Springing forward with savory scones

  • Tasting one of the sun-dried tomato scones. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Sun-dried tomato scones with chive butter. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Cutting into the sun-dried tomato scones. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

For the Recorder
Published: 4/5/2022 2:38:08 PM

Now that spring has finally arrived, I’m impatient to eat fresh local food. My dog Cocoa and I check the rhubarb patch every couple of days to see whether stalks have started coming up. (So far they haven’t, but they are bound to show themselves soon.)

Soon we’ll be awash in produce. Meanwhile, I’m anticipating the growing season a little by making a savory scone that gives me a preview of summer flavor.

I got the idea from a forthcoming book titled “Tomato Love” by Joy Howard. It will be put out by Storey Publishing in June, but the publicist gave me a sneak peek.

I enjoy thinking about tomatoes at this time of year, but I’m not a fan of purchasing them in the store when they’re not in season. I prefer to wait until we have the real thing from local farms.

While looking through the book, I saw that Howard included a recipe for scones made with sun-dried tomatoes. I was inspired and decided to try making a version of her scones to cure my early springtime blues.

As readers may know, sun-dried tomatoes are fresh tomatoes that have been exposed to enough sunlight to cause their liquid to evaporate, leaving a product that lasts much longer than the fresh version.

Sun-dried tomatoes retain all the nutrients of fresh tomatoes. They are often packed in oil to keep them usable even longer.

They were apparently first made by the Aztecs centuries ago. Like fresh tomatoes, they moved to Europe as part of what the late historian Alfred Crosby dubbed the Columbian Exchange (i.e., post-Columbus trade between Europe and the Americas).

According to food writer and chef Lidia Bastianich, “Drying tomatoes in the summertime is an ancient tradition in Italy, especially in the southern regions of Puglia, Sicily, and Calabria. … Italians would gather tomatoes from the garden and would arrange them on their rooftops to capture the intense summer sun.”

Bastianich likes to dry her own tomatoes, and I contemplate doing this almost every summer and fall. I’m usually too busy enjoying fresh tomatoes or making other things with them, however. If I need sun-dried tomatoes, I generally buy them.

Fortunately, because I respect Bastianich, I read that she endorses this practice and has been known to purchase sun-dried tomatoes when she runs out of her homemade version.

They became popular in this country in the 1980s and 1990s. Today, like many food fads of the recent past, they can be hard to find.

When I went to look for sun-dried tomatoes to use in my scones, I could find only sun-dried tomato pesto in the store. (Actually, it was my friend Peter who managed to find the pesto. He was kind enough to shop for me that day since I was writing on deadline. He’s a wonderful friend.)

I thought the pesto was worth a try — and it worked like a charm. The tomatoes gave off a heavenly odor as I was mixing them into the dough for the scones. The odor became even more celestial when the scones were baking.

I adapted Joy Howard’s recipe so much that she might have trouble recognizing it, but I promise to give readers more information about her book and her recipes when tomato season arrives. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy my adaptation.

I decided to make mini scones as a party snack instead of the full-size version. I ended up with 16 little scones, which cooked in less time than the larger scones would.

It was a little tricky heating them up at just the right moment for the party; they are best served warm. Juggling my schedule was worth the effort, I found.

When I first tasted one of the mini scones, I worried that it tasted amazing only because I have been careful lately to eat healthily. These scones are not precisely healthy, containing as they do the trifecta of carbs, fat and sugar. It’s actually a quadrifecta (if that’s a word) when you factor in the sodium.

Luckily, my guests endorsed my opinion that these scones are something special. I hope readers agree when they try them.

Sun-dried Tomato Scones

Adapted from the forthcoming book “Tomato Love” by Joy Howard

Scone Ingredients:

2 cups flour, plus more for dusting

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons (¾ stick) cold sweet butter

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

½ cup half and half

1 egg

¼ cup sun-dried tomato pesto (Try to avoid the oil in the jar; this recipe contains plenty of fat without it.)

1 clove garlic, finely minced (optional; it delivers strong pops of flavor when you eat the scones, which I rather like — but you may not!)

Chive Butter Ingredients:

A handful of chives, chopped

½ cup (1 stick) sweet butter, softened

1/8 teaspoon salt

To make the scones, stir together the flour, the sugar, the baking powder and the salt in a large bowl. Use the large holes of a box grater to grate the butter into the flour mixture. Use your hands to toss the butter into the flour from time to time while shredding. Stir in the grated cheese.

In another bowl, whisk together the half and half, the egg, the pesto and the garlic, if you are using it. Combine them with the dry mixture just until the flour is moistened. Do not over-mix.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, pat the dough into a circle that is half an inch thick. Slice the round into eight pieces and place them on the prepared sheet. If you want mini scones, make two circles and cut each into eight pieces.

Place the loaded baking sheet in the freezer while the oven preheats.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake the scones until they are golden brown and begin to smell wonderful. This takes about 20 to 25 minutes for large scones and about 15 minutes for little ones. Rotate the pan halfway through baking.

While the scones are baking, mash together the ingredients for the chive butter. Serve it with the warm scones. Makes eight scones or 16 mini scones. If your chives aren’t yet ripe, you may use plain salted butter, but be sure that it is soft.

Tinky Weisblat is the award-winning author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook,” “Pulling Taffy,” and “Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb.” Visit her website, TinkyCooks.com.


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