These days, these last fleeting days before fifteen-pound birds and pumpkin pies start falling from the sky, it is important to remember the scone.
A moment, then, for this one, rippling with apricots and toasted almonds, sweet in its way, though less so than you’d expect, craggy, crumbly, cratered, and cracked, a tender crumb, delicious. I want to remember this scone. And yet. It happens every year when the holidays descend, this reshuffling of priorities that sets suppers and soirees and sweets on the throne. It’s natural, I’d say, with only so much room in our bellies and mashed potatoes laying their claim. The low season for breakfast is upon us.
I don’t mean pancakes, or omelets, or festive soufflés. Those guys are safe this and every time of year. It’s the grab-and-gos that fall away, the elevenses and armchair treats, the kinds of thing you bake first thing to sustain you through a morning of recipe testing and story scribbling, and then shuttle down to your neighbors who, early in November, are still happy to receive them. I must get this all down before amnesia sets in.
These scones are from the bakery I mentioned twice last week, another recipe from their cookbook, Standard Baking Co. Pastries. I’m not sure what possessed me. I generally prefer more of a blank slate scone, uncluttered by fruit and nuts. These are thick with both. But apparently at least one corner of my brain doesn’t care what I “generally prefer.” I value that corner dearly.
I mentioned this above but I’ll say it again, since I want you to know what you’re in for: This scone is not sweet. Or it is, but in a sparse and varied way. There’s the mild, prodding sweetness of brown sugar, just a bit, the crusty-sweet crunch of the turbinado sugar, the edgy sweet-tart that the apricot brings, and the almond in full bloom – a kind of sweet we sometimes forget to think of as a kind of sweet at all. We forget a lot of things, it seems. We won’t forget these scones.
Apricot Almond Scones
Adapted from Standard Baking Co. Pastries by Alison Pray and Tara Smith
I have a feeling that some of you might wonder about the yogurt, if it's really necessary to use non-fat. I generally only have full-fat yogurt around, so I called the bakery to see if I might use it. I spoke with a very helpful woman named Sara who explained that the fat in the yogurt would cause the scones to spread and would change their texture; they'd be softer on the outside, cakier on the inside, more of a biscuit than a scone. I ran out and bought some fat-free.
1 cup dried apricots
1 heaped cup plus ¼ cup almonds
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1½ teaspoons salt
2/3 cup (1¼ stick) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into ½-inch cubes
1½ cups non-fat plain yogurt (not Greek), chilled
¼ cup turbinado sugar
Heat the oven to 350 and toast the almonds in a single layer on baking sheet. It will take about 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile, cover the apricots with hot water and soak for 5 minutes, then drain and set aside. Let the apricots and almonds cool to room temperature, then coarsely chop.
Turn the oven up to 425 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Put the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Break up any remaining lumps with your fingertips. Add the cubed butter and rub it into the flour mixture, but don't be terribly thorough. You want some pea-sized lumps of butter in the end to insure a light and flaky texture.
Stir in the almonds and apricots, add the yogurt, and mix with your hands until the dough just comes together. If it's still surprisingly crumbly looking, that's okay, as long as it more or less holds together.
Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and form it into an 8 x 7-inch rectangle, about 1¼ inches thick. Sprinkle the turbinado sugar over top and press it lightly into the dough with your hands. Cut the dough into six squares with a sharp knife, then cut each square in half on the diagonal. Transfer to the lined baking sheet with about an inch or so of space between each scone.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, rotating the baking sheet about halfway through the baking time. The scones are finished when they've browned lightly around the edges and are firm to the touch in the center. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. These scones are best on the day they are made.
Yield: 12 scones.