Bread of the Month: Oiling up an herb-y scone

Sometimes, all the planets (or ingredients and time of the year) align in order to make the right recipe. I was recently thumbing through my original favorite scone book, “Biscuits and Scones,” (Clarkson N. Potter; 1988) by Elizabeth Alston. You would think I had made every recipe in the book, but far from it…I had made a number of favorites multiple times over the years — and the splatter-stained and sugar-crunchy pages singled those out — but there were others that I ran across as if I’d seen them for the first time.

Like the one for Fresh Herb-Olive Oil Scones. How intriguing! That a scone could be made without butter, which seems to be the cornerstone for all scones, was quite interesting as a possibility for this month’s bread recipe. And, also the fact that one of the herbs suggested for this summer-y scone is marjoram (along with basil, chives and thyme), of which I had recently been cultivating in a mini herb garden. What other sign did I need to get cracking and make these?

Marjoram, is really a nice herb, flavored a little like oregano with just a hint of a soft, fennel-like taste, it’s also a more tender herb, less woody than some of its counterparts. I rounded out the herbs I gathered from my garden with some garlic chives and a little mother-of-thyme (or “big thyme”), as well as some purchased basil.

I got a nice brand of olive oil to use for these. I sometimes go no-frills with olive oil for cooking, but I wanted the olive oil flavor to be clean, but also full and robust, as good olive oil is.

The oil, along with some plain yogurt, the chopped herbs, a little chopped garlic, lemon juice and an egg were whisked together for the wet ingredients.

The dry ingredients of flour baking powder, salt, black pepper and some shredded parmesan cheese, were blended together thoroughly.

The measuring cup of wet ingredients were then added to the dry, stirring just to bring everything together.

The slightly dry, shaggy dough was brought out on a floured board for some brief kneading. I liked the way the herbs looked and smelled in the scones already.

The dough was then cut in half and  patted into flat rounds on a large parchment-lined sheets.

Each round was cut into eight even wedges, leaving the scone rounds together and not separating the wedges.

Ihad additional thyme and marjoram left, so I decorated each wedge with a little of the green sprigs.

The scones baked to a beautiful golden brown, puffing up a little and giving off an aroma of tangy Parmesan and earthy herbs. 

The scones cooled a little before I dug in. I was surprised by the texture, a little tender, a little crusty and chewy with a flaky top, somewhat like a cross between a biscuit and a good table sourdough bread, like something you would get warm in a basket at a restaurant..and ask for more. The Parmesan and lemon juice added just a hint of tang; the aromatic herbs and garlic gave a pizza/foccaccia-like taste for a hearty, but light, savory scone. These would (and did) go perfectly with a main dish salad, and I could imagine them easily with soup, too. I’m glad I discovered this recipe resting under my nose the whole time.

Fresh Herb-Olive Oil Scones

From “Biscuits and Scones; 62 Recipes from Breakfast Biscuits to Homey Desserts,”

by Elizabeth Alston (Clarkson N. Potter; 1988)

Makes 16 scones

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (extra-virgin, virgin or light)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons lemon jice
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • 2 tablespoons snipped chives, or the green part of green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh marjoram, thyme or oregano leaves.

Heat oven to 375°. Put flour, baking powder, Parmesan, salt and pepper into a large bowl. Stir to mix well.

In another bowl, whisk buttermilk, oil, egg, lemon juice, garlic, chives and herbs until well-blended.

Scrape herb mixture into flour. Stir with a spoon until a soft dough forms.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured board and give 10 to 15 kneads. Gather dough into a ball and cut in half. Place both halves on a cookie sheet and roll or pat into an 8- or 9-inch round. Cut each circle into 8 wedges; do not separate wedges.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Put on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Wrap loosely in a dish towel on the rack and cool at least 15 to 20 minutes more before serving.[

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