Thursday, November 5, 2009

the sweet smell of vanilla

Guess what?! I have orders!!!! In the last week I've baked dozens of scones; jalapeño-extra old cheddar, double cheddar-parmesan, cranberry-corn, lemon, white chocolate and raspberry, and finally vanilla bean.

As one request would come in (thank you Zarah for getting the ball rolling) other flavour inspirations would come up... until finally I was baking late into the night (and very early morning).

As part of my brainstorming for flavour ideas, I mentioned vanilla bean scones to Tonya and her face positively lit up; she placed her order immediately. I googled several recipes in an attempt to find the perfect one... with that much excitement I didn't want to disappoint my friend.

From these recipes, I ended up tweaking a couple and merging them together. I was so excited to try this recipe: I couldn't wait to cut into that vanilla pod and scrape out all those seeds. Add to that some pure vanilla extract and I ended up with a sweet smelling treat in my kitchen.

I've learnt the real secret to baking scones. Place the shaped, uncooked batter in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before baking them. This allows the butter to get really cold and then the scone puffs up as it bakes. It made all the difference, taking my scones to a whole new level.

Vanilla Bean Scones
2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. white sugar
3/4 tsp vanilla salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1 vanilla pod, cut length-wise and seeds scraped out
1/2 c. (1 stick) COLD butter, cut into small cubes
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 c. buttermilk
1 egg with 1 tsp water, beaten
extra sugar, to sprinkle on top of unbaked scones

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand-mixer combine the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, and vanilla seeds together. Mix to combine with your paddle attachment.

Add the cold butter and start working the butter into the flour at the STIR speed on your mixer (low speed). You just want it to incorporate - so this should take about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the 2 eggs, buttermilk and vanilla extract together in a small bowl. Whisk everything up (so that the eggs are beaten).

Stop the mixer and make a well in the middle of the batter. Pour the wet mixture into the hole and combine (low speed) until everything just comes together... there will be a bit of flour on the bottom of the bowl, that's ok.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Carefully knead it until it comes together (see photo above of the dough before I cut and shaped it). You want to roll out the dough into a large square (don't roll it too thin). From there you can cut out triangles. I was able to get 12 scones out of my batter - but next time I make them I'm going to make mini-ones. So I imagine I would be able to get at least 24 - if not more...I'll let you know how those turn out.

Place on your cookie sheets and set in your freezer for 30 minutes. Trust me - this makes a difference (see how flat my pre-baked scones are compared to the final product in the pictures above).

Remove from the freezer, brush with the egg wash and then sprinkle some sugar on top of these babies.

Bake for 20 minutes - increasing the time if you need to (mine took 20 minutes, but my oven is totally unpredictable).
Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. These will store in an airtight container well... but they are too good to keep too long!

This recipe was a winner... and if anyone says "plain vanilla" you can offer them one of these... there is nothing plain about these babies!

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