Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Baking Sunday: Cheese and Apple Scones

My love of unusual flavour combinations can probably be traced back to childhood when my dad used to make me crazy sandwich combinations. I loved the ones which were a mix of sweet and savoury and apple and cheese was one of my favourites. I still love making apple and cheese toasties, with the apple going all soft under the gooey melted cheese. So when I first read Outsider Tart's new baking book, Baked in America, I was excited to see recipes for their brownies (some of the best I've ever tasted), pies and layer cakes but then saw their apple and cheese scone recipe and knew I had to make them as soon as possible, especially after eating Bake Nation's excellent cheese scones last week. 

These scones were really tasty with a tender crumb and good mix of sharp cheddar and sweet apple. They have a good crunch and have the added bite of polenta in the mix. It's a very simple recipe to make if you have an electric mixer, as it will do all the work for you. My only word of caution is that the dough is really sticky. There's an option to use either apple sauce or apple juice in the ingredients and this will affect how soupy the dough becomes. They suggest using more flour if you're making the scones with apple juice. I actually made my own apple sauce by making an apple stew and putting it through the blender (1 medium apple for 1/4 cup apple sauce) which worked well - the dough was manageable but still pretty wet. I used a lightly floured non-stick board to roll the dough and the mix was together enough to easily cut out the scones and move them to the baking tray. I've taken Georgia from Bake Nation's tip of wrapping some of the scones individually in cling film to enjoy them later warmed in the microwave - they keep their texture the next day and are still moist and firm.

Baked In America certainly adds something new to my cookbook collection and is definitely worth getting if you like American style baking. Even if you don't, it's worth getting anyway. They have put a lot of effort into explaining the difference between US and UK ingredients and measurements and have a number of British bakes such as rhubarb layer cake and lemon lavender scones. Their baking tour of the USA means there are a number of regional recipes which I've never heard of and would love to try. A 7 layer Doberge cake from New Orleans, Kentucky Apple Stack Cake, New York inspired Cannoli Cake - yes please! There's also a really good range of bars and cookies, along with a Buttermilk Biscuit recipe with vaguely mysterious notes which sounds like an intriguing challenge. My only minor quibble with the book would be that there are not always pictures for each recipe but I've found that's relatively common in American cookbooks. The pictures that are there are beautiful!

250-275g plain flour
70g cornmeal/polenta
2 tablespoons granulated or light brown sugar
1 generous tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
120ml buttermilk, cold
1 large egg, cold
60g or 1/4 cup applesauce or apple juice
115g unsalted butter, cold and diced
75g cheddar cheese, grated
1 medium apple, cored and chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degree Celsius. Line 2 baking trays with parchment. Note: You could probably do this at Step 9 when the dough goes back in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk the flour, polenta, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Refrigerate until needed.
3. Measure the buttermilk into a large jug then add the egg and applesauce or juice. Stir to combine. Refrigerate this as well.
4. When you're ready to continue, prepare the butter, cheese and apple. Set aside.
5. Remove the mixing bowl from the fridge. On low speed, add the butter piece by piece and mix until you have a crumbly mess.
6. Take the bowl off the mixer, add the cheese and apple, stir with a large fork then add the buttermilk mixture. Return the bowl to the mixer and continue blending for 10-12 seconds on low speed.
7. Dump the mixture on to a floured surface and pat out until it is 1 inch/2.5 cm thick. Pat and fold over in thirds 2 or 3 times, but do not press down too firmly. This will not only finish an mixing, it will also help build layers and make the scones rise while baking. Pat or roll until the dough is 1 inch/2.5 cm thick again. Try to be quick and gentle. The more forceful you are, the tougher the scones will be.
8. Cut into whatever shape you want, and place the scones on the prepared baking sheets. Add an egg wash or brush with milk or cream if desired.
9. Refrigerate again for 15 minutes or so, to let the dough rest and the butter chill again.10. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until golden and firm. If you used rimmed baking sheets, prop the scones against the rim. This will help prevent them steaming and possibly becoming smushy. You want a crunchy exterior all around.

Makes 8-12 scones, depending on cutter size


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