I've had all things corn on the brain lately: cornmeal, corn on the cob, caramel corn–I even went out and bought some Sugar Corn Pops, which I don't think I've had since I was about eight. Oh wait, now they're called Kellogg's Corn Pops, in an effort to hide the fact that they will cause most five-year-olds to bounce off the walls 15 minutes after they eat a bowl. This recent corn overload is likely a due to the upcoming National Cornbread Cook-Off , to be held next weekend in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, and in which I am competing. It's as if I believe that, by surrounding myself with as much corn product as possible (come to think of it, I have been wearing lots of yellow lately…..), the corn gods will see that things go my way and I will come home with that coveted cast-iron skillet crown.
So, when I wanted to bake up a batch of scones today, naturally, I thought that I would try this recipe by Mariah Swan from Food and Wine magazine. I've always liked the effect that cornmeal has on pancake batter. It provides a different, slightly grainy texture and makes the outsides bake up nice and crisp, so I figured that it would work well with scones too. Scones are always nicely enhanced with a little citrus zest, and the tart sour cherries (a bargain at Trader Joe's) add little chewy nuggets of flavor to contrast with the buttery sweetness of the scones. They turn out crunchy on the outside and flaky on the inside–I think those corn gods would approve. Here are a few of my extra tips for making these light lemon-scented pastries:
- If you don't have pure maple syrup on hand, then substitute honey. Do NOT use the imitation syrup! If you don't have coarse sugar, then use regular sugar. Coarse sugar just holds its shape better during the baking process and presents better.
- The scone dough can be prepared and then refrigerated, wrapped in plastic, for up to two days. It can also be pre-made and frozen, wrapped in plastic, for up to one week. Bring to room temperature prior to serving.
- Instead of dried cherries, try this recipe with dried cranberries or blueberries. Use orange zest in place of the lemon or use a combination of the two zests.
- In order to bake flaky and light scones, it is important to not overmix the dough. You should be able to see the little pieces of butter in the dough when you cut out the scones. These create "pockets" and layers of dough during the baking process.
- Instead of making round scones, you can cut the dough into wedges.
Cherry-Lemon Cornmeal Scones
1 cup dried sour cherries
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Zest of two lemons
6 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest to combine. Sprinkle the pieces of butter over the mixture and pulse until the butter is the size of small peas.
Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the cherries. Add the milk, maple syrup, and vanilla, and stir with a spatula until just combined. Do not overmix.
Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured work surface and, with floured hands, pat into a 1/2-inch thick round. Using a biscuit cutter, cut out rounds and place them on the prepared baking sheets, spaced 2 inches apart. Gather the scraps and continue to cut out rounds until all of the dough had been used.
Brush the tops of the rounds with the egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer the scones to a rack to cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.