Sometimes what your true love needs is a little nip. A nip to their tastebuds that is, and candied ginger is a great vehicle for nipping. With Valentine’s Day around the corner I decided to play with some non-chocolate* possibilities for my true love. This recipe is a rift on a scone I’d had at the farmer’s market last summer. Filled with cornmeal and chunks of candied ginger it was crumbly-delicious with just the right amount of ginger zing. Nibbling as I strolled through the outdoor market turned out to be the perfect way to eat this scone since each bite ended with a small shower of crumbs.
As the bakery wasn’t giving out recipes so I played around with my ex-husband’s grandmother’s recipe for scones, removing some of the flour and currants she traditionally used and replacing them with a updated twist of cornmeal and ginger. My version is a little less sandy than the one in my memory from the farmer’s market, but delicious nonetheless. Gran Pirie’s scones were divine. So light and delicious they were even good the following day. To me that is the real test of a scone – is it tender and light once it’s cooled down from the oven or does it turn into a small brick that no amount of jam or clotted cream can revive? Gran P. had two rules when it came to her scones – don’t over handle the dough and always use margarine, not butter. I know you grew up believing what Julia Child told you about butter making everything better, but in this instance listen to a Scottish Grandmother – she certainly knew what she was talking about.
In my nod to Valentine’s Day I cut these scones into heart shapes. Normally I just pat the dough into a round and cut it into wedges, but cookie cutters make quick work of cutting out hearts. Keep chanting the mantra, “handle the dough as little as possible”, which I did as I cut out seven hearts and then fashioned a small blob from the scraps.
Ginger Heart Scones
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 – 1/2 cup cornmeal **
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 pinches salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 ounces margarine, cold and cut into slivers
1/3 cup milk, give or take
1 – 2 ounces candied ginger, chopped (1/4 – 1/2 cup loosely packed before chopping)
Jam and butter for serving, optional
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Mix all the dry ingredients, including the ginger together with a fork. Then with two forks, or a pastry cutter, work in the margarine. If your hands are ice cold, and you have a deft touch with pastry, I suppose you can work the margarine in by hand. Heck, if you’re anywhere in New England right now (winter of 2015) all you’d have to do is take a walk outside without your mittens. That will give you icicle hands in minutes. Once you’ve incorporated the fat into the dry measure out half of the milk and whisk in the egg. Then stir the wet into the dry, adding more milk as necessary to get a slightly soft dough. Remember you’re making scones, not pancakes. You’ll want the dough soft enough to be moist when baked, but not runny.
Flour your counter and pat the dough out to an inch thickness. Cut the scones into hearts and place on an ungreased pan. Try to handle the dough as little as possible (remember the mantra) when pushing the scraps together for the last few scones. Bake 12-16 minutes, depending on the size of your scones. Mine were large so they needed to bake for the longer end of the spectrum. You want to pull them out when they are nicely browned and still giving off a few little snaps and pops if you listen to them.
Serve with jam and butter if you wish. They’re also great plain. Are these good the next day? I’m ashamed to admit I don’t know since Shawn and I gobbled them all up on day one.
*Do you absolutely need to have some chocolate recipes for Valentine’s Day? Try one of these recipes:
** I had a very coarse polenta cornmeal in my cupboards this morning which I used for this recipe. While I love the natural grit it added, Shawn and I both thought a finer ground cornmeal would give a better texture to these scones.