Tuesday, March 12, 2013

An inconvenient craving

Apparently, I am not the only person in my area who craves Zingerman's lemon scones. The last few times I attempted to obtain one, they were already sold out and that left me feeling a little grumpy. So rather than face disappointment at the store again today, I decided to try to make them at home.

I've had plenty of lemon zest in scones over the years, but other than the Zingerman's scone which I am craving, all have had shards of raw zest in the dough. This is fine when the zest is just there as an enhancer, say to make a cranberry scone taste a little brighter. But it has never been enough to make the citrus flavor the star of the scone. The Zingerman's lemon scones rely on copious quantities of candied lemon zest. The zest is in the same quantity that you'd add currants or dried cranberries and this lends them a powerful, floral intensity.

Texture-wise, these are more delicate than the scones I grew up on, which used milk and egg to bind together the flour-butter combination. These are cream scones (with no egg) and are more ethereal than my regular tasty-but-sturdy variety. They are amazing when freshly baked, though I think they dry out quickly and are less palatable when day old (if you have enough self control to have any left the next day). Next time I make them, I may try and freeze a couple to see whether they could be thawed and then refreshed in a warm oven and keep their tenderness.

Instead of an egg wash or brushing the scones with milk and sprinkling them with demerara sugar, these get a little dusting of powdered sugar once they've cooled. Normally, I'm not a big fan of powdered sugar. But the treatment here is minimal: they are still recognizable as a scone, and the touch of sweetness makes them kind of magical.

Making the zest is a bit of a pain--it's easy enough to do, but an extra step. I'm thinking that maybe I'll make a big batch of candied zest and then freeze it in 1/4 C portions, so I can churn these out quickly. Then again, they're pretty decadent so that might be a bit of a dangerous proposition...

Lemon Scones
recipe adapted from this one for Zingerman's Currant Scones

for the candied zest:
1-2 lemons (or double the recipe and have some left over to freeze for future batches)
1 C sugar

Use a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife to slice off the top layer of the lemon's peel--try to get as little pith as possible. Fill a small pot with cold water, chuck in the strips of zest and bring to a boil. Drain then repeat two more times (this gets any bitterness out and softens up the zest). After draining the third time, put 1 C sugar and 1 C water into the pot and heat until the sugar dissolves. Toss in the blanched zest and turn the heat down so it is just simmering. Cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the zest is tender and looks a little translucent. Cool, then fish it out of the syrup and put on a chopping board and chop it into medium-fine pieces (about the size of a raisin, if a raisin was flat).

for the scones:
1.5 C all purpose flour
2.5 T sugar
1.5 t baking powder
.5 t salt
1/4 C cold butter, cut into 1/4" cubes
1/4 C chopped candied lemon zest
3/4 C heavy cream
2 T powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 400.
Put all the dry ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and pulse until it is partially incorporated. Dump into a mixing bowl and rub the bigger butter/flour lumps between your fingers to flatten (this makes the scones flakey). Add the candied zest. Then stir in the cream and turn out on a floured surface. Knead a few times and pat into a circle 1/2"thick. Divide into 6 large, pie-shaped wedges (or make 12 smaller scones, just bake them for a shorter time).

Put on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15-18 minutes until delicately golden brown around the edges. Cool for a few minutes then dust the tops with powdered sugar.