Week Fifty: Bourbon Week
After dark chocolate, cherry is one of the better flavor pairings with Bourbon. There’s a reason Manhattans are garnished with a cherry: it’s delicious, especially when the cherry is a homemade brandied and spiced cherry, rather than one of those sickly-saccharine and neon Maraschino cherries. (Those, I usually leave in the bottom of the glass.)
Today’s bread takes full advantage of the delight that is a Bourbon-soaked dried cherry, nestling them into a hardly-sweetened scone. Normally, I prefer my scones a bit sweeter, but I’ve cut the sugar here to showcase the natural jammy flavor of the cherries.
And, boy, do they pop! Scones, unlike their slightly-richer cousin, the biscuit, naturally cry out for a bit of butter, as they can taste just a touch dry. This is not necessarily a defect; and it makes buying good butter worth every penny. Imagine, then, in the middle of a crumbly bite of scone, the burst of a juicy cherry, soaked to the gills with smoky Bourbon. Oh, my goodness, it’s heavenly.
Though it does take some advance planning to soak the cherries, this recipe can otherwise be completed in less than 30 minutes, from measuring ingredients to pulling them from the oven. It’s a good thing, too; the aroma that wafts from the dough, even, is nothing short of seductive. And if you can manage to keep away from them before they’re fully cooled, you’re a better man than I am.
Bourbon Cherry Scones
Adapted in part from The Best Recipe, by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine
Makes 8 large scones
4 ounces (about 3/4 cup) dried cherries
1 1/2 ounces (1 jigger) Bourbon
13 1/2 ounces (about 3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into very small pieces
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold milk, plus extra for brushing on the dough
1. Place the cherries in a plastic zip top bag. Add the Bourbon, and squeeze as much air as possible out of the bag before closing. (This maximizes the surface area contact between the fruit and the bourbon, and makes sure no cherries are left dry.) Soak the cherries for at least 8 hours, and up to several days.
2. Preheat the oven to 450° F, and grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, sugar, and salt. Add the cold butter and quickly cut in with a pastry blender or fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Pea-sized lumps are okay. Add the milk, cherries, and Bourbon, and quickly fold together until it just forms a dough, drizzling a little extra milk over any dry spots if necessary. The dough should be quite sticky.
4. Turn the dough out onto a heavily floured surface, and liberally flour the top. Pat into a 1 inch thick round, and cut into 8 equal wedges. Carefully transfer to the prepared baking sheet, and brush the tops with milk.
5. Bake the scones at 450° F for about 15 minutes, or until lightly golden on top. Let cool briefly on baking sheet before serving, or removing to a rack to cool thoroughly.
1. Scones are best served as soon as possible, but may be cooled thoroughly and frozen, wrapped well in foil, and reheated in a 400º F oven for about 5 minutes, or until warmed through.