The Other Brunch Bookend: Toasted Almond Scones
January 30, 2008
You’re probably looking at this photo and thinking to yourself: she didn’t actually serve this at her brunch on Sunday did she? That brunch that concluded with thick wedges of coffee cake? Well, I actually did. And, yes, it was at the same brunch as the coffee cake. But, I have a defense!
You see, these are mini scones. Tiny, I swear. Bite-sized, really. Nothing like the behemoths you see in the bakery case at the coffee shops. And the second prong of my defense, your honors, is that these scones and that coffee cake were the bookends to the brunch. They were served hours (okay, only two hours, but that’s still plural) apart.
(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos and the recipe.)
When I was creating the menu for the brunch, I wanted to serve something small and warm for guests to eat just as soon as they arrived. It’s something I always enjoy about great restaurant brunches and I wanted to emulate it on Sunday. However, I didn’t want to wake up before dawn on Sunday. Thankfully, when I read Dorie Greenspan’s Toasted Almond Scone recipe, she assured me that the scones could be frozen and baked off just before serving.
After the roaring success that was Dorie Greenspan’s Peanut Butter and Fudge Brownies with Salted Peanuts, I had very high hopes for these scones. And I put my complete trust in her recipe. The only tweak I made was in their shape. Instead of patting the dough into a round and slicing it in wedges, I rolled it out to about one-inch thickness and cut out 2-inch rounds using a fluted cutter. Oh, and one other tiny thing too: after I put them on their baking sheet, I brushed them with milk before scattering the almond slivers. And, because I couldn’t help myself, I dusted them with sanding sugar too. Not only did these look dainty and pretty, they were also quite tasty: flaky and light, with a buttery, deep almond flavor (thanks to what Greenspan calls a “triple whammy” of almond—the ground almonds, the almond extract and the nuts themselves).
Toasted Almond Scones
Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours
1 cup blanched almonds (whole, slivered or sliced), toasted
2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup cold heavy cream
1/4 cup cold whole milk
1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup sliced almonds (optional)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
Divide the toasted almonds in half. Finely ground 1/2 cup in a food processor or blender with the sugar, taking care not to overgrind the nuts and end up with almond butter. Finely chop the other 1/2 cup.
Stir the egg, cream, milk and almond extract together.
Whisk the flour, ground almonds and sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Drop in the butter and, using your fingers, toss to coat the pieces of butter with flour. Quickly, working with your fingertips (my favorite method) or a pastry blender, cut and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is pebbly. You’ll have pea-size pieces, pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pieces the size of everything in between—and that’s just right.
Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir with a fork just until the dough, which will be wet and sticky, comes together. Don’t overdo it. Stir in the chopped almonds.
Still in the bowl, gently knead the dough by hand, or turn it with a rubber spatula 8 to 10 times. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it in half. Working with one piece at a time, pat the dough into a rough circle that’s about 5 inches in diameter, cut it into 6 wedges and top each scone with a few sliced almonds, if you’re using them. Place them on a baking sheet. (At this point, the scones can be frozen on the baking sheet, then wrapped airtight. Don’t defrost before baking—just add about 2 minutes to the baking time.)* Bake the scones for 20 to 22 minutes, or until their tops are golden and firmish. Transfer to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before serving, or wait for the scones to cool to room temperature.
* For the mini versions, I stuck with a 20 minute baking time, which worked for me.