Despite what the calendar says, this weekend wasn't laborious in the least. Well, I guess if by "labor" you mean the energy it took to keep Brady's toosh on the seat of the four wheeler while driving at seemingly top-speeds then yes, which took a bit of effort. Or perhaps the stamina required to keep my eyes open into the wee hours of the morning on Friday night while plotting something mischievous with my fellow co-conspirators should be counted as labor. I can't say that it took me more than .003 seconds to take Nick up on his offer to eat Maryland crabs for lunch after church on Sunday, although the actual picking part turned out to be harder than I remembered, even for a Maryland girl. Thankfully, Eli was there to save the day and give me a how-to on dismembering the beady-eyed crustaceans which were carefully rationed to me after I got the approval that I'd actually gotten all the sweet and salty meat out of the claws before I could have another.
I've had a pint of heavy cream creeping ever closer to the back of the fridge ever since those caramel apple cinnamon rolls called for a teensy tiny tablespoon or two of the delicious dairy and then I was at a loss for what to do with the rest of the red and white carton. Sleepy with conspiracy on Saturday morning, we tripped to Starbucks in our pajamas and refueled on a parking lot breakfast of bagels and coffee and once I decided my pumpkin spice latte something or other was cool enough to sip, I remembered the night before that our gracious hostess mentioned how much she adored the mini vanilla scones at said coffee place. So I made it a point to peek into the bakery case only to find that these supposedly famous vanilla scones looked like hard little white hockey pucks, smooth as river stones and most likely with the same sort of consistency. I can do better than that.
I didn't know much about the world of scones until my sophomore year at college when I would use my bonus meal points to splurge on frozen coffee and cinnamon chip studded scones, but now that I think of it, they were incredibly dry and sweeter than a doughnut, which didn't seem kosher for something that should be buttery and barely sweet. After a bit of poking around and checking the date on the cream (we're go for launch) I found a recipe that seemed to get rave reviews all around - not too sweet, not dry in the least, sweet with fresh cream and sparkly with sugar dusted across their tops. I tweaked the original recipe to fill my ever-increasing cravings for fresh vanilla bean and I'm never looking back. These were buttery and light and reveal a loosely woven crumb, flecked with bits of vanilla seeds in between the layers when you split them open. I highly recommend these with gobs of blackberry jam and a strong cup of tea in the morning.
I'd encourage you to stick your nose right into the vanilla bean jar and inhale as deeply as you can, it's a complex, nose-tingling scent you'll never get from imitation vanilla extract - flavor in its purest form. And seeing as vanilla beans can be so daggum expensive, don't waste those precious flavor-packed pods. Once you scrape the seeds from the center of the bean, nestle the split pod into a container of white sugar and after a day or two, you'll have lovely scented sugar for your morning cafe.
Sweet Cream Scones with Vanilla Bean
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees F.
Place flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and the vanilla seeds in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse about six times.
Remove the cover and add in the butter, then cover and pulse 12 times, each pulse lasting 1 second. Once the mixture looks like crumbly sand, transfer it to a large mixing bowl.
Stir in heavy cream with a rubber spatula or fork until dough begins to form, about 30 seconds. Transfer dough and all dry, floury bits to countertop and knead dough by hand just until it comes together into a rough, sticky ball, 5 to 10 seconds. Pat the dough into an 8 or 9 inch round cake pan to form it into a uniform disk and then turn it out onto a lightly floured countertop. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, slice the disk into 8 wedges.
Place wedges on ungreased, parchment paper lined baking sheet and brush with heavy cream and sprinkle with granulated sugar, if desired. Bake until scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
If you'd like to freeze them, put them in an airtight container and freeze for up to two months. To defrost, heat them in a 350 degree oven until warmed through.