Ginger Cranberry Scones

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Having less choice is a good thing.

When we have friends or family spend the night, I don't deliberate about what to make for breakfast. If we don't send someone on a donut run (if you lived near Lafeen's, you would too), I am predictable. Broiled eggs and some kind of scone, biscuit, or muffin. And more predictably than that, some version of these scones.

Isn't there so much pressure to be novel all the time? Pinterest, Rachel Ray's infinite hamburger combinations, piles and piles of new cookbooks being published every day. Do you want to know my little secret? I don't buy cookbooks! I love to browse at the bookstore and ones with beautiful photos certainly inspire me. And I will happily receive them as gifts. But I only own about 30 cookbooks. More than being frugal or trying to save space, the main reason I don't add to my collection is because all those possibilities overwhelm me. When it comes to making family dinners or something tried and true when we have company, those beautiful cookbooks don't seem to help me much.

I love to quote Christopher Kimball who says that most of us don't need more recipes. We just need to perfect a handful of things that we're good at. After that, it's easier to get inspired by novel things. For me, this repertoire is a few soups I can make in my sleep (minestrone, potato leek, lentil, mulligatawny), anything that can be baked all together on a big sheet pan (sausages with peppers, salmon with bok choy, chicken thighs with practically anything), a few pasta basics (puttanesca, tomato cream sauce with lots of sauteed veggies melting into the sauce), frittatas, and some sweets--galettes, pies, scones, biscuits. Sometimes (or most the time?), much as I love food, I don't really have the energy to THINK about being novel, let alone actually doing it. 

I love these scones, based on a recipe from Nick Malgieri's How to Bake, for many reasons. They can be made in the food processor. They're full of oats. The dough is soft but still easy to work with, and they emerge moist and sturdy at the same time. Three cheers for predictability!

Ginger Cranberry Scones
So many things can be subbed out for the ginger and dried cranberry. Add raisins. Or no dried fruit. Or take the sugar out and add shredded cheddar and dried dill instead. I often serve them that way with soup. Or make your own chai spice mixture and use dried apricots and figs.

1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 c. oats
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cube unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/4 c. candied ginger, finely chopped 

For topping:
1/4 c. buttermilk
cinnamon sugar mixture 

Preheat oven to 400.

In a food processor, combine first 8 dry ingredients and pulse a couple times to mix.

Add butter and pulse about 10 times until butter is in pea-sized lumps. Add buttermilk, cranberries, and ginger and pulse just until dough holds together, about 5 or 6 times.

Turn dough onto a floured surface, knead a couple times, then divide the dough into two equal balls. Using your hands, flatten each round until it's about 1" thick and cut each round into 6 equal wedges for a total of 12 triangular scones. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush each scone with buttermilk and spinkle a generous amount of cinnamon sugar over each. Bake for 12-15 minutes, watching carefully after 10 minutes so they don't get too crunchy on the outside. Let them cool for a few minutes before serving plain or with butter.

Banana Lemon Scones

Banana Lemon Scones

Give me carbs.

Yancey and I were watching late-night TV the other night. (I'm the last one to join the party, but I'm finally smitten with Jimmy Fallon.) I was full from dinner and drowsy. And yet, unbelievably, I was thinking about breakfast the next morning. About how I didn't want a kale smoothie or rewarmed Irish oats. How I wanted to smell something in the oven and the kids to come running up the stairs asking what it was.

I had a foggy memory of this scone recipe from an edition of Fine Cooking that's long since disappeared. I'm an insatiable magazine reader, but I don't keep them. It might threaten our marriage. So I sometimes clip or scan recipes, but mostly I just enjoy them in the moment and move on. Thank God for the internet and for YMCA members who will read any old donated crap in order not to focus on their workouts. 

I was skeptical that one diced banana would do the trick, but these were so stunning. They had a delicate banana aroma and flavor, but totally different than banana bread or banana cake. And, if you really pay attention, bananas are actually a little acidic, and the lemon paired perfectly. I have hardly been known to peel a banana and eat it out of hand, but I can't resist banana desserts and baked goods.

We've had some sweet family time this weekend--cooking, a little road trip with lots of singing, naps, New York Times. And, despite my skepticism, Spring has got to come. It can't help but get closer.

Banana Lemon Scones
Adapted from Fine Cooking. I added 1/4 c. brown sugar for two reasons--to make them sweeter and to make them more tender. It had the effect of the scones spreading ever so slightly, but it was worth it. If you want sturdier guys, leave it out. Most scones aren't good the next day, but these are delicious as the banana keeps them moist.

For the scones:
2 c. flour
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 Tb. finely grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp kosher salt
6 Tb. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 medium ripe (but not mushy) banana, cut into 1/4"dice
3/4 c. + 2 Tb. heavy cream(and more for brushing)
coarse white sanding sugar (optional) 

For the glaze:
3/4 c. powdered sugar
1 1/2 Tb. lemon juice
1 Tb. butter, softened
pinch kosher salt

Heat oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, lemon zest, and salt. With your fingers, rub the butter into the flour mixture until a few pea-sized lumps remain. Stir in the banana. Add the cream, and with a fork, gradually stir until the mixture just comes together.

Turn the dough onto a lighly floured surface and pat into a 7" circle about 1" high. Using a chef's knife, cut the dough into 8 wedges. Transfer to the baking sheet, spacing the wedges 1-2" apart. Brush the tops with heavy cream and sprinkle liberally with sanding sugar (if using).

Bake until tops are golden, about 18-20 minutes, rotating halfway through baking for even browning. Transfer scones to a wire rack and cook slightly, 3 or 4 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir the powdered sugar, lemon juice, butter, and salt until smooth. Drizzle the warm scones with the glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature.