Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Good Ol' Independence Day. And scones!

So...Happy Independence Day!  Belated.  Whoops.

It's become a bit of a family tradition to spend the weekend of the Fourth out at our vacation home in West Virginia, and let me tell you...this place is beautiful.  It's the house I wish I could take everywhere in the country with me.  Heck, I'd plant this place in the middle of New York City!

The logs would be a mite incongruous with the rest of the city's architecture, but it would be worth it.

The kitchen's gorgeous too, and perfect for photos...I miss that kitchen already...

This time around, the company included my parents, myself, and my brother Rob and his new wife Colleen.  It took me about two weeks to narrow down dessert options, but based on the weather, people's tastes, and with the help of the best cookbook ever, I came up with a solution eventually.

Rob and Colleen love strawberry shortcake, and Rob has a killer recipe for it (which I may beg off of him and post in the future), but I decided to try it with a twist.
A patriotic twist, naturally.

The base I chose for the shortcakes was a strawberry white chocolate scone.  I made one tiny change to a recipe from Alice's Tea Cup, my favorite restaurant / bakery in New York, so I expected that they would be delicious.
Good gracious, was that ever a good choice.

Even without the toppings, the scones were incredible!  Flaky but not at all dry, buttery to boot, and chock full of bits of tart strawberry and sweet white chocolate, these made the kitchen smell amazing and made me do my happy dance.
But we had to gild the lily, so we split them in half and filled them with mascerated strawberries and blueberries and whipped cream.

[Disgraceful secret: The grocery store was out of heavy cream so we cheated and used the stuff from a can.  For goodness' sake, whip your own, preferably with some sugar and vanilla.  But the canned stuff was a viable enough solution.  Particularly the extra-creamy...guilty pleasure in a can.]

The best part?  Totally versatile.  Swap out the white chocolate for milk or semisweet chocolate chips, ditch the blueberries for a more classic shortcake, use raspberries instead of strawberries...anything goes!  And anything would be divine.

White Chocolate Strawberry Scones
Source: barely adapted from Alice's Tea Cup by Haley and Lauren Fox
Yield: 10-12 scones
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups hulled and quartered strawberries
3/4 cup white chocolate chips (brand of your preference - I used Toll House)
1 1/4 cups buttermilk (I used low fat)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy cream (for brushing)
1/4 cup sugar (for sprinkling)

Preheat the oven to 425˚F.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Using two knives, a pastry blender, or extremely clean fingertips, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture has the consistency of fine breadcrumbs.  Add the strawberries and white chocolate chips and mix till they are evenly distributed throughout the dry mixture.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, then pour the buttermilk and vanilla into the well.  Combine until all the dry mixture is wet - do not knead!
Turn the mixture out onto a well-floured surface and gather the dough together, sprinkling some flour over the top.  Gently pat the dough to make a rectangle about 1 1/2 inches thick.  Using a dough cutter or a sharp knife, cut out wedges measuring about 3 1/2 - 4 inches and lay them on a nonstick baking sheet.  If necessary, gather any remaining dough together lightly to cut out more scones - just don't knead too much.  Brush the tops of the scones liberally with heavy cream and then sprinkle with sugar.
Bake the scones for about 12 minutes, or until lightly browned.

To serve shortcake-style, allow scones to cool for approximately 10 minutes.  While they cool, mix together approximately 8oz sliced strawberries, 3/4 pint of blueberries, and 1/3 cup of granulated sugar together in a bowl and allow to mascerate.  In a chilled bowl using a mixer with chilled beaters, whip 1 pint of heavy cream with 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract to stiff peaks.  Once scones are sufficiently cool, slice in half lengthwise and place two halves on a plate.  Scoop a healthy amount of berries onto the bottom half, top with whipped cream, and top with the top half of the scone.  Enjoy!

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