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Polished Scones

April 15, 1993|JOAN DRAKE

Scones are quick breads similar to biscuits. The recipe originated in Scotland, where the name is pronounced "scon" rather than "scown."

These days, scones are served at teatime throughout Britain, sometimes with clotted (or Devonshire) cream in addition to butter and jam. In this country, scones have become popular at breakfast or with a mid-morning cup of coffee.

There are many type of scones, but the most basic recipe calls for flour, baking powder, salt, butter and milk. Sometimes baking soda and buttermilk are used for leavening instead of baking powder. Substituting half and half or whipping cream for the milk and adding eggs and sugar produce extra-rich scones. More elaborate recipes call for whole-grain flours and dried or fresh fruit, chopped nuts and even semisweet chocolate pieces.

A batch of scones can be prepared in the time it takes to heat the oven. They should be baked immediately after mixing and shaping.

Begin by combining the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

In most quick breads the fat is melted, but in scones and biscuits it is used in solid form, worked into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender (Step 1), two knives or fingers. This technique gives the breads a flaky texture.

When used, sugar is sprinkled over the top and tossed with a fork (Step 2). Additional ingredients, such as fruit or nuts, are combined with the flour mixture at this point.

As the liquid is added, stir with a fork (Step 3) until the ingredients begin to hold together. Gather the mixture into a ball, place it on a lightly floured surface and knead the dough 10 to 12 times--folding it in half toward you, then pushing it away using the heel of your hand (Step 4). Rotate the dough a quarter turn, then repeat this pattern.

Kneading distributes the moisture and increases the flaky texture. It should be done thoroughly yet gently; over-kneading causes the scones to become tough.

Still keeping the dough on the floured surface, pat into a six-inch circle. Cut into six or eight wedges with a sharp knife, then lift with a spatula onto an ungreased baking sheet (Step 5). Arranging the wedges slightly apart allows the sides to crisp during baking.

While the scones are in the oven, place one half of a cotton kitchen towel over a wire cooling rack. When the tops are light golden-brown, remove the scones from the oven and transfer onto the prepared rack. Cover loosely with the remaining half of the towel (Step 6) and cool about 30 minutes. This technique slows the cooling process, keeps the scones from getting soggy or drying out and allows flavor to develop.

The Scots have an old saying: "Prepared swiftly, served promptly, scones disappear quickly." While these breads are best served a half-hour after baking, they do freeze well. Thaw, split and toast before serving.

CREAM SCONES 1 1/4 cups flour 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 cup cold unsalted butter 3 tablespoons sugar 1/3 cup whipping cream

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Cut butter into pieces. Use pastry blender, 2 knives or fingers to work butter into dry ingredients until particles are about size of small peas.

Add sugar. Toss with fork to blend. Add cream, stirring mixture with fork until ingredients begin to hold together. Gather into ball, place on lightly floured surface and knead gently 10 to 12 times.

Pat dough into 6-inch circle. Cut into 6 to 8 wedges. Place on ungreased baking sheet, slightly apart so sides will crisp. Bake at 425 degrees 12 to 15 minutes, until tops are light golden-brown.

Remove scones from oven and transfer to kitchen towel placed over wire rack. Cover scones loosely with remainder of towel and cool 30 minutes before serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Each serving contains about: 225 calories; 210 mg sodium; 39 mg cholesterol; 13 grams fat; 25 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0.07 grams fiber.

Variations:

Currant or Raisin Scones: Add 1/2 cup currants or raisins to flour mixture.

Lemon Scones: Add 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest to flour mixture and 1 teaspoon lemon juice to whipping cream.

Note: If desired, milk or half and half may be substituted for whipping cream and sugar may be reduced to 2 tablespoons.

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