Really, what's better than putting a carb-y, breakfast-y baked good in your face first thing in the morning? I mean, never mind that you might feel like you're walking in mud for the rest of the day if you start things out with jelly doughnut--I'm talking more about instant gratification here. Because a croissant and coffee for breakfast? Glorious. But one morning pastry I tend to pass over, never even pausing to consider it, is the humble scone. I've always sort of thought scones were just a big snore.
Truthfully, most coffee shop specimens do leave a lot to be desired--dry, pale, lifeless, crumbly. Bah. Why bother? Pass the cheese danish, sister.
But let me tell you about the recipe that recently changed my mind about scones. Chocolate Chip Espresso Scones. Look into it.
Oh, hey, you know what? Now that I'm sitting here, pontificating scones like a crazy person, I think I've thought of another reason for my heretofore disdain for them.
It must have been about 10 years ago, because I was still living in Chicago. Probably just a year out of college. Definitely wearing something from The Limited. I was meeting with my agent at the time at a coffee shop, drinking a latte and picking at one of those aforementioned substandard cafe scones. I don't even know why I ordered it--maybe because I was barely in my 20s and could absentmindedly snack on things like horrible scones and not think about my pants size.
Anyway, the topic of my conversation with my agent was moving to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career, and in short order she told me that I might want to "lose some pounds". As I took in that advice, I continued to snack on the horrible scone. A few beats later the well-meaning agent said, "That's a huge scone." And that was the end of my relationship with scones.
Until now. Now I know what to look for in scones. Also, how to interpret advice. So there's that.
So, hey, back to these really good scones. Scones that won't leave your mouth dry with regret and overworked flour. Scones of empowerment! Yeah!
It's no surprise that the recipe that has converted me to Scone Lover is from the amazing Karen DeMasco, she of pastry stardom and a little restaurant you may have heard of. All of the recipes in her book The Craft of Baking have this wonderful feel to them, something I can't quite put my finger on. Terrifically refined, but with a homespun feel. Every recipe has a bit of an unexpected twist--a flavor boost, a surprising technique--that takes even the most typical of baked goods to the next level. Like a throwing chocolate and espresso into a scone, and making it moist and buttery to boot. Genius.
Like most scone recipes, the dough comes together in a flash. A healthy handful of chocolate chips and a hit of espresso lend a ton of personality here. The scone itself has fabulously crunchy edges that give way to a tender, cakey interior. I really can't say enough about these scones. Or learning how to filter thinly veiled criticism. Psshh.
Chocolate Chip Espresso Scones
Adapted from Karen DeMasco's The Craft of Baking
You can cut the scones in whatever size and shape you like--I made mine into rustic squares and on the smaller side and got 16 out of a batch.
Once the scones are rolled and cut, you can wrap them unbaked tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 2 days in the fridge or 2 weeks in the freezer. When baking frozen scones, don't thaw them, just bake them frozen for about 5 minutes longer.
Makes 12-16, depending on size
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Coarse sugar, such as turbinado or sanding sugar, for sprinkling
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Add the butter pieces to the bowl. Place the bowl in the freezer for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the espresso powder with 1 teaspoon hot water, whisking to dissolve the espresso. Whisk in 1 cup of the cream. Set aside.
Take the bowl out of the freezer. Put it back on the mixer on low speed until the butter is broken down into pebble-sized pieces. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour in the espresso-cream mixture and mix on low speed just until the dough comes together.
Lightly dust a work surface and rolling pin with flour. Turn the dough out and gently knead it a few times just to bring it together. Roll the dough into a circle or rectangle (your preference), about 1-inch thick. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into equal wedges or squares (12 to 16 pieces, depending on how big you like your scones). Place the scones on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Freeze for 15 minutes, or chill for 1 hour in the refrigerator.
While the scones are chilling, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush the chilled scones with the remaining 2 tablespoons of cream and sprinkle generously with coarse sugar. Bake the scones until they are golden brown on the edges and bottoms, and firm to the touch, 20-25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.