Alternative grains are all the rage these days. Joy the Baker made some buckwheat pine nut biscuits from my favorite new cookbook. David Lebovitz had the scoop on some tempting Italian cornmeal cookies. And Deb made oatmeal pancakes from the cookbook that clinched a well-deserved win of the Piglet, if you ask me.
I haven’t yet bought Good to the Grain. Until I do, I’ll have to wait on those oatmeal pancakes. (Also Strawberry Barley Scones, Buckwheat and Pear Pancakes, Gingersnaps, and now you see why I’m buying this book). But I can be patient. Very patient. See, I’ve got Alice Medrich.
Medrich’s Pure Dessert is no stranger in my kitchen. I’ve lavished praise on this much-loved cookbook on many occasions. I’ve made about 1/3 of the recipes contained within, and I’ve rarely, if ever, been let down. But I’m back to tell you more about Pure Dessert, because it seems to me that it is, in many ways, the mother of cookbooks like Good to the Grain. It contains an entire chapter on the flavors of grains. It offers recipes like Kamut Poundcake, Nibby Buckwheat Cookies, Corn Tuiles, and this: a humble batch of scones that surprises in its lovely, flaky texture and rich, buttery flavor. Unlike most scones, which I feel compelled to slather with homemade jam or creme fraiche, these were best uncondiment-ed. In fact, the one I ate just out of the oven may have been the best scone I’ve ever had.
I say all this knowing that many of you don’t keep buckwheat flour in your kitchens. For the sake of full disclosure, I’m on your team: the last time I bought buckwheat flour, half a sack sat untouched in my pantry for enough months (read: >12) that I felt like I had to toss it. I vowed I’d never buy the stuff again, since clearly I didn’t use it enough to make the purchase worthwhile. But the on my last trip to Whole Foods, the efficiency angel on my right shoulder was overpowered by the curious little devil on my left. I pictured blini with sour cream and gravlax, perhaps homemade injera (um, haha?) and at least one of those whole grain recipes from Alice Medrich. The first two may be pipe dreams, but considering how good these buckwheat scones turned out, I think the flour was worth buying. Next up? Alice’s buckwheat sables. (Maybe. One thing at a time, y’all.)
Buckwheat Cornmeal Scones
adapted from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
extra milk or cream, for brushing scones
Whisk egg, milk, and cream in a small bowl. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, buckwheat flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut butter into flour, tossing flour to coat butter as you go. When largest pieces of butter are the size of peas, stop. (Alternatively, use a food processor for this step. If you use a food processor, mix flours and other dry ingredients together first, then add butter, and stop cutting when butter pieces are the size of lima beans. Thanks, Melissa Clark!)
Stir walnuts into flour-butter mixture. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients, and use a fork or a strong rubber spatula to incorporate wet and dry ingredients. Stop when the dough looks shaggy — you’re not going for smooth here.
Gather the dough into a ball and knead against the side of the bowl a few times, until the dough just holds together.
Turn dough onto lightly floured board or workspace and, using lightly floured hands, gently pat into an 8-inch round or 7-inch square. If dough is round, slice into 8 as you would a pie, or use a 2-inch round cutter to make about 9 round scones (gather the scraps that remain and gently gather them into a round shape without kneading). If dough is square, make three horizontal cuts and three vertical cuts to create 9 square scones. Transfer scones to a plate and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425˚. Line a baking sheet with two layers of parchment paper. Place scones 1 inch apart on lined baking sheet. Brush with milk or cream and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake until golden brown, 12-15 minutes (mine took 13). Cool on rack; serve warm or at room temperature.
If not serving the same day, reheat scones in a warm oven (200˚) for about 5 minutes before serving.