Scone of the Month: Picking a floral-scented scone

Sometimes, you can’t see the recipe for the blooms. I’m twisting an old phrase here, but it applies to my obvious lack of perception when trying to decide on a scone recipe for this month.

I was set on something with raspberries or white chocolate or coconut. Or white chocolate-raspberry-coconut, when lo and behold, a trip through one of my favorite little baking books, “Biscuits and Scones” by Elizabeth Alston, revealed the absolute perfect choice for my monthly scone baking.

I have a number of different scented geraniums (one known as citronella), which are flourishing in pots in both the back and front of my house. They have a range of green and variegated leaves and blooms in shades of soft lavender to bright pink. They bring me constant joy all year — every time I go outside, I catch one of their sturdy, lacy leaves between my fingers and rub. The odor is deep and calming — lemony, nutty, rosy. While they have a plus purpose of keeping our raiding mosquitoes at bay, I simply enjoy their ever-present companionship in beauty and aroma.

I don’t feel like I’ve taken them for granted, but I certainly didn’t consider them an option for flavoring scones until I saw this variation on a recipe for Sweet and Simple Scones in Alston’s book. I know these geraniums have become popular in baked goods…I often indulge in a floral rose geranium macaron from Miette bakery in the San Francisco Ferry Building whenever I get a chance. I’ve also made sensuous tea by pouring hot water over the leaves and allowing them to steep.

I became very excited about making these. The scone recipe itself requires nothing fancy, and my flavoring was just outside the door. It was an uncharacteristically cold and rainy May Saturday when I decided to make them — perfect conditions to fire up the oven and roll out some dough.

I picked leaves from a few different plants to get the mix of rose and lemon in each. I didn’t want to over-do on my first attempt at these (the recipe suggests 4 or 5 leaves). I chopped what I had finely and ended up with what was probably a couple of tablespoons of geranium.

The minced geranium leaves are mixed in to the sugar for the recipe. I decided to add about a teaspoon of lemon zest to this as well to enhance the flavors (and because, as my mom says, I like to put lemon zest in everything).

I strayed from the recipe a wee bit in another way as well, substituting half and half for the milk. My dough was a tad dry, so I added a little more half and half as I went (probably a total of one cup altogether).

The dough was crumbly, but most of Alston’s recipes call for a specific (in this case 10 to 12), number of kneads to bring it all together (this is why you don’t stir the dough too much in the bowl). While the dough was still a little shaggy, I knew from my past scone experience that this would likely lead to a scone that not only held its shape, but had a flaky texture.

I rolled the buttery dough out to about 1/2- to 3/4-inch thickness. I could see the flecks of green from the geranium. I used my mom’s antique biscuit cutter (seemed fitting) to cut out rounds of about 2-1/2 inches.

I wanted a bit of a fancy finish on these simple scones, so I brushed them with cream and added a sprinkling of sparkly sugar.

I was very pleased with the look of the finished scones….some of them were nearly perfect —  rising, yet holding their shapes, golden brown and in flaky layers like the best results in a baking powder biscuit.

The scones split perfectly to top with a little butter and blackberry preserves. Tender, buttery and slightly sweet, the bits of geranium leaf added just a hint of dusky, lemony rose flavor (I would likely increase the amount of scented geranium to three tablespoons in future makings). These were well-worth putting the kettle on and turning over my best tea cup onto its saucer.

Simple Sweet Scones (Scented Geranium Variation)

Adapted from “Biscuits and Scones” by Elizabeth Alston (1988)

Makes 12 or 16 triangles or 18 2-inch rounds

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut up
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar (use 1/3 cup for slightly sweeter scones)
  • 4 to 5 finely chopped scented geranium leaves (do not use regular geranium leaves)
  • 1 teaspoon fine lemon zest
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • Small amount of heavy cream and sparkling sugar for top of scones (optional)

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Mix geranium and lemon zest with sugar in a small bowl and set aside. Put flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl; stir to mix well.

Add butter to flour mixture and cut in with a pastry blender or rub in with your fingers, until the mixture looks like fine granules. Add sugar/geranium/zest mixture; toss to mix.

Add milk and stir with a fork until a soft dough forms. Form dough into a ball, put onto a lightly floured board, and give 10 to 12 kneads.

To make triangular scones, cut dough in half. Knead each half lightly into a ball and turn smooth side up. Pat or roll into a 6-inch circle. Cut each circle into 6 or 8 wedges. Place wedges onto an ungreased cookie sheet — slightly apart for crisp sides, touching for soft sides.  Brush with a small amount of cream and sprinkle with sparkling sugar (if desired).

To make round scones with a 2-inch cutter, roll out dough to about 12 X 5-1/2 inches. Cut out 15 scones. Reroll and cut scraps. For a 2-1/2-inch cutter, roll dough about 14 X 5-1/2 inches and cut out 10 scones; preroll and cut scraps. If desired, brush round scones with some heavy cream and sprinkle with sparkling sugar.

Bake about 12 minutes, or until medium brown on top. Put on a linen or cotton dish bowl on a wire rack; cover loosely with the cloth and cool completely before serving.

Blogger’s Note: I used half and half instead of milk in this recipe and would advise using 1 cup of this for these scones. I also baked them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

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