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Savory Tomato-Basil Scones

November 2, 2010

I’ll just say it – I don’t love sweet scones. I’ve even had some pretty tasty ones here in the land of afternoon tea, but for me, they’re mostly a vehicle for clotted cream. Savory scones on the other hand, are just biscuits with eggs in them, so I’m a fan.

This recipe was actually inspired by a lunch I had long before coming to the island of scones, at least 5 years ago. At the time, I was living in Cloyne Court, a slightly-notorious student co-op in Berkeley. The Berkeley campus community has a lot of opinions about Cloyne, (you are welcome to google it if you want a sense of that), and as someone who actually lived there I can tell you a lot about what’s wrong with the place. I can also tell you that I met many of my favorite people there, including my husband. Most importantly, though, I think Cloyne is exactly what you might expect out of 150 young people experimenting their way through college: a lot of really good decisions and really bad ones, a lot of failures and a lot of successes. The failures get press, the successes are forgotten. In the interest of equal-time, here is a cooking success:

I don’t really remember all of the details; all I know was that I was having a lousy day, as one is bound to have in the first year of college, when you’re still just a moody teenager who suddenly has to do her own laundry. It was also raining and I had somehow forgotten or misplaced my umbrella, so I’d trudged up the hill, getting increasingly soaked and grumpy. I got home, and even though I was late for lunch, there was  huge pot of tomato soup and a tray full of the first really tasty scones I had ever eaten. Bad scones can be really, really bad – dry and starchy – but these were fluffy and moist. They had the comforting-breadiness I needed on a cold, rainy day and refreshing flavors that snapped me right out of my funk.

As much as I love the winter favorites: stews, soups and starchy sides, they can get a little boring. Sometimes you need a little garlic-fueled excitement on a dreary day. Plus, this recipe uses up your mealy winter tomatoes.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Combine 1 3/4 cup flour, 2 1/4 tsp baking powder, 1 Tblsp sugar, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 cup finely-chopped fresh basil.

Add 1/4 cup cold butter, cut into chunks. Forgive the bad lighting – reminiscing about bad days in college seemed to curse the camera work on this post.

Break up the butter with your fingers until it is the the “size of peas.” I find that for novices, this is the most challenging part of making scones or biscuits. You have to get a feel for the correct texture, and ideally have someone show you in person. It’s not hard, though, once you’ve done it a couple of times. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture at this point. Hopefully you can make out the texture from this next picture, and I promise to do a biscuit post next week with full photo coverage.

Beat 2 large eggs, and reserve 2 Tblsp. Combine the remaining eggs with 1/3 cup cream or milk, one finely-chopped plum tomato and 2 tsp minced garlic. One other thing I should have done, but didn’t, was squeeze some of the juice out of the tomato with a towel or sieve; you’ll see why in a minute.

Stir it all up and shape it into a 2-inch thick circle on the counter. Using a floured-knife, cut it into 8 wedges and place on a baking sheet.

Because of the juice in the tomato, this was a particularly sticky dough. It still tasted delicious and was extra moist in the end, but my triangle shapes pretty much fell apart. The foil isn’t strictly necessary, but it helps. Brush with the reserved egg.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden. Share them with someone you survived Cloyne with.

Tomato Basil Scones

1¾ cups all-purpose flour
2¼ teaspoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil
¼ cup cold butter, cut into chunks
2 large eggs, beaten
1 roma or other small tomato, finely diced and extra juice squeezed out
2 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced
cup cream or milk

1. Preheat oven to 450°F / 220°C
2. Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and basil in a large bowl.
3. Add butter to flour mixture and mix with your fingertips until the lumps are about the size of peas.
4. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the beaten eggs. Combine the rest with the tomato, garlic and milk.
5. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and combine with a few strokes.
6. On a floured surface, shape the dough into a round disc, about 2 inches thick. Using a floured knife to cut the dough into 8 wedges.
7. Place wedges on a lined or greased baking sheet and brush with the reserved egg.
8. Bake for 15 minutes until golden.

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