A holiday twofer: cream scones and pumpkin jam
Halloween was the starting gate: the holiday season is upon us. The upcoming mass-market trifecta of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, along with Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, are well-intentioned “holy days” meant to celebrate the spiritual, religious and mythic elements of our lives. Yet they sometimes seem a gauntlet of events and responsibilities designed to challenge our pocketbooks, waistlines, sobriety, serenity and humanity.
We valiantly attempt to wrestle the focus back to community and communion, but sometimes that too gets hijacked, and the festive communal table groans with overabundance.
I’m not knocking it. I love leftovers as much as the next guy. But peeling back the meaning of why-we-eat-what-we-eat-the-way-we-eat-it, you come around to the simple truth expressed by the baker in the Raymond Carver short story: “You probably need to eat something,” Thanksgiving and communion can be a small, personal gesture — a breakfast or a snack any time of the year shared between even two people — if you make it that way.
This week’s recipe is a holiday twofer: cream scones and pumpkin jam. The jam is a variation of a recent David Lebovitz recipe made a little spicier with grated ginger and orange zest. As noted in the directions, it is also a great accompaniment to a holiday cheese platter.
The scones are a family favorite from my cousin, Robert Jensen-Cleveland. Admittedly there are a gazillion scone recipes online, but Robert’s is a simple, child-friendly basic — its ingredients can be adapted to nearly any taste by adding, as examples, lime (zest), ginger, coconut or cranberries and pecans.
This recipe is a small nod to the cinnamon rolls lovingly proffered by Carver’s baker. Serve them as a warmup to the main event or as a simple celebration any other day. The real joy is in the small things.
Cinnamon, Walnut, Raisin Cream Scones
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar, evenly split
1½ tablespoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups heavy cream
1 large egg, lightly beaten (optional)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold, cut into ½-inch cubes)
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, divided
½ cup golden raisins (or other dried or fresh fruit of your choice)
½ cup walnut pieces (roughly chopped) (or other nut of your choice)
- Heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine half the sugar and half the cinnamon in a small bowl; mix to combine and reserve. In a large bowl, combine the remainder of the dry ingredients and mix with a fork. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients using your fingers or a pastry cutter/blender. Add the raisins and nuts; mix to incorporate. Make a shallow divot in the middle of the bowl, add the cream and egg and gently mix with a fork to combine everything into a sticky mass. Lightly flour your hands and knead the mixture a few times. Do not overwork.
- Knead onto a floured surface and roll dough out into a 10-inch disc. Sprinkle one-third of the reserved cinnamon-sugar mixture on half of the pastry and fold the disc over on itself. Roll out once again into another 10-inch disc and sprinkle half the remaining cinnamon sugar over half of it, once again folding it over on itself. Shape by hand into a final 10-inch disc and cut into 8 to 10 equal wedges. Place wedges on a parchment-lined baking sheet leaving space between. Brush tops with a light wash of cream and sprinkle on the remaining cinnamon sugar. Bake on top shelf of preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until just browned on bottom edges. Serve warm with butter and/or pumpkin jam on the side.
Makes about 1½ cups
2 pounds sugar pumpkin, split, seeds removed and cut into 1½-inch pieces
1½ cups sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 two-inch strips of orange zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
Pinch of salt
- Place the pumpkin in a steamer basket in a large pot. Add water to the bottom of the basket and steam until pumpkin is completely cooked through (about 30 minutes; a paring knife will easily pierce the flesh). Add more water to the pot during steaming if necessary.
- Remove pumpkin from pot and cool. Scrape flesh from the skin and puree in a food processor. (You should have about 2 cups.)
- In a heavy-duty saucepan, add pumpkin puree, sugar, orange and lemon juice, zest and salt. Scrape seeds from the vanilla bean with a knife and add them to the pot, along with the bean. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, as sugar dissolves. Add ginger. Continue cooking, stirring constantly to prevent burning. (Warning: the puree as it cooks will thicken and can splatter — be mindful.)
- When the mixture thickens and holds its shape in a jelly-like mound when heaped up onto itself, it’s done. (It will take about 10 minutes.) Remove zest and vanilla bean and scrape mixture into a clean jar. Jam is best served at room temperature and can be refrigerated up to one month. (Note: This jam can also be used as a membrillo-like addition to a cheese or charcuterie board.)