not have a trusty thermometer, but found that the mixture started to thicken up after about 6 minutes, and I continued to whisk for a total of about 9 minutes.)
3. Remove the bowl from over the water and let cool to 140° F, stirring from time to time to release the heat. (Again, I do not have a thermometer, but just used my judgement — I let it cool for about 15 minutes.)
4. Meanwhile, cut butter into 1-tablespoon (15-ml) pieces. When the cream is ready, leave it in the bowl if using an immersion blender (I tried this…not so easy…so I switched to the blender), or pour it into a countertop blender. With the blender running, add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time, blending after each addition until incorporated before adding the next piece. The cream will be pale yellow and opaque and quite thick.
5. You can use the cream immediately, or pour it into a storage container with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for up to 5 days. To use after refrigeration, if necessary, gently heat in a stainless steel bowl set over simmering water until it has softened, whisking constantly.
Final note: I don’t see why the butter couldn’t be at room temperature? It’s just a thought that I might act on next time around. I used to make a recipe very similar to this one, and it called for whisking in room temperature butter after the thickened egg yolk-lemon-sugar mixture had cooled briefly. It worked beautifully.