Blueberry Cornmeal Scones

You know that moment when your mouth/head connection gets going and you want something good to make and eat? And you know just how it should be, so you go looking around for a recipe, certain that someone before you has cracked the code of delicious and made your life easy…then after reading about 10 versions and finding them to all be lacking in some way you bite the bullet, do some tinkering with the basic instructions and hope and pray that you haven’t gone and messed it up? Yes?

The you’ll understand that this recipe is more for me to remember how I managed to make my mouth and head happy with these scones.

Scones are tricky creatures. There are a thousand variations on the theme and dozens of ways to put them together. Plus, I think every baker has his/her own preference as to flavor, crumb and shape. I prefer scones that lean toward a crumbly, biscuit-like texture. Not too sweet, not too cakey, studded with fresh fruit and topped with a generous sprinkling of raw sugar. And they must be wedge shaped.

I went looking for a recipe that satisfied my scone requirements and added a little touch of cornmeal to the mix. I didn’t want the crunch of the cornmeal to interfere with the tender crumb and after paging through a dozen recipes, I wasn’t finding the right combination. So, thinking about some soft and tender cornmeal pancakes I’ve made, I decided to incorporate a technique from the pancakes into the gold standard of scone recipes (from Cooks Illustrated).  Hungry and inspired, I went to work.

In the pancake recipe, medium ground cornmeal is soaked in the batter liquid (boiled water, butter and milk) in order to soften. I took the liquid in the Cooks recipe (1 cup heavy cream) and let my cornmeal soak in it for about 1/2 hour. I didn’t heat the cream first. Also, I used fairly fine-ground meal because I was looking for a subtle crunch. After soaking, the cornmeal/cream became a thick, pudding-like concoction that worked perfectly for my needs. I decreased the original amount of flour and added a bit more milk during the final mix. Fresh blueberries and some lemon zest finished them off.

These were the scones I was looking for. Crumbly texture, but not dry. Lightly sweet and rich tasting, but not cloying. Loads of blueberry with a texture and crunch from the cornmeal that does not overwhelm. Even though this recipe is for me, you are more than welcome to try them. Tinker around and let me know what a scone is for you. I can tell you, these are what a scone is to me.

Blueberry Cornmeal Scones

makes 8 scones

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup fine-ground cornmeal
  • 1 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cup white wheat flour or AP
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/4″ chunks
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries if using frozen, do not thaw
  • 1/3 cup milk

Method:

  1. Soak the cornmeal in the heavy cream. Stir so all the cornmeal is covered. Let the mixture sit while you put together the rest of the ingredients or at least 1/2 an hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 425° F.
  3. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and lemon zest together in a medium bowl. Using a pastry cutter, blend in the butter. The butter should be evenly distributed and the mixture have a sandy texture.
  4. Add the blueberries and gently toss through the mixture. Form a well in the bowl and scoop the cream and cornmeal into the well. Gently work cream through the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula so the batter forms large clumps. Take care to not squish the blueberries. Slowly toss in the remaining 1/3 cup milk if the batter looks too dry and won’t form a slightly cohesive ball.
  5. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface (I use a clean, dry silicone mat and it works great) Press dough together into a rectangle about 1″ thick. Cut into eight roughly equal triangles using a bench scraper or chef knife.
  6. Place scones on parchment lined baking sheet and brush tops with additional cream and sprinkle raw sugar over the top. Bake until tops are golden brown, 12-15 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 minutes on the baking sheet. Remove to cooling rack–or really–eat still warm and enjoy!
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