I wasn't sure just how I was going to feel about these scones, never having used spelt before, but I'm pleased to report that they exceeded all of my expectations. Strange word, spelt. What the heck is it anyway? Sounds like something you'd find piled on the ground in a greenhouse, doesn't it? "Just dump that load of spelt over there, right next to the cedar mulch."
The first thing one tends to hear about spelt flour, it seems to me, is that it's an ancient grain dating back to the 5th millennium BC and, secondly, that it's quite nutritious. Made from the whole grain, spelt flour is uniquely mild and subtly sweet. It works well in recipes mixed with some white flour, and it doesn't add nearly the same heaviness as typical whole-grain wheat flour.
Spelt's flavor doesn't come on strong. If regular whole wheat flour struts up to your taste buds like a muddy paratrooper, spelt flour saunters up slowly, like a waiter in a white jacket who doesn't want to interrupt the conversation.
I actually made two slightly different batches of scones using this recipe. First, the wedge-shaped scones that are pictured with chopped, dried, tropical fruits (kiwi, mango, papaya, and pineapple; I didn't end up liking the taste of the dried star-fruit, so I left that one out).
And then, pictured below, I made a softer dough (I added in a bit more cream) to make drop scones; for those I used only dried, sweet, Michigan (of course!) cherries. I brushed cream on the top of all the unbaked scones and sprinkled them with sanding sugar. Both varieties were very good. All of my males (that would be the hubby, the almost-15-year-old, and the 18-year-old) liked them a lot.
Like all scones--well, all the scones I've ever had the pleasure to meet--these are definitely best the first day, as they tend to dry out quickly. Second day, they benefit from being warmed before serving. Warmth revives them.
About this recipe . . .
From the 2010 book, Good to the Grain, by Kim Boyce, this recipe is one of many from that source I'd love to try. Cleverly organized by flour type, it recently won the James Beard Award in the baking and dessert book category. I changed the recipe slightly (it originally included only currants, and wasn't patted out and baked in wedges, among other things), and reworded it to reflect exactly what I did.
Spelt Scones with Dried Tropical Fruit (Kiwi, Mango, Papaya, and Pineapple)
Yield: 8 or more good-sized pieces, formed either as wedges (cut pie-style) or as drop scones
1 and 1/4 cups spelt flour (I used Bob's Red Mill brand.)
1 cup all-purpose flour, unbleached
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar (Doesn't sound like much, but the sugar on the dried fruit, along with the fruit itself, lends sweetness as well.)
1/2 tsp. coarse kosher salt
2 oz. cold unsalted butter (1/2 of one stick), cut into 1/2" chunks
1/2 cup (Or add a little more if you like!) mixture of chopped, dried, tropical fruits (I used chopped, dried kiwi, mango, papaya, and pineapple; or, try sweet dried cherries instead.)
1 and 1/2 cups heavy cream, plus a couple extra tablespoons for brushing on the unbaked scones
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, sift together the first five ingredients, putting back into the bowl anything that didn't sift through (like, perhaps, some of the kosher salt).
Toss the cold butter chunks into the bowl, and begin pinching the butter into the dry mix with your fingertips. Keep doing this until it's the texture of fine cornmeal (Or, if you're squeamish, do this with a hand-held pastry blender, or even an old-fashioned potato masher. I've done it all three ways for scones, and it always works!)
Pour in all of the dried fruit and stir it in evenly. Make a well in the center and, if you want your dough to be quite moist for drop scones pour in all of the cream.
If you want your dough to be slightly firmer in order to pat out a circle and make wedges, hold back 3 to 4 Tbsp. of the heavy cream.
Stir just until the dry mixture is more or less evenly moistened.
For drop scones, simply drop 8 large spoonfuls onto your parchment covered baking sheet, being sure to leave adequate space between each one. (No need to tidy up each "drop" but you certainly can if you wish. Might want to flour your fingers first.) For wedge scones, first dust a sheet of parchment lightly with flour. Plop the entire amount of thick, doughy batter onto the center of the parchment, and flour your hands well. Pat the dough into a circle about 10" in diameter.
Using a sharp pizza/pastry wheel (or a very sharp chef's knife) dipped first in flour, quickly cut the circle into 8 wedges, pie fashion.
Using a thin metal spatula if needed, gently lift each wedge and place it evenly on the parchment lined baking sheet.
Using a pastry brush, lightly brush heavy cream onto the tops of the scones and then sprinkle them with coarse/sanding sugar (granulated sugar will do fine as well, but the coarser sugars look more sparkly once baked).
Bake the scones at 400 degrees for approximately 20 minutes or so, until the scones are golden on top and bottom.
Let them cool a few minutes on a rack before diving in. (Excellent served warm with butter--you heard it from me.) Best eaten the day they're made.
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Jane's Sweets & Baking Journalwas born of my ever increasing desire to learn more about the baking and pastry arts, and of my love for anything and everything related to baking. Just as food is meant to be shared, so is knowledge among bakers and among those who enjoy delicious foods prepared from scratch. So, please partake, and feel free to share your thoughts and comments. I'd love to hear from you.
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Visit the PBS site to reminisce about 2013's best food trends. They've assembled an entertaining look at what we foodies focused on--what we ate, cooked, read, watched, and blogged about--throughout the year. Click here!
Interesting article in the Los Angeles Timeson the resurgence in demand for the skills of professional pastry chefs. (It seems we still need them after all . . .but you and I have always known that, haven't we?)
The IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) announced winners of its 2013 IACP Food Writing Awards. Have a look at the list. (No surprise that the gorgeous Bouchon Bakery cookbook won for photography and styling; took about a dream of a book! It's gorgeous.)
Food journalist and cookbook reviewer T. Susan Chang, writing for Publisher's Weekly, shared her thoughts in the article "10 Things Every Cookbook Publisher Should Know." Chang clarifies, in a nutshell, what differentiates a great cookbook from an awful dud. I found myself nodding in agreement with every point she made.
An interesting variation on cherries jubilee . . .
. . . made with Grand Marnier, sweet black cherries, pomegranate juice, and homemade vanilla ice cream.
Dutch apple cake . . .
. . . it's divine!
What We Talk About . . .
. . . When We Talk About Banana Cake!
JANE'S FAVORITE BAKING BOOKS
About Professional Baking: The Essentials, by Gail Sokol. This is a textbook, but not one that's intimidating. It contains lots of useful info, including interesting personal profiles of professional chefs.
All-American Cookie Book, by Nancy Baggett. Another winner of the IACP award. Loads of good looking cookie recipes with lots of very appetizing photos. (Don't you love cookbooks with tons of pictures? I do.)
All-American Dessert Book, by Nancy Baggett. Wonderfully detailed, with very reliable recipes, Baggett does it again in this valuable cookbook. Definitely worth your time!
Art & Soul of Baking, by Cindy Mushet. This large Gourmet Cook Book Club Selection is a feast for the eyes. I love the page layout, the photos, and the author's reassuring tone. Recipes range from the quotidian ("classic sugar cookies") to the ridiculous ("Moroccan-spiced sweet-potato tiropetes") to the absolute sublime ("duo-tone chocolate pots de creme"). Worth acquiring.
Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft, by the Culinary Institute of America. This is a heavy duty textbook, not for the faint of heart. Intimidating, sure, but also kind of fascinating if you're an obsessive bake-a-holic like me.
Baking with Julia, written by Dorie Greenspan and based on the PBS series hosted by Julia Child. Yet another hefty and dazzling coffee-table-worthy cookbook. Wonderful to have around. (My copy was autographed by Julia herself!)
Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, published in 1950 and available in a facsimile edition, holds a special place in my heart. This is the book my mom primarily used, or so it seemed, when I was a kid. The photos are such period pieces, and the little notations that accompany recipes are pricelessly cute and corny. I have an ancient copy that I still use. Every girl needs a copy of this in her house, for good karma if nothing else.
Bitter Sweet -- Recipes and Tales From a Life in Chocolate, by Alice Medrich. Much more than just a cookbook with a focus on fine dark chocolate, this is also a memoir of sorts from a legendary chocolate-dessert creator. Medrich is often credited with awakening American tastes to the finest aspects of superior chocolate. Very interesting read!
Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes,by Jeffrey Hamelman. An indispensable book for anyone who is seriously interested in learning to make fine yeast breads, Hamelman shares far more than just technical knowledge. Like fellow bread guru Peter Reinhart, his warmth of spirit and deep love for the tradition of bread baking shines through on every page.
Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham. Not to be confused with the character of the mom on Happy Days, the real Marion Cunningham has a long list of writing accomplishments, the most well known being that she completely revised The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. A contemporary of the late James Beard's, she is still held in high esteem.
Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Rose is really into the science of baking, which can be helpful in some respects and off-putting in others. Like gardeners who talk mostly about soil components without conveying their joy in the plants themselves. Maybe I'm too sensitive? Probably so, as many consider this to be an invaluable classic. Despite my reservations, I wouldn't part with my copy. One of several highly detailed books by Rose. Her latest book, Heavenly Cakes, is much more down to earth, loaded with photos, and truly beautiful.
Cake Book, by Tish Boyle. I've called it a treasure trove before and please allow me to say it again here. This book is jam packed with wonderful stuff that's well explained. I used the Sacher-torte recipe in the fall of '09 for a culinary school project and it didn't let me down. I can endorse this book without reservation. I love it.
Complete Book of Pastry Sweet & Savory, by Bernard Clayton, Jr. When this book appeared in 1981, famed food editor Craig Claiborne praised it in the NYT as "one of the most important cookbooks of this year, if not of this decade." No photos, but don't let that dissuade you.
Craft of Baking, by Karen DeMasco & Mindy Fox. In 2009, some great new cookbooks were published and this was one of them. Down to earth, straightforward without being condescending, this smart guide offers creative and simple twists on dozens of diverse and well-proven "cakes, cookies, and other sweets."
Dessert University, by Roland Mesnier. As the White House executive pastry chef for over two decades, Mesnier has a lot of wisdom to impart. He does so well in this book, which is designed specifically for home bakers. A good book!
Grand Central Baking Book, by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson. Readers are welcomed into these pages with a tone of warmth and familiarity. The photos alone will have you scribbling a grocery list. Try the berry kuchen recipe--simple and scrumptious.
Hershey's Chocolate Treasury, published in 1984 by Hershey Foods and chock full of old reliables. The recipe for Black Magic cake is one I've used again and again--invaluable!
How to Bake, by Nick Malgieri. The writing style is matter of fact and fairly informal. That's one of my favorite things about Malgieri's books.
Magical Art of Cake Decorating, by Carole Collier. Sometimes at a used book sale you find an old gem like this. Published in '84, I found it very encouraging when I first began decorating cakes. The recipes are rock solid reliable.
Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, by Maida Heatter. Famed baker (apparently her "Palm Beach Brownies" are known far and wide), whose work has centered on wondrous chocolate desserts, Heatter received a James Beard award for this book, one of many she's published over several active decades.
Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, by Martha Stewart. Beautiful photos, but I must admit I've come to have reservations about the reliability of some of the recipes. Is it just me? Though I love flipping through the book for ideas, I'm a bit on the fence with this one when it comes to actual usage.
Martha Stewart's Wedding Cakes by Martha Stewart. Talk about a stunning and inspiring book! Chances are you may never decide to actually make one of the cakes from this glorious volume, but it's enough just to page through the gorgeous pictures and interesting recipes. Expensive? For sure, but worth it.
Passion for Baking, A by Marcy Goldman. If you're curious about how professional bakers manage to make things come out nicely every time, you'll appreciate this book. Goldman, in her highly approachable style, divulges many of their simple--but enormously helpful--tricks and techniques, and shows readers how to implement them throughout the wondrous array of down-to-earth recipes that pack this great book. Loads of enticing photos, too! I love this book!
Perfect Cakes, by Nick Malgieri. Can't say enough about Malgieri's books. Absolutely worth using, versus just reading! The white and dark chocolate cheesecake is to die for; I've made it a few times, along with many other recipes from this book, and it is superb.
Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday, by Peter Reinhart. This book is a revelation for anyone who approaches yeast recipes like a vampire approaches the dawn. Talk about down to earth, encouraging, and flexible! This guy knows how to talk to rookie breadmakers. Well worth reading, and using, this volume will find a comfy place in your cookbook collection--a worthwhile purchase, undoubtedly!
Professional Cake Decorating, by Toba Garrett. I get the impression that this book is perceived as the most thorough and comprehensive text available for serious students of cake decorating. This is the text that we used for my culinary school Beginning Cake Decorarting class (which means I finally own my own copy!).
Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours, by Sarabeth Levine. Almost too pretty to use, but use it anyway! This big book is so appealing, and the photos so remarkably enticing, you'll want to pick it up like a sandwich and bite right into it. Fine recipes for updated classics, well explained, from the famous Manhattan bakery. Worth buying. (You'll love it!)
Secrets of Baking, by Sherry Yard. A must have, bakers! This cookbook's forte is the way it's organized; master recipes are presented with full explanations of how they can be used, and related recipes follow, section by section. An exceptional manual to refer to. Get your own copy!
Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes, by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne. Huntsman is the professional pastry chef behind this beautiful book, filled with many tempting recipes, all designed specifically and scaled perfectly for three layers. I've made the Devil's food cake thus far, and it was exceptional--it rose well, was very moist, and had great depth of flavor. I'll be using this book more in the future, without a doubt. Love the photos also!
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I'm a mom with two great sons (both now in college), and a really nice husband. I left a long editorial career in reference publishing a few years ago and I've had nary a regret. I recently finished (after four part-time years!) a Baking & Pastry Arts Certificate program in the Culinary Studies Institute at a local community college. It was a lot of fun, a lot of work, and I am so glad I did it. These days, I do a lot of freelance editorial work, something that I really enjoy.
"Jane's Sweets" was the name of a very small baking enterprise that I started in late 2007. It bloomed a bit, for a little while, with encouragement from my husband, my aunt, and my first cake decorating teacher, Cindy. Because my Aunt Lydia was my most ardent female supporter in this baking endeavor (she was a lifelong independent business owner herself), this blog is dedicated to her memory. If heaven is real, then I know she's there with my mom, baking up a storm. Like Lydia said one day, just before her 80th birthday, while she and my mom and I were baking in my mom's kitchen, "It's been a fun ride. I'd do it all over again!"
If my house were on fire, I'd grab my family, then I'd grab my KitchenAid mixer.
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