March in Maine is really not a spring month. We get some occasional warm (warm being a relative term) days but we also get lots of wintry weather. It's a time when it's easy to get cranky about the persistence of snow and the lack of anything green growing outside, but there are good things about March too. We begin to see signs of spring, like the ice breaking up in the river, the wildlife waking up, and the appearance of pussy willows. Though I am looking forward to spring and ditching my lineup of wool sweaters, I'm also embracing this last burst of winter. This is the time of year when the sap is running in the maple trees and I get inspired to work more maple than usual into my baking.
These scones are made with cinnamon, cardamom, a little bit of nutmeg, and some brown sugar to give them a warm, spicy flavor that goes perfectly with maple. In this case, I'm using one of my favorite forms of maple - maple cream - to top my scones. If you have never tried maple cream, I highly recommend it. It's texture is similar to creamed honey and has a consistency that varies from being honey-like to being a bit more firm, like soft butter. It's made from pure maple syrup by heating the syrup, cooling it, and stirring to form crystals. I buy mine at the Common Ground Fair in September from Maine maple syrup producers, or at the local farm stand. If you don't have a local source, you can find it on Amazon or make your own. (See tutorial on making maple cream here.) Maple cream is excellent in oatmeal, on toast, scones, plain yogurt, or stirred into coffee.
- 2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1/2 c. dark brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. cardamom
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, freshly grated if you have it
- 5 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into small cubes
- 1 c. heavy cream
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
In a medium bowl, mix together your dry ingredients. Add the cubed butter and use your fingertips to gently rub the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture is sandy with a few small pea-sized lumps of butter remaining. Stir in the cold heavy cream. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and use your hands to work the dough gently. You are not kneading this dough, just patting it gently and working a little bit of flour into it until it is no longer sticky. It won't hurt to work the dough a little bit, to help it become more uniform, but you want to avoid kneading it, as that will make your scones chewy. Pat the dough into a disk about 1/2 an inch thick, but don't worry too much about getting that exact, just make the size you like. Using a bench scraper or a sharp knife, cut the dough into 8 wedges and place onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. If you like, you can brush the tops with an egg wash or milk to help them brown. I skipped that step on this batch. If the dough is warm and slightly sticky, pop it into the freezer for about 10 minutes before baking to help them retain their shape in the oven. If your hands and kitchen are cold, you can stick them right into the oven. Bake for 13-15 minutes, until golden brown. I recommend serving them with maple cream and a cup of hot coffee.