FARGO — In our family, food is love, and I am always looking for new and delicious displays of love to dazzle the beloveds in my life, especially on Valentine’s Day.
Filled with fresh berries and white chocolate, as well as a rich amount of butter and cream, these Strawberries & Cream Scones are the perfect combination of flaky, creamy sweetness that positively screams, “Be mine, valentine.”
Scones are a favorite pastry in our house, and their easy preparation and versatility make them one of my favorite items to bake. This recipe calls for fresh strawberries, and even though they aren’t in season yet, the results will still be scrumptious.
This time of year, it’s not unusual to find some strawberries that appear overripe or even mushy, and while they wouldn’t make it onto a fresh fruit platter, they’re perfect for making scones. The fresh strawberries caramelize as they bake and practically melt into the scone, producing wonderfully jammy pillows of flavor in every bite.
Cold is king when it comes to making scones, and it’s important to make sure that your butter and heavy cream are as cold as possible when adding to the dough, and that the scones are chilled in the freezer before baking. This helps to keep the butter from melting into the dough as you mix it and ensures that the scones develop pockets of steam to puff the butter up as they bake, resulting in a crumb that is tender and flaky.
Making scones is a simple process and one that can be done completely by hand, but over the years I’ve discovered a few tips to ensure the flakiest result. They may seem unnecessarily fussy, but these extra steps will make the difference between a good and a great scone.
When making scones, it’s important not to handle the dough too much, which could result in a dense and chewy texture. To prevent this, I use a food processor to mix the dry ingredients and cut in the butter. In so doing, I find that my scones always turn out higher and flakier than when I mix the ingredients by hand.
Once the butter has been cut in, I transfer the mixture to a large bowl and gently stir in the white chocolate chips and fresh strawberries until incorporated. To ensure that each bite is filled with flavor, I cut the berries into fairly large pieces rather than dicing them small.
Next, I slowly add the heavy cream, flavored with pure vanilla, using a fork to gently stir the mixture until combined. Using a spoon or spatula may end up crushing the berries and butter, which we do not want.
Because we’re using fresh berries, the dough will be fairly wet and sticky and difficult to handle by hand without overmixing. To avoid this, I turn the wet, crumbly dough out onto a piece of parchment paper and use the paper, instead of my hands, to mold the dough into a ball.
To ensure that each scone is the same size, I use a square pan to mold my dough before cutting it into individual scones. This also ensures that I handle the dough as little as possible, but you can skip this step and form the dough by hand, if desired.
In these days of endless winter, these Strawberries & Cream Scones are a welcome burst of summertime flavor — and the perfect way to express your love this Valentine’s Day.
Strawberries & Cream Scones
Makes: 8 large scones or 16 small scones
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes and chilled until very cold
1 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream, very cold
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, chopped into quarters or sixths (not small-dice)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. For best results shaping the dough, grease and flour an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan and set aside.
Place flour, sugar and baking powder in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and pulse 12 to 15 times until combined, or place ingredients in a large bowl and use a whisk to combine. Add the diced butter and pulse again 12 to 15 times until the mixture resembles coarse meal or use a pastry blender or 2 forks to cut in the butter.
Turn the mixture out into a large bowl (if using a processor) and add the white chocolate chips and chopped strawberries. Use a spoon or rubber spatula to gently stir until evenly combined.
Mix the heavy cream and vanilla together and slowly add to the scone mixture, using a fork to stir together until a dough begins to form. Turn the dough out onto a piece of parchment or wax paper and use the paper to wrap the dough into a ball. The dough is very sticky at this point, and using paper makes forming the ball easier, and also keeps your hands from melting the butter.
Use your hands to gently press the dough ball into the prepared baking pan, handling the dough as little as possible. Place a large cutting board over the pan and flip it over, gently tapping the bottom until the dough is released. If not using a pan to help shape the dough, use your hands to form the dough into an 8- or 9-inch square, handling the dough as little as possible, then follow directions to cut the scones. Use a large, sharp knife to cut the scones into desired shape.
For 8 large scones, cut down the middle from top to bottom, and then across the middle from side to side. Next, cut diagonally from corner to corner for 8 evenly sized scones. For 16 small scones, follow steps to make 8 scones, then cut each scone in half from top to bottom.
Place the scones on the parchment lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart. For best results, place the sheet in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes before baking. The cold will help create pockets of steam, which will increase the height and flakiness of the scones.
As the scones chill, use a fork or whisk to beat the egg and milk until frothy and combined; set aside. Remove baking sheet from freezer and brush the top and sides of each scone with the egg wash, wiping any excess from the parchment.
Bake on the center rack of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until the tops are golden brown, and the sides are firm. Remove from oven and transfer scones to a wire rack to cool for 5 to 10 minutes.
To store: Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
To freeze unbaked scones: Flash-freeze them first on a baking sheet for 1 hour, then transfer to a freezer bag or airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months (even longer if using a deep freeze). Bake without thawing (amount of time to preheat oven is just fine), adding 2 to 3 minutes baking time if needed.
To freeze baked scones: Wrap each individually in plastic, transfer to a freezer bag or airtight container and freeze for up to 6 months. Thaw at room temperature before unwrapping and, for best results, heat in the oven at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes until warm.
“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.