August 2, 2010

Bing Cherry Scones and a Simple Dessert Idea


Bing Cherry Scones

One of the most phenomenal desserts I've ever had was served recently at the Marcus Whitman Hotel in Walla Walla, Washington for the annual Wine Bloggers Conference. The conference organizers did an amazing job of pulling together sponsors which gave us far more than our registration fees alone would have afforded. The big gala dinner was sponsored by the Washington Beef Commission. Since the braised beef cheeks and grilled flank steak were provided by the Washington Beef Commission, I suspect the kitchen had more of a budget to work with on other fronts. All the stops were pulled out.

The whole meal was the nicest I've ever had in a convention banquet setting. I could go into great detail about the freshness of the salad and the perfectly al dente baby vegetables, and the absence of gloppy sauces and gravies made from mixes, but I really want to share with you the dessert.
Simple, sheer genious. A shiny platter of perfect whole, ripe Bing cherries atop a bed of their own leaves was first passed. Then, a platter with bowls of smooth, rich, creamy dark chocolate ganache and softly whipped cream was passed. Then, a platter with buttery, cherry-leaf shaped shortbreads came around. Purity. Sophistication in the way of Alice Waters.

I've always liked cherries, but this dessert reinvigorated me. It affirmed my sensibilities. It is unnecessary to doll up something as flawless as a cherry. I remembered this when I made scones the other day, resisting the temptation to add chocolate or white chocolate or almonds. I just let the cherries speak.


Bing Cherry Scones

Makes 8

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup demerara sugar (brown sugar works too)
1/3 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 cup fresh Bing cherries, pitted, cut into 1/8ths (kitchen shears do a great job of snipping the 1/8ths)
1 cup cold sour cream
1 egg yolk
2 drops almond extract**

Preheat oven to 400˚. Line large baking sheet with parchment.

Mix all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.

Toss the butter into the bowl of dry ingredients. Rub butter between fingertips, picking up a little flower often, until the butter is the size of small peas or less. This can be done with a pastry cutter or two knives, but there's magic in those fingertips.

Toss in the cut cherries, literally tossing them a bit in the dry ingredients. This will keep them from sinking to the bottom.

Whisk sour cream, egg yolk and almond extract. Make a depression in the center of your dry ingredients and add the sour cream mixture. Using a rubber spatula, stir together just until the ingredients are barely moist. As a matter of fact, there will most likely be some small bit of flour in the bottom of your bowl. The dough will look very shaggy. Handle the dough as little as possible.

Flour your work surface (but not too much; remember that there's some unincorporated flour in your bowl that will also serve this purpose, and too much flour makes a tough scone) and your hands. Dump the dough out and firmly press it into a 1" thick round or square. Don't knead; just press. Cut into 8 wedge/pieces.

Place pieces on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

Glaze with 1 cup powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and the juice of two cherries (cut into 1/8ths and pressed through a fine-mesh sieve, for a little natural pink color which I love), and a little milk to a glaze consistency. Brush or drizzle onto cooled scones.

**This may be a slight understatement, but I find almond extract to overwhelm many recipes and I really wanted the pure cherry to shine through. Use no more, and I'm serious, than 1/4 teaspoon. Try hard for only 2 drops.
Cherry Scones Cooling, Before Glazing

Happy Birthday today to my new Sister-in-Law and Friend. I love you, Nancy!

26 comments:

  1. I like this post. I've debated with myself about fresh fruit in general, and how not to ruin it by pulverizing it, or over sugaring it. Cherries are a personal favorite and I love the naked cherries served first. I recently made a cherry slab with an almond glaze. The almond goes so well with cherries, but you are right...use restraint.

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  2. Cherries served with their leavess followed by chocolate and cream sounds simply elegant. The scones sound yummy.

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  3. I also love cherries. I think their sweet tartness go great in a buttery scone!

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  4. Ditto me, on the cherries, your scones sound wonderful and something fun to make!

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  5. Cherries in some sort of pastry is always a hit for me! As we are on a bit of a scone kick and our Farmer's Market is full with cherries these will have to be on our menu.

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  6. Cherry scones are my absolute favorite kind of scone. Might add some dark chocolate chunks to this... because I just love the pairing of chocolates and cherries. A great recipe! Thanks for sharing!

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  7. Glad this is sounding good to you all, as it really is! My dad was visiting when I made these, and he gobbled quite a few with his morning coffee! As did we all.

    What I'm really hoping you'll try is the recipe-less dessert. I'm telling you, it was so visually stunning and so delicious. I truly had one of those, "Why didn't I think of that" moments, as is was so simple. If you try it, let me know if you love it as much as I do!

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  8. yum! I need to make these right away. They look gorgeous and I bet they taste every bit as good. Great job!

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  9. Bravo! What a superb post in every respect. I first and foremost prefer my fruit plain. When made in a dish, I definitely want the fruit to shine over everything else. And, I agree that many people overwhelm cherries with almond flavor. Thank you for this wonderful piece of writing.

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  10. Simply beautiful! I love any excuse to use cherries in cooking - its a very "July" thing to do!

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  11. Hmmmm Cherry Scones

    I adore your blog and I wanted to give you the Versatile Award

    http://joyjoycreativeoutlet.blogspot.com/2010/08/i-got-award-versatile-blogger-award.html

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  12. That is a great and simple dessert! And I love your recipe for scones, I have had cherry scones on my list for awhile and I need to get going. :) Thanks for the inspiration!

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  13. I'm making your recipe, this week. Looks so good and have a good stock of cherries on hand! Thanks for sharing this recipe. ;)

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  14. First I have to say that the fresh cherries, chocolate ganache, whipped cream dessert that you were served sounds absolutely amazing! Someone in the kitchen knew what they were doing! I also think the scones look awesome. I've never made scones before, but now might be the time to change that. Thanks!

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  15. thank you for sharing this delicious recipe

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  16. The scones sound delicious, but sometimes it's the simple things that are best. Cherries lightly dipped in chocolate or cream sounds fabulous!

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  17. Love the cherries with the cream...and the scones sound great, I have never actually had cherry scones before:)

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  18. Ooooo! I love the sour cream in the scones idea. how wonderful! sour cream and baking go so well together. I love cherries too, but sometimes get bored. this is a great way to use them. Your scones are so nice and craggy. Love that. Craggy (is that a word?)= more crunchy edges, which I love. nice job, friend!

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  19. LOVE it! I've always liked bing cherries and I think I just eat em' up before I get the chance of making something else with them..... maybe its time to get a pitter as well.

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  20. I have bookmarked this recipe because they look amazing

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  21. It takes a while for me to have my fill of cherries before I decide to bake with it. The ingredients in this scone convinces me that the cherries are not over-powered. And your dinner at the conference does entice.

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  22. Mmmm, cherries in scones sounds just like summer to me. A perfect breakfast treat. Cherries really can be used in so many dishes!

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  23. Oh I wish I had this recipe a week ago. Just finished wit ha whole bunch of cherries. Beautiful pics as always.

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  24. The scones and the yard look amazing. I want one of those for breakfast tomorrow morning. So lucky to have all those flowers in your yard. I grew fewer this year. Glad I did because we had a lot of rain which brought a ton of weeds to the yard and I just don't have the patience to pull them all. I bought these adorable little roses though and I love them. I also bought some purple-bell type flowers which are working out well. I wish I had planted more plants of them. I only bought one to try out.

    Your blog is enticing me to make scones. I want some now! Mmm....

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  25. Oh I love these scones! All your pictures are absolutely amazing as well. Now I'm craving a good hot cup of coffee and a freshly baked scone.

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