I love kitchen gadgets. LoveloveloveloveLOVE. The weirder and more obscure, the better. I have cabinets full of ricers, garlic slicers, mallets, weird whisks with funny bits for extra fluffy foams. I love my hand-crank pasta machine. I want an extruder.
My stand mixer? We have an understanding that makes room for the boyfriend, but otherwise are unwaveringly devoted to one-another.
(Yes, I am anthropomorphizing my appliances. Deal with it.)
So when the opportunity came up to make massive use of my roommate’s seemingly discarded apple peeler/corer/slicer, I jumped at it. I made SO MUCH FOOD. Apple butter. Pear butter. Dehydrated pear chips. Faux-membrillo (using apples and pears instead of the more traditional quince). All the peels and cores went into vats for home-made cider vinegars. But then I happened upon a few small, perfect pears I had plucked from a tiny tree at my boss’ house while we were gathering apples (which mostly went to a friend for cider-making…the rest got incorporated into the recipes above).
These pears needed a more delicate approach than just cooking them into oblivion or drying them into crispy snacks.
They were just so pretty and small and sweet – I wanted to show them off a little more. Unfortunately, my original plan (for pear-ricotta-rosemary galettes with a sourdough pate brisee crust) fell through (no sourdough starter prepped, no ricotta at the house, only 1 hour before work), and these scones happened instead.
But there are still many more pears. Galettes will have to wait for my next day off (and I will, of course, post the recipe once I have some pictures to go with it).
The scones came out fabulously – the perfect size to have one or two with tea. They were moist, with the sweet aroma of pears, but not so sweet that they wouldn’t stand up to a toasting and a slather of salted butter. Hearty and nutty from the whole wheat flour, and just a little bit tart from the buttermilk in the dough.
Pear-Ginger Buttermilk Scones
(makes 16 small squares or 8 one-serving wedges)
1 c whole wheat pastry flour
1 c unbleached white bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp grated ginger (or 1/2 tsp powdered, if you don’t have fresh)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp baking powder
3 Tbsp sugar (plus more for sprinkling on top)
5 Tbsp butter, cold, cut into cubes
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
roughly 3/4 c buttermilk (plus more for brushing on top)
1/2-1 c raw pears, cut in 1/2″ cubes
Note: the secret to making delicious light, fluffy scones is to handle them as little as possible while still fully incorporating the ingredients. That said, I tend to like my scones a little more on the bready, dense, hearty side. If you like a lighter scone, cut down on the whole wheat flour and use white pastry or all-purpose flour instead of bread flour, and DON’T MOLEST YOUR DOUGH. Really. The more you manhandle it, the less delicate the resulting scones will be.
Peel and core the pears, and dice the fruit into small chunks. If you are not using the pears right away, leave them soaking in a nice bath of citrus juice and water so they do not oxidize and become unsightly. I used my handy-dandy apple peeler-corer-slicer for this bunch of pears, and then just cut the rings into bits – easy as pie. Mmmmm, pie.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, sift together the flours, salt, baking powder, and dry spices. Add the sugar and ginger, then the butter, using your hands (or a pastry cutter if you are squeamish) to rub the flour into the butter until the whole mass is consistently crumbly.
Toss in the pears and the vanilla, and then (gently) work in the buttermilk just until a shaggy dough forms. Depending on the moisture of the pears and what kind of flour you use, you may need a little more or less than 3/4 c to accomplish this. You can let the dough sit for a few minutes to soak up the buttermilk’s moisture for easier scone-formation in the next step, if it seems a little dry.
Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and shape it into either a rectangle, square, or circle (I like a square, as it is easy to divide into 16 pieces without too much math or planning). As you are shaping, press the dough into a solid form, but refrain from over-working. Cut the dough into individual pieces, and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet with enough space in-between that they will not touch when puffing up in the oven.
Brush your scones with more buttermilk, and sprinkle the tops with coarse sugar.
Bake at 350 degrees for about about 20 minutes, or until they are springy to the touch and just beginning to brown on top. Serve warm with a small dollop of whipped cream, a thin spreading of lemon curd or pear butter, or just eat them with no accoutrement at all.