I've moved on to spring. And in that spirit I made these fruit-filled scones. It's too early for local strawberries here, but I had a craving, so I came up with a pretty fine substitute. Fresh strawberries can be difficult to incorporate into baked goods. Sometimes they just disappear into a pink mush, adding too much moisture to the finished product. I once baked a strawberry loaf that sounded so good in the recipe, only to have it turn out heavy and wet, and partially glued to the sides and bottom of the pan. But I did a little research and found an acceptable swap for fresh strawberries that delivers good flavor without the extra moisture: freeze-dried strawberries. Don't confuse these with regular dried strawberries; these are freeze-dried, with no additives. I used a basic scone recipe, my re-hydrated strawberries, and fresh chopped basil. The result is a tasty scone, with bright little bursts of strawberry flavor and the slightly savory contrast of basil. Serve them warm from the oven with butter and strawberry jam for breakfast or a tea-time snack.
Strawberry Scones with Basil
(makes 8 scones)
A generous 1/2 cup of freeze-dried strawberries ( I use this brand)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 generous tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves (about 4-5 medium-size leaves)
Place the freeze-dried strawberries in a small bowl and cover them with warm water. Leave to soften for about 5 minutes, then drain and pat dry with paper towels. Chop coarsely and set aside. Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment (or grease lightly). Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Quickly rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the eggs and cream. Add the cream mixture, chopped strawberries, and basil to the flour mixture. Stir together lightly to make a sticky dough. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead gently about 6 times, just until it holds together. Add a little flour if necessary. Pat the dough into a 6 to 7 inch round, about 3/4 inch thick. Cut with a sharp knife into 8 even-sized wedges. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until set and golden brown. Serve warm, with butter and strawberry jam.
(adapted from a recipe for cream scones in "The Art of Quick Breads" by Beth Hensperger)