I’m probably not alone in needing time for my taste buds to mature. I didn’t drink coffee, wine, or beer until I moved to Oregon in my early twenties. (No wonder I was so sleepy and socially awkward for years.) You wouldn’t have caught me munching on an avocado, dishing up kale or chard, or marinating fish in mustard and dill. Their flavors, now some of my favorites, at one time helped me exercise the good ol’ gag reflex. Figs, too, possessed a special gift for making me want to hurl.
For years I never appreciated their dense earthy sweetness, though as you might remember from this earlier post, I grew up with a fig tree in close proximity to my home. Back then, figs were more likely to serve as imaginary scud missiles than as the fruity stars of our family recipes. Thanks to my dear Portland friend Dana whose love for figs transformed my relationship to the fruit (we spent one magical weekend gleaning fallen fruit from neighborhood trees and canning preserves), I’m always excited when I have a chance to try out a recipe featuring the subtle flavors of fig.
Below you’ll find a scone recipe from this winter’s special holiday edition of Gourmet featuring dried figs. I halved this recipe and shared the scones with my husband’s mother as a birthday gift (Happy Birthday, Jeanne!) and with our friend Kate who just graduated from a teaching program (Congratulations, hard-working lady!).
I’ve tried to make scones before, but until this weekend experiment, I’d never mastered the gentle touch needed when mixing to create their light and fluffy texture. This time I succeeded. Word to the wise: don’t overmix the ingredients. You’ll be rewarded with melt-in-your mouth treats worth savoring with a cup of tea or coffee in the morning.
And if you’re looking for a soundtrack for your next baking expedition, Cameron played the Maldives a great deal over the weekend, and their song, “Muscle for the Wing,” was the quiet accompaniment I needed for baking and writing after the horrible national tragedy we learned about on Friday. I cannot begin to imagine what the community of Newtown is experiencing right now, but like many people across the country and the world, my thoughts are with the family and friends who lost so much during that senseless act of violence.
Figgy Scones (a Gourmet Magazine recipe)
Makes 20 scones
3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp heavy cream, divided
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 lb dried Calmyrna figs, stemmed and chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 large eggs
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F with racks in upper and lower thirds. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. (I used my Silpat silicone mat.)
2. Whisk together buttermilk, syrup, and 1/2 cup cream in a small bowl. Whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl until combined. Add butter and blend with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small butter lumps. Toss in figs, then add buttermilk mixture and stir until just combined. (Do not overmix. Why? The more you work flour, the more you toughen up the gluten in flour. The gentle touch here will give you fluffy scones.)
3. Drop 10 (1/4-cup) mounds of batter onto each sheet, leaving 1 inch between mounds.
4. Whisk yolks with remaining 2 Tbsp cream, then brush all of it over scones.
5. Bake, switching position of sheets halfway through, until scones are puffed and golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Again, when I made these, I opted for a shorter baking time. Maybe my oven is just getting old, but I’d recommend baking these for 13-15 minutes and then eye them to see if they are golden. If it still needs more time, just bake a little longer.
6. Transfer to a rack and cool to warm.