Saturday, September 3, 2011
Taste of the Tropics
Oh, gentle feelings, soft sounds, the goodness and the gradual stifling of a soul that has been moved; the melting happiness of the first tender, touching joys of love--where are you? Where are you?
-Ivan Turgenev (First Love)
On a lovely sunny and carefree Saturday morning about two weeks ago, I woke up knowing that I was going to bake scones. The morning just said "scones" to me, but there was one tiny problem: what kind? Buttermilk was obviously going to be a part of the equation (though I'm sure this blog makes it seem like I have the perfect pantry and well-stocked refrigerator, both full of all the necessary ingredients for any recipe that should strike my fancy, that's simply not the case. I had buttermilk, half and half, several limes and random condiments in the fridge on this not so fateful morning), but I couldn't quite figure out what was going to give them that special something. Simple buttermilk just doesn't do it for me; I like a little oomph.
And then, like magic, my eyes fell on the dried mango that I had purchased a few weeks earlier. I don't always buy dried mango, or dried fruit in general, but this was fortuitously placed in the wooden bins--unsweetened, unsulfered sweetened and organic; how's a girl to choose?--near the checkout area at Trader Joe's, which gave me plenty of time to be perfectly indecisive about which mango was best (I went with the unsulfured sweetened; there was no logic behind this whatsoever) and to imagine all the scenarios in which I might use it. I briefly thought of scones, but only in passing. At that time, my mind was full of Dostoevsky, icons and other things.
But, clearly, my scone fantasy was meant to be. Once I saw the mango, things came together quickly--mango (sweet) + lime juice and zest (tangy) + coconut flakes (rich and flavorful) = tropical scones. Clearly, I was having a creative culinary day; these happen on the mornings when time seems to stand still, there's no rush to go anywhere and life seems both happy and easy (sunshine never hurts). Frankly, there should be more such days! After assembling all of the ingredients, I soon reached my favorite part of the scone-making process: when you have to dump the mixture onto a lightly floured surface, gather the dough together and pat it into a disc. At this stage, I always worry that there's no way in the world this wet mixture that clings to my fingers (despite my best "let me cover my hands in flour" attempts) will ever turn into anything resembling food; it's unwieldy, difficult and one big gloppy mess. But then, once I've managed to arrange everything on a cookie sheet and put it in the oven--in short, once the hard work is over-- I can rest assured that, in about 12 minutes or less, I'm going to have flaky, flavored goodness for breakfast...If every morning could begin with scones, I'd be one lucky lady.
Mango, Lime and Coconut Scones
Makes about a dozen scones
Basic scone recipe adapted from Haley and Lauren Fox's Alice's Tea Cup
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" pieces
1/2 cup coconut flakes
3-4 oz. dried mango (about 4 or 5 pieces), cut into tiny pieces
lime juice and zest (from one lime)
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup half and half (for brushing)
1/4 cup sugar (for sprinkling)
-Preheat the oven to 400.
-In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
-With your hands, work the butter into the dry mixture, until it is well incorporated and has the consistency of bread crumbs.
-Add the lime zest, dried mango and coconut and stir well (for even distribution).
-Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and pour the buttermilk, vanilla and lime juice into the well.
-Again using your hands, combine all the ingredients until the dry mixture is wet, but do not knead (kneading can lead to tough, dry scones and you definitely don't want this)!
-Turn the mixture onto a floured surface and gather the dough together.
-Pat the dough into a disc; it should be about 1 1/2 inches thick.
-Cut the scones with a knife (my preferred method) or a biscuit cutter (if you have one) and then lay them on a non-stick baking sheet.
-Brush the top of the scones with half and half and then sprinkle with sugar.
-Bake the scones for about 12 minutes, or until lightly browned.
-Enjoy the tropical magic (I don't even wait until they've cooled!). Scones are, after all, best served warm and with lemon curd or clotted cream.