A few years back I joined forces with a restaurant-owning friend – I was brought in to run the kitchen and whip the slacker staff – and lazy menu – into shape. Now, if you are a chef, baker, lottery winner or have ever held a spatula or even eyed a whisk, and are approached by this kind of friend, you should run. If you hear the words friend, restaurant, and own in the same sentence, run, run away, run on winged feet. What did I do? I planted my red Danskos in front of a ten-foot maple table and proceeded to mix, roll, scrape, whip, puree, hire, fire and bake my little heart out.
Because the owner friend was a guy, a special brand of chill out guy, he gave the guy cooks a pass. Guys who, while slapping out breakfast, enjoyed vodka and orange Crush. In that light it was difficult to wield authority, impossible really, when a red-rimmed dude could come in three days late and get promoted. What I could do was focus on pastry, which desperately needed attention. The bakers had no set morning menu, browning whatever came to mind any sunrise of the week. There might be cherry chocolate scones for three days, no scones for two days, and a creative burst of pistachio-pineapple-something toward the end of the week.
This would not do. I wanted to see a schedule. Schedules with headings, and attached pens, and clipboards. I wanted staff and customers to know what to expect, sure that if flour, sugar and order prevailed, the line would be out the door. I held a staff meeting to discuss the impending change.
“Why do we need a scone schedule?”
“Because when you get here at five a.m., I don’t want you to have to think.”
They were looking at me, at their phones. What am I saying? They don’t think about anything now.
I proposed doing a plain scone every day – a traditional Cream scone – in addition to a variation, say, Blueberry Oatmeal on Monday, Apricot Pecan on Tuesday, and so on. They cast suspicious looks at the typed lists I passed around, as if I were an uptight mayor cracking down on deviant art.
“Does anyone have questions?”
One agitated look. “Yeah…what’s a cream scone. Don’t we put cream in all the scones?”
“Yes…but that’s just a traditional name, Cream scone. Something we can call the everyday one.”
“So customers know what the everyday scone is called.”
“But…it’s just, you know like, cream. It’s one word.”
“Yes. Yes it is.”
“All your other ones have two things in them, like two names.”
“Yes. But this is a CREAM scone. Our flagship scone!”
“Customers want two names for everything.”
“I just…that just sounds weird, Cream and Sugar.”
“Yeah…I mean, one word sounds plain, and two words sound stupid, and…whatever.”
I took the sheet from his hand and pulled a pencil from my apron.
“Well, I’ll tell you what. I will take care of the menu, and I will make the scones, and you guys just come in late and drink heavily and clean the grease traps. Okay?”
This threw them. One elbowed another.
“Yeah. So I guess Cream and Sugar is fine.”
DOUBLE CHOCOLATE GINGER SCONES
The slacker boys got this much right: people do love combination scones. This might be my all-time favorite, a signature flavor from my old Scone on the Range frozen scone business. I am happy to bring it back for your chocolate (and ginger!) enjoyment.
makes about 1 dozen large or 24 small scones
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
6 oz. cold butter, cubed (12 tablespoons)
1/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup semi-sweet (or darker) chocolate chips
1/2 cup roughly chopped crystallized ginger, in chunks
extra sugar for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large mixing bowl or stand mixer bowl.
Cut in butter. You can do this one of two ways:
Electric stand mixer With the flour mixture in the stand mixer bowl and the paddle blade attached, turn on the slowest speed and slowly add butter chunks, mixing to a coarse meal texture, with only a few remaining large flour-butter crumbs.
By hand Using a sharp-bladed pastry cutter tool, or two knives, “cut” the butter pieces into the flour mixture until you have a coarse meal texture.
In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, and vanilla.
Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients by hand or with stand mixer on low, using “on-off” mixing. Stop just long enough to add sugar, chocolate chips, and crystallized ginger, then continue mixing briefly to form a soft and sticky dough. Scrape dough onto lightly floured surface and turn over a few times to combine, adding flour if necessary.
Form scones You can divide dough in half, form each piece to a 1″ thick round, and cut into equal wedges, or you can pat to 1″ thick and use floured cutters for rounds or triangles.
Transfer scones to cookie sheet pan, preferably lined with parchment paper.
If desired, brush the top of each scone with a small amount of milk or cream. Sprinkle the extra white sugar thickly over tops. Bake 15-18 minutes, or until set and tops are golden brown. For the chocolate-ginger variety, watch the bottom of the scones for darkened color. Cool on baking sheet a few minutes, then transfer to racks, and serve.
* For a look at scone-mixing process (same method) visit this post: Scone, Scone on the Range
Note: use the best cocoa powder you can find for a rich chocolate dough. Cocoa tends to dry out baked goods; these hold very well for several days wrapped at room temperature, but after 1-2 days are best briefly reheated in a microwave, for just a few seconds. This also gives you the added, insanely pleasurable bonus of gooey chocolate chips.