So, the holiday season is about to make its official start. Thanksgiving will arrive this year just about as late as it can be, meaning retailers will lose out on a week of post-Black-Friday Christmas sales. I expect the entire month of November to be heavily commercialized (eek!).
But, with the holidays comes lots and lots of parties and potluck gatherings centered around food — some of my favorite foods ever, in fact, like appetizers, and small-plate meals, and mini-desserts.
One of my go-to, bring-along party foods is the scone. Easy to transport — they stack! (sorry, cupcakes) — and make-ahead-able, it’s a sweet bite that’s almost guaranteed not to be duplicated by another party-goer (like ubiquitous brownies and fudge and red and green decorated butter cookies).
I love scones for a lot of reasons, but primary among them is that they can accommodate an endless variety of flavors — sweet, fruity, nutty, even savory. A sure-fire crowd-pleaser, though, is today’s brown butter chocolate chip scones. Is there any ingredient more deceptively fabulous than brown butter? It looks burnt, smells curiously like roasted hazelnuts, and sends baked goods right over the flavor top. I sometimes wonder about the person who first discovered brown butter’s effects on baked goods. Was it a butter melting accident? Were they like, “Oh, crap, I burned the butter. [Checks butter holder] And I’ve run out! Um … [looks around slyly] … let’s just pretend that didn’t happen … [whistling as they scrape the speckly brown butter into the world’s first brown butter cookie dough]”?
However it came about, it’s definitely butter magic. And I think Google should do a Google Doodle honoring the invention (and a National Brown Butter Day should be created forthwith).
For a party, you’ll want to make a larger batch than the typical wheel of six or eight wedges. So, I’ve upped the quantities of a basic buttermilk scone recipe, with the goal of creating little 2-bite triangles — perfect party food size. The peeps will love these brown butter chocolate chip scones — small bites, not too sweet, just the right touch of nutty goodness.
A bake-ahead tip: Scones are interesting little beasts — their texture and flavor changes over days, often for the better, thanks to the aggressive balance of flour and liquids. They are, of course, totally awesome fresh out of the oven. But when you’re baking ahead, you might want to make a test batch — tragic that you’ll have all these extra scones that you’ll have to do something with — and store them in a sealed container to see when they’re at their make-ahead best. I actually like them on the third day (with the day of the bake being day 1). The longer brown butter chocolate chip scones rest, sealed at room temperature, the more tender and flavorful they become, I think.
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (or use all-purpose)
- 3/4 cup rolled oats
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted then chopped
- 1 egg
- 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
- 1 teaspoons almond extract
- heaping 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (use your favorite, milk, semi-sweet, or dark, or a combo)
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream, for brushing scone tops
- turbinado or granulated sugar for sprinkling
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Heat the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Butter will foam at first then subside. Cook until the butter is golden and has a nutty aroma. Remove from heat and immediately pour in a small, heat-safe mixing bowl to cool.
- Meanwhile, measure the dry ingredients (flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, sugar, and almonds) into a large mixing bowl and stir together to combine.
- When the browned butter has cooled, place in the freezer for about 10 minutes.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, and almond and vanilla extracts. Set aside.
- When the butter is solid (or mostly solid) and very cold, scrape it into the flour mixture bowl. Use your fingers to work the butter into the dry ingredients, pinching and squeezing the mixture to break the butter down into pea-sized bits. You needn’t incorporate it thoroughly – just until the flour mixture is lumpy.
- Add half of the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir using a large spoon. Add the remaining liquids and stir only to incorporate – there will be dry spots. Do not overwork the dough. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.
- Turn out the dough into a floured work surface (gently – there will be loose chips and flour). Gather up everything with floured hands and knead and turn 3 or 4 times, until the dough comes together in a ball. It will be shaggy – it’s supposed to be.
- Divide the dough in half and shape each into a rectangle about 1" thick and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Slice the first rectangle in half lengthwise, then 3 times cross-wise, dividing the length into 8 equal sections. Finally, cut each of the 8 rectangles in half on the diagonal to form triangles. Gently pull the triangles apart. Repeat with the other section of dough.
- Refrigerate the dough on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, if possible. Brush the scone tops with heavy cream, and sprinkle with sugar.
- Bake the scones for 12 to 15 minutes, until the edges are golden. Cool for 5 minutes, then move to a cooling rack. If the scone triangles have fused back together during baking, gently pull them apart while still warm. Cool completely.