Friday, August 7, 2015

Cheddar, Apple and Rosemary Scones

Weeks passed since I've buried myself deep in training and assessments, and now I am back having achieved a major career milestone! Over the last two weeks my body has undergone significant shock, for once in years actually adapting to a lifestyle grounded in routine and one stationary time zone. Soon my body will have to readjust as I embark on my new role. But for now, lets celebrate this occasion wholeheartedly - with none other than the heavenly homemade scone.

Perhaps because scones are often associated with English high tea, I have always regarded scones as a form of royal decadence and indulgence. I took a break from attempting to make my own years ago ever since an epic fail (an irremediably gooey dough that resulted in misshapen choking hazards). After weeks of intense pressure and dreadful cafeteria food, I longed for something comforting and homemade. A block of aged cheddar in my fridge and an overgrown rosemary bush on my rooftop garden gave me just the right nudge for a renewed attempt - and a savory one this time.

Go for mature, sharp white cheddar or other hard cheeses like Gruyere for the best results
Tender, flaky, fluffy, crispy, crunchy, cheesy, savory scones perfumed with the piney scent of fresh rosemary

Makes 8 wedges; alternatively, cut scones into rounds or squares as desired
All apprehension set aside, these scones turned out so fantastic it is safe for me to say that I have never had a better scone in my life. Perhaps it is because I finally got the hang of mixing, and not over mixing; or that I showered it with love; but more likely it may have to do with the apple hidden somewhere inside.

Grate apple with ease or add them diced for a more noticeable crunch
Now, we all know apple and cheddar are a match made in heaven. In this recipe, however, the apple plays more of a supporting role, balancing the sharpness of cheddar and the woodsy, piney aroma of rosemary with a subtle sweetness. More significantly, though rendered invisible after baking, the apple provides just the right amount of moisture that effectively keeps the scone tender and fluffy, thereby reducing the liquid needed in this recipe.

As usual, I am shamelessly bold with fresh herbs in cooking, so feel free to tweak the quantity to suit your preference.

Serve these heavenly scones with Cider Braised Pork Shoulder with Apples and Cranberries.

Enjoy warm over breakfast, afternoon tea, anytime!
To prepare...
2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon sugar
113g (1/2 cup) cold butter, cubed or thinly sliced
1 large egg, plus extra for egg wash
3-4 tablespoon milk, plus extra for egg wash
1 firm, tart apple, peeled
3 teaspoon finely minced rosemary*
1/2 cup grated or diced white cheddar

*Tip: using a bullet blender saves time and effort and lessens bruising of the herb

1. Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

2. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add butter and, using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the texture resembles coarse sand. Stir in rosemary and cheddar. Using a hand grater, grate apple into the mixture and stir until evenly coated.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and 3 tablespoons of milk. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the egg mixture, reserving some for the egg wash. Gently fold to combine. If mixture appears too dry or sandy, gradually add remaining milk. Be careful not to overstir. The mixture may not be fully combined at this point and it is perfectly okay!

4. Turn mixture out on a lightly floured surface and gently knead a few times to bring the dough together. Pat the dough into a 9-inch circle and dust the bottom with flour. Cut the circle into 8 triangles.

5. Place the triangles on a parchment lined baking sheet. Lightly brush with egg wash and sprinkle sugar over the top (optional). Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Cool on a wire rack until cool enough to handle. Bask in the heavenly aroma, and try not to finish the scones all at once!

Bask in the heavenly scent of cheesy rosemary scones baking away in the kitchen, and melt into ecstasy as you gently break apart a freshly baked scone...

Tip: Make ahead and store unbaked scones in the freezer until you need them. Simply brush with egg wash and bake still frozen for a few extra minutes.

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