Eric and I are very fortunate to have an unlimited supply of pure Vermont maple syrup at our disposal. I'm referring to the really rich, deeply flavored, amber syrup, which is perfect for baking, and which they sell at Whole Foods for the price of a small diamond. Eric's parents live in Vermont, the maple syrup capital of the world, where his dad actually makes his own syrup as a "hobby," generously sending it in large, sweet quantities to us in Las Vegas.
Let me explain the quotation marks around the word hobby. To me, a hobby should be fun and low-stress. Now, Eric explained the maple syrup-making process to me a few years ago. Somewhere between freezing your you-know-what off in the middle of the night while tapping trees, and sweating in a tank top and shorts in the sugar house as the syrup boils, I realized that we clearly have different definitions of the word "fun." But hey--I sure am glad that he and his dad enjoy it, because I can make my favorite Maple Mustard Dressing whenever I please! To each his own, right?
Last year, we had a little hiccup in our maple syrup supply. Somewhere between the post office in Pittsford, Vermont and our front porch in Las Vegas, 12 quarts of maple syrup mysteriously went missing. We were able to track it back to the UPS site in Atlanta, and I filled out some sort of (bogus) claim form, but to this day I am convinced that the UPS workers in Georgia had one heck of a pancake breakfast that following weekend, because we never saw that syrup again.
That's when I discovered maple extract. For certain baking recipes, in order for the maple flavor to really come through, you would need to add a large and expensive amount of maple syrup. Maple extract, on the other hand, provides a rich maple taste in a teaspoon-sized portion. I usually like to use a combination of maple syrup and maple extract, but while the UPS guys were drowning their waffles in my syrup, I used only the extract, which works deliciously in this recipe. By omitting the syrup, these scones are not overly sweet, but they still have a nice maple flavor. The glaze is finger-licking decadent, and the pecans add a nice, toasty crunch. Here are some extra tips for these scrumptiously sweet scones:
- Sprinkle a few lightly toasted pecan pieces on top of the glazed scones for some additional garnish.
- For a simpler version of the glaze in this recipe, whisk together 1 ½ cups confectioner's sugar with ½ cup pure maple syrup (no Aunt Jemima here!) and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
- The scone dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days, or it can be frozen for up to 2 weeks. Shape the dough into the 8-inch disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze. Defrost the dough at room temperature and proceed with the remainder of the recipe.
- Be sure not to overmix the dough in the food processer or in the bowl when you add the wet ingredients. The pieces of butter will help to form flaky layers at they are heated during the baking process.
- Instead of cutting the dough into 8 triangles, you can cut out round scones or any other shape. Miniature scones are a great thing so serve with afternoon tea or coffee--just adjust the baking time accordingly.
Maple-Glazed Pecan Scones
Makes 8 generous scones
2 cups flour
1 cup light brown sugar, packed, divided
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons cold butter, cut into cubes, divided
¾ cup coarsely chopped pecans, lightly toasted
⅔ cup buttermilk, plus 2 tablespoons
2 egg yolks
1 ½ teaspoons maple extract, divided
2 tablespoons heavy cream
⅔ cup confectioner's sugar
½ teaspoon molasses
Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. In the work bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, ½ cup brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Pulse the mixture to blend. Add 6 tablespoons of the butter and pulse a few times until the butter is reduced to pea-sized pieces.
Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and mix in the pecans. In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the egg yolks and 1 ¼ teaspoons maple extract. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and toss with a fork until the dough comes together in moist clumps. Add up to 2 tablespoons more buttermilk if necessary.
Gather the dough into a ball and then press the dough out on a lightly floured surface into an 8-inch round. Cut the round into 8 wedges. Arrange the wedges, spaced 1-inch apart, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 16 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of a scone emerges clean.
Whisk the remaining ½ cup brown sugar, 4 tablespoons butter, ¼ teaspoon extract, and cream in a small saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove the pan from the heat. Whisk in the powdered sugar and molasses. Spread the glaze over the warm scones and let stand until the glaze sets, about 20 minutes.