Scone of the Month: Sweetening with fresh corn

Come August, I almost always get a bout of “cornostalgia.” Never heard of it? I hadn’t either, since I just came up with the term that has me dreaming of rusty tassels, rustling long green leaves, shimmering gleams of blonde cornsilk covering kernels in shades of cream to gold.

I wanna make things out of corn, like chowder or relish, or roast ears of corn and slather them in butter or seasoned salt, the sweet nibs of kernels bursting under my teeth. It is pure summer. In July this year, you didn’t see much corn out and about, but recently I was treated to it calling to me from robust bins in the grocery store. I’d have my corn, in August, as it should be.

What about some corny scones? I’d picked out a recipe, scones made with cornmeal and flecked with chopped rosemary and lemon zest. Certainly a handful of fresh corn kernels thrown in couldn’t hurt (and would maybe even help).

My recipe came from a cute little teapot-shaped cookbook I’d picked up years ago and forgotten about on my shelf. “The Totally Teatime Cookbook,” by Helene Siegel and Karen Gillingham (Celestial Arts: 1995), features recipes for teas, tea sandwiches, jams and spreads, breads, buns, cakes and tartlets, and, of course, scones. 

In addition to the corny flavors of cornmeal and my addition of sweet corn, two of my other favorite flavors — in baking and/or anything — were fresh rosemary and lemon zest.

This dough starts with a blending of dry ingredients, including flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder. Butter is worked in, via a pastry blender, and then the lemon zest and rosemary are tossed in.

Half-and-half, with an egg whisked in, is added to the dry butter mixture.

This forms a wettish dough, to which I added about 3/4 of a cup of freshly cut sweet corn kernels.

Once kneaded on a floured board, the dough comes together nicely, a little soft, but holding its shape.

I used a small fluted cutter to make rounds out of the dough, the corn offering a satisfying (if incongruous) crunch to each press.

A little egg wash on top was the first step for a topping, providing a little sheen to each scone.

About 10 minutes into baking, the scones are removed and dusted with confectioner’s sugar, then returned to the oven. This was a new step for me…I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in a scone recipe before.

The scones had a sweetly dusty, slightly cracked appearance upon baking, golden and pleasantly aromatic of corn and rosemary.

They tasted soft and light, faintly lemony, with a whiff of herbs, deeply corn-satisfying between the crunch of buttery cornmeal and the bursts of fresh sweetness from the corn kernels…this was a good addition! And a new scone recommendation for late summer, a sweet-salty accompaniment at tea or anytime when the comfort of corn is needed.

Corn Rosemary Scones

Adapted from “The Totally Teatime Cookbook” by Helene Siegel and Karen Gillingham (Celestial Arts: 1995)

Makes 10 to 12 Scones

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cold and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chopped rosemary
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cups half-and-half
  • 3/4 cup fresh corn kernels (optional)
  • 1 egg, beaten, and confectioner’s sugar for glaze

Preheat oven to 400°F. 

In large mixing bowl, combing flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar and salt. Mix with fork. Add butter and blend with fingertips or pastry blender until butter is evenly mixed in chunks. Blend in lemon zest and rosemary.

Beat egg in small bowl with half-and-half. Pour into flour mixture and stir with wooden spoon. Fold in corn kernels. Turn out onto floured board and lightly knead. Roll or pat to form 12-inch circle.using fluted or plain 3-inch cookie cutters, cut out dough. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and brush tops with egg.

Re-roll scraps and cut remaining dough. Bake 10 minutes, remove from oven, generously sift confectioner’s sugar over tops and bake 5 minutes longer. Set aside to cool on racks. 

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