Monday, February 13, 2012

Dark Chocolate & Tangerine Date Scones

Can we talk about butter for a minute?

I'm a huge fan.

As much as I love the flavour of butter, and as many pounds of it I go through a week, I pretty much never use it at the table.

I rarely have the urge to spread it on toast or on a ham sandwich. I don't really care to put a knob on my baked potato or over steamed broccoli. It's just not my thing. Is that strange? Oh man, you probably think I'm weird. Like how I think bacon is over-rated. Ah!! I can't believe I just told you that. Bacon is good "in" things but on its own I don't think a crispy strip of bacon is anything to write home about. You can think I'm a freakazoid. It's ok.

I guess I've always been more of an olive oil lover when it comes to savoury food.

BUT, I always have the desire to melt butter with chocolate, cream it with sugar and cut it into flour like when I'm making these Dark Chocolate & Tangerine Date Scones.

Today cows all over the globe must have clenched their utters because I put butter on my table. I did it, and it was fabulous.

Jon was damn excited. He grew up putting a bit of butter here and there on his veg and toast, but since he met me I think he is kinda scared to use it because I sort of put my mark on it. He knows it's a valuable asset to my baking. And...I'm a bit of a food police.

Today I totally caved and put the brick right alongside these scones at the table. I think the clouds must've parted for him. I'll admit, it was delicious. Although these scones are fiiiine on their own, watching a little dab of butter melt into a creamy pool within their warm, fluffy insides is just kind of is. Creepy.

Scones get their lightness and lift from a hefty dose of baking powder, but also from the little solid bits of cold butter in the dough. Just like when making pastry, these little bits of butter will melt with the heat of the oven, lubricate the flour particles and create little pockets in the dough to keep it fluffy. The water in the butter will convert to steam and help to puff and separate layers of dough.

Sifting the dry ingredients removes any lumps and aerates as well, so it's worth the little bit of effort it requires. Let's not be sifter haters. Be a lover.

Working some of the fat evenly into the flour so that it is well dispersed will coat the gluten-proteins so that they can't link together and form a network in the dough that would make it tough, almost like bread dough.

Tangerine zest and dried, pitted dates taste incredible when in each other's presence. So fragrant and dang delicious. A fine hand-held grater is the best tool to get thin shavings of zest without cutting deep into the bitter white pith. If you don't already have one, it's worth the investment. You'll use it all the time!

Dark chocolate chips will make these scones sing. I mean....melted puddles of chocolate between soft cinnamon and tangerine-infused dough and chewy sweet dates? Uhh...yes please. I usually do not like orange and chocolate, or any fruit with chocolate, but that's when it is fruit-flavoured. When the two components are separated and you can appreciate the contrast when you mix them together in one bite, then it's fun and tasty.

Those orange-flavoured chocolate balls? Can't stand 'em.

PS. tangerine is a really cool word.

Gently mix the wet ingredients into the sifted dry ingredients until they become moistened and form a dough. Turn the mixture out onto your work surface and bring it together. Don't over-work it when the wet ingredients are combined with the dry ones.

Despite what many recipes may read, NEVER knead the dough. Kneading is a process that pulls and tugs on the dough. That works the gluten and will definitely create more of a bread-like texture. What you want to do is simply fold the dough over itself a couple of times and press down until it holds together. It does not need to be smooth - it just needs to be cohesive. A little shagginess is welcome.

Divide the dough into 6 wedges.

Brush them lightly with milk and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Be generous. This will create a nice, hard, crunchy crust on top. That is my favourite part! So do it up big and let that sugar flow.

This is what they look like when they're done. Golden and gorgeous.

Set them out on your table with you and your honey - a stick of butter on the side, or not. (The fact that these scones have "dates" in them makes them 100% qualified to be part of your Valentine's day breakfast date with your favourite person. That's just what I'm saying.)

Peanut butter is also great because there's chocolate in these bad boys. And do I really need to go on about peanut butter and chocolate? Didn't think so.

You know that tangerine you zested? Might as well eat that too.

Steep a pot of tea and bask in your breakfast perfection.

Dark Chocolate & Tangerine Date Scones
Makes 6 scones

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ tsp salt
5 tbsp very cold unsalted butter
2 tsp finely grated tangerine zest
1/3 cup chopped pitted dates
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
1 large chilled egg
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp 2% milk, plus extra for brushing
½ tsp pure vanilla extract

For the topping:
1 tbsp granulated sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Sift flour, baking powder and cinnamon into a large bowl. Add sugar and salt and whisk these ingredients together to blend. Add butter and tangerine zest and cut the butter in using a pastry blender or rub it in using your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pea-sized pieces remaining. Stir in chopped dates and chocolate chips.

Place the bowl in the freezer for 5-10 minutes to let the fat firm up.

In a measuring cup or a small bowl, whisk together egg, milk and vanilla extract. Gradually pour milk mixture into dry ingredients while stirring gently with a wooden spoon. Fold mixture just until flour is moistened and dough begins to hold together. Do not over-mix. Turn dough out onto a clean work surface and fold it over itself gently a few times to bring it together until it is cohesive. Pat it into a circle about 1-inch thick, pressing in loose bits. Cut into 6 wedges.

Transfer scones to prepared baking sheet, brush tops lightly with milk. Combine 1 tablespoon of sugar with ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon and sprinkle this mixture generously evenly over the scones.

Bake until golden brown, 17-18 minutes. The scones are cooked through when they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom with your finger. Transfer to wire racks to cool slightly and serve warm.
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