My family Thanksgivings, first with my grandmother and then with my in-laws, have always been… fine. Year in and year out, the fare has been reliable and unvarying — no surprise spices, no experimental techniques. A Butterball served with a boat of McCormick gravy, a pie made from a can of Libby's. And that's okay. After I became a mom, I got custody of most of the holidays, and I've typically used my position as host to play around, refine and try new things. The rest of the year is my menu dominating domain, and I like it that way.
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This year, however, my mother-in-law is in a care facility, and my immediate family and I are tossing out the turkey and stuffing for a dinner of our own design. But one remnant of our traditional Thanksgiving is holding firm — we go nowhere near a store on Friday and instead curl up with my morning after scones.
The Black Friday scones are a product of my desire to bring something to the holiday weekend, even when there is no room for me to flex at the Turkey Day meal itself. They are not pumpkin, not gingerbread, not apple pie-inspired. The only nod to the season is the simple maple glaze on top, which is just enough to say, "I get it" without trying too hard. They are also incredibly good.
Scones to me fall into that category of foods that are easier to make yet somehow better tasting than their more complicated culinary peers — like how French toast is superior to pancakes, or how cobbler beats pie. I would rather make and consume scones over muffins any day of the week. I appreciate that they ask no paper liners of me, no fiddly individual scooping, and that they take about seven minutes to pull together, from stuff you probably have in your kitchen right now. But mostly I love that a good scone has such a messy, crumbly vibe.
I make scones year round (Smitten Kitchen's chocolate and pear version is a killer), but the ones I return to over and over are Ree Drummond's vanilla scones. She describes them as "As close to the little Starbucks delights as I could get," but that is not true, because they are eight hundred times better. She makes hers with heavy cream, paradise if you have it on hand or are being fancy. But don't let what you might not have on hand stop you here — I have made these with whole milk, plain full fat yogurt, and a combination of the two and they've always turned out beautifully. She also makes them with split vanilla beans, but you can use extract. And in place of her classic sugar glaze, I use maple syrup for an autumnal kick. My only request here is that you do use very cold butter and don't overmix the dough. This is such a simple recipe, and the magic comes from making it as light as possible.
How good are these? After I made the scone dough for this week's column, I baked two to photograph and froze the rest. I'd just set my freshly baked ones on the table to cool when one of them immediately disappeared into my daughter's mouth. They were not glazed, not buttered, and it was not breakfast time. "You didn't, like, need this?" she asked "Because, too late." She did not leave a crumb.
Black Friday Scones
Inspired by The Pioneer Woman
Makes 6 - 8 generously sized scones
- 3 cups of all purpose flour
- 2/3 cup of sugar
- 4 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla
- 2 sticks (1/2 pound) of cold butter
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup of heavy cream (Note, you can substitute whole milk, half and half, and even plain yogurt here. I've even made these with buttermilk. The final product will not be as rich, but equally delicious.)
- 1/3 cup of maple syrup
- 1 cup of confectioner's sugar
- Preheat your oven to 350°F.
- In a large bowl, mix together your flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
- Using a box grater, grate the cold butter into the flour mixture. (You can also use a vegetable peeler, or cut the butter into small cubes.)
- Mix the butter and flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.
- Add the cream, egg and vanilla, and stir until there are no dry parts and it is all just combined.
- Turn the dough out on to a piece of parchment, and pat into a roughly 8-inch circle. Cut into six or eight even wedges. (We like ours substantial, so six it is.)
- Put the parchment and the dough on a baking sheet. Separate your wedges. Bake for roughly 25 minutes, until light golden.
- Meanwhile, make the glaze. In a small bowl, stir together your syrup and sugar until well combined. If you like, you can add a dribble of cream and a pinch of salt. Glaze right before serving.
Note: I like to freeze the dough and then chuck these in the oven in the morning. If you're baking them straight out of the freezer, allow for about 35 minutes of baking time.
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