Book club this month discussed Romantic Outlaws - The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley , a worthy read about two of the finest minds of the Romantic Age. Our book club always has a nice little luncheon to celebrate our reads and whet the appetite for discussion of all manner of things. The books we read are sometimes superseded by what's going on in our lives and the world - talk being a spontaneous process. That being said, the food is always pretty darn good. Yesterday's lunch included chicken pot pie, light and airy cornbread, a spinach and almond salad, and cranberry sauce.
This month, it was my task to bring the dessert and what's more English and proper than scones with jam and shortbreads ? To boot, Anna brought some wonderful loose tea to brew in her lovely teapot. It was a proper ending to a wonderful lunch!
I shared my shortbread recipe ages ago ... back in the day when I posted printer-friendly links to ScribD. Alas, those file links have disappeared into the ether, so here's the recipe from the family cookbook.
3/4 c. butter, softened
1/3 c. sugar, plus some for sprinkling
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. semolina flour (for texture)
Making the Shortbreads:
1. Pulse the butter and sugar together in a food processor bowl until light yellow and creamy
2. In a four cup measure, whisk together the flours.
3. Add the flour mixture in three measures to the butter/sugar cream, pulsing to combine.
4. Remove the blade from the processor and work the last bits of flour into the dough, lightly and quickly. Don't overhandle or the shortbreads will be tough.
A. Divide the dough into clumps the approximate size of your molds.
B. Brush the molds lightly with corn oil - until they glisten and all the nooks and crannies are coated. Sprinkle on some flour and coat the molds, tipping and tapping out any extra flour.
C. Pat the dough into the molds, making the shortbreads about 1/2 inch in thickness.
D. Turn the molds and tap the dough out onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle with some extra sugar. Leave about an inch between the different shortbreads.
E. Bake in the center of a preheated oven (300 degrees F) until the edges of the shortbreads begin to become light golden brown. Cooking times vary according to the sizes of your molds. You must watch them closely.
F. Remove and cool for ten minutes on the cookie sheet. Then, gently slide the shortbreads to a cool surface to finish cooling.
G. Wrap closely and store in a cool, dark place.
Option 2 :
A. Brush the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan with corn oil and flour the surface lightly.
B. Press the shortbread dough into the bottom, making the shortbread about 1/2 inch thick.
C. Remove the outer ring of the spring form, lightly score the top surface of the circle of dough into pie shaped slices, prick the dough with a fork, sprinkle with sugar and bake for about 1 hour or so in a pre-heated oven (300 degrees F) - until the edges are becoming golden and slightly brown.
D. Remove from the oven and same as above, cool, slide to cool surface and wrap closely after the shortbread is completely cool.
Note: Shortbreads should keep when closely wrapped for 1 to 2 weeks. If you're gifting them at holiday time, that's a help. Ours never last that long.
Now, about those scones ... they're ALWAYS best right out of the oven. So make these and eat them as soon as the tea has been prepared ! The scones you see had dried cranberries and orange zest added to the dough, but traditionalists would add currants. I make them also with chopped dried mango and candied ginger ... pretty scrumptious!
Oven: 450 degrees F - 15 minutes bake time
Preheat the oven and place a rack in the center position.
Pulse in a food processor bowl:
2 c. flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
Add and pulse until mixture is crumbly and coarse - about 15 to 20 times:
8 tbsp very cold butter, cut into chunks
In a separate bowl:
beat 1 large egg (use half in the dough and reserve the other half for brushing the scones before baking )
Pour half the beaten egg into a one cup measure and fill to the 1/2 cup line with :
a scant 1/2 c. whole milk
Pour the milk/egg mixture into the dough bowl, pulsing while you add for about 10 seconds or just until the dough looks like large curds.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface knead quickly 4 or 5 times to bring the dough together.
Sprinkle on your add-ins - 3/4 c. of dried currants or other dried fruit of your choice - and knead in to distribute them.
Flatten the dough into a circle that's about 1/2 inch thick and use a pizza cutter to cut into wedges or a round biscuit cutter to cut rounds.
Place the scones on an ungreased cookie sheet and place in the freezer for 10 minutes to chill the dough well.
Remove when chilled and brush with the reserved beaten egg. Bake in the center of the preheated oven for 10 - 15 minutes. The scones should be puffed up and golden on the tops.
Cool for just a few minutes and then eat them with butter and preserves or clotted cream and a big pot of tea !