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Making cornmeal (and rosemary) magic

Posted by: Rick Nelson under Baking, Cookbooks, Recipes Updated: April 4, 2013 - 7:33 AM

 

Beth Dooley's absorbing article on cornbread in this week's Taste reminded me of a favorite recipe.

It's for scones -- although they're billed as "cakes" -- and it's from a cookbook by Los Angeles baking titan Nancy Silverton. The easy-to-prepare formula calls upon the complementary flavors of cornmeal and rosemary -- such a harmonious flavor combination -- and the end result gracefully skirts the line between sweet and savory. Try them, you'll love them.

The recipe's source, Silverton's "Pastries from the La Brea Bakery," belongs on every baker's kitchen bookshelf. If for no other reason, buy it for the bran muffin recipe to end all bran muffin recipes, or for the page-turning chapter that Silverton lovingly devotes to doughnuts.

Oh, and that cornmeal from Riverbend Farm (pictured, above) that Beth wrote about? It's amazing, truly one of the region's great farmstead products. After test-driving this golden, fragrant reminder of late summer -- when I opened the package and that corn perfume hit my nostrils, my mind immediately flew to August -- I'll never bake with shelf-stable cornmeal, ever again. 

CORNCAKES

Makes 12 scones.

Note: Author Nancy Silverton suggests using extra-large eggs. From "Pastries from the La Brea Bakery" (Villard Books, $35).

3 3/4 c. unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for shaping dough

1 3/4 c. yellow cornmeal

1 tbsp. plus 1/4 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary

3/4 c. light brown sugar, lightly packed

1 1/2 c. (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and frozen

1 egg

1 egg yolk

2 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. mild-flavored honey, such as clover

1/2 c. plus 2 tsp. heavy cream, plus extra for brushing tops of scones

24 small tufts of fresh rosemary for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade (or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment), combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, chopped rosemary and brown sugar and process (or mix) on low until incorporated. Add butter and pulse on and off a few times (or mix on low), until mixture is pale yellow and the consistency of fine meal.

Transfer mixture to a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour in eggs, honey and cream and whisk together the liquids. Using one hand, draw in the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Wash and dry your hands and dust them with flour. On a lightly floured work surface, turn out dough and knead a few times to gather it together into a ball. Roll or pat dough into a circle about 3/4 inch thick. Using a 3-inch round cutter, cut out scones, cutting as closely as possible and keeping trimmings intact.

Gather scraps, pat and press the pieces back together and cut out remaining dough. Place scones 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheet. Brush tops with cream and poke 2 small tufts of rosemary into the center of each.

Bake until slightly browned and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes before transferring scones to a wire rack to cool.

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