Scone of the Month: Befriending figs and pistachios

Amid the dominating voices (and recipes) screaming  “PUMPKIN SPICE!” and “APPLES!” this fall are the softer whispers of two other seasonal flavors: figs and pistachios. I’m seeing a lot of fresh fig recipes as figs come into their full ripening, and pistachios, too, are an early fall crop. The two are found all year long, but they seem to emerge just a little more each year as another herald of fall.

I’ve made delightful wonders from fresh figs, including a savory jam that won a local food competition (see blog post and I’ve found a way to put pistachios in many things, from biscotti to gelato.

Figs and pistachios go great together, too, as it so happens. Both are available yet exotic and bring together soft, full, rich flavors that pair nicely. I found a recipe for Pistachio Fig Scones in my little “simply Scones” book by Leslie Weiner and Barbara Albright,  and I thought these would be perfect to try for September.

At first, I had trouble finding pistachios that were not roasted and salted, but finally discovered some in the shell. De-shelling pistachios is not too tough, so I released these little green gems pretty quickly and easily.

This recipe did not specify fresh or dried figs, but I went with some beautiful plump dried mission figs. Fresh would be quite interesting, but the dried are available everywhere, all year round, so for those wanting to try this recipe down the line, I wanted to try with this version.

Outside of the figs and pistachios, the scones didn’t require anything fancy at all. Lots of butter, a little brown sugar, a small amount of milk, a little vanilla and an egg, as well as the requisite flour, baking powder and salt.

To start these scones, I whisked baking powder, salt and brown sugar into some all-purpose flour.

To this, I added a whole stick of cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes and distributed these throughout the flour mixture.

Using a pastry blender, I worked the butter into the dry ingredients until it took on a coarse crumb texture.

An egg and a little vanilla re whisked with two tablespoons of milk to add to the flour and butter mixture. This seemed like a small amount of moisture for a batch of scones, but I trusted that the high amount of butter would bring the scone dough to a proper consistency.

The dough came together in good fashion, taking on a nice soft, crumbly texture.

I added the chopped pistachios and figs to the dough, which seemed to give it even more sumptuous richness. 

These are a scoop-and-drop scone. The recipe advised using a 1/3-cup measuring scoop to dole out the dough.

The portions came out perfectly for six scones, a nice small batch for a couple of hungry people waiting out some fresh scones.

The scones grew (raised) during their oven time (just shy of the 20 minutes advised) to nice golden mounds, with those dark figs and bits of green pistachio showing.

I took a softened stick of salted butter and mixed it with honey and a little cinnamon and cardamom for a spread for these scones.

The spread melted softly into the warm scones, which were delicious. The brown sugar gave them a rich sweetness and nice chewy-soft texture, slightly crusty on the outside but tender-moist within, studded with the buttery crunch of pistachios and the plump, almost syrupy dark nuggets of chopped fig.

Pistachio Fig Scones

From “Simply Scones” by Leslie Weiner and Barbara Albright (St. Martin’s Press; 1988)

  • Makes 6 Scones
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup shelled pistachio nuts or slivered almonds
  • 1/3 cup chopped trimmed figs
  • Preheat oven to 375°.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut butter into 1/2-inch cubes and distribute them over the flour mixture.

With a pastry blender or two knives, used scissor fashion, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a small bowl, stir together the egg, milk, and vanilla. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir to combine. The dough will be sticky. Stir in the nuts and figs until evenly distributed.

Using a 1/3-cup measuring cup, drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 3 inches between the scones. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of a scone comes out clean.

Remove the baking sheet to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer the scones to the wire rack to cool. Serve warm or cool completely and store in an airtight container.

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