It’s just been that kind of month (or two). With mercury in retrograde, our lives have become a comical progression of errors and mishaps. One Sunday, Graham ripped his eyebrow open falling into a metal support beam on the ferry home from Lopez Island. The following Tuesday, I got caught in a rain squall that turned to hail twenty-something miles into a bike ride. Then that Thursday, my husband got clipped by another bike commuter on Seattle’s busy Burke Gilman trail (which he avoids, as a hard rule, except just this once). I found him cowering on the couch when I got home, bruised as much inside as out. He sported a good slice across the bridge of his nose. Just as it began to look good and healed, the cat came home with a matching cut, and Jim spent the later half of an evening in a room full of yowling animals at the local pet emergency room. It’s been the ides of March, but for three whole weeks.
So straying from a baking recipe isn’t what I should have been doing, even if I knew that Cheryl Sternman Rule’s recipes are always bombproof as delivered. But the astrology site I consulted—I’m not normally into this sort of thing, so I had a lot to learn—says “intuition is high” when mercury is in retrograde. I figured that if I started with one of Cheryl’s new recipes from Yogurt Culture, and tweaked it just a little, I’d probably still be safe. I was right.
That Cheryl’s book (which, yes, is all about making and using great yogurt) uses yogurt in place of other dairy in baked goods appealed to me from the start. I don’t always have cream in the fridge. I always, always have Greek yogurt. Her scones—really, a recipe she tweaked from her friend Coco Morante—appear in the book with granny smith apple and a sweet cider glaze. I’ve retooled them in my kitchen with everything from rhubarb to fresh Bing cherries— and they’ve become a staple. “SCONES!” screams Graham. He eats them top-down, smashing the icing directly into his face.
More happened before I decided to share them with you: my credit card and telephone were both accessed by strangers. There was a rash of break-ins on our street, which we somehow dodged but which left a wash of sadness up and down our block. I made spectacularly underbaked banana bread, an annihilated an attempt at empanadas. I burned egg after egg. It just hasn’t been a good few weeks. But according to the experts, this mercurial problem was all set to end on June 11th.
But when I leaned toward making a blueberry-ginger version of Cheryl’s sweet morning treats for Graham’s last day of kindergarten today, there was no Greek yogurt—just buttermilk. So with the buttermilk, and the wrong kind of sugar, and a slightly different glaze, it wasn’t really Cheryl’s recipe any more. But somehow, she was there, laughing off the catastrophes with me the way she was in culinary school, more than a decade ago. And damn if they weren’t still delicious.
Hello, Mercury. Glad to have you going back in the right direction again.
***Cheryl Sternman Rule will be at Seattle’s Book Larder on June 25th at 6:30 p.m. to talk about Yogurt Culture.***
Blueberry-Ginger Buttermilk Scones (PDF)
Based on the green apple scones in Cheryl Sternman Rule’s book Yogurt Culture, which are in turn from her friend Coco Morante, these blueberry gems don’t actually contain yogurt. Buttermilk gives them their signature tenderness! I’ve tested these scones with both regular all-purpose flour and pre-made gluten-free blends (Pamela’s and Domata brands). Both methods work; you’ll need to flour the board you use to form and cut the scones a bit more if you’re using gluten-free flour, to prevent the dough from sticking to the board. Brush any remaining flour off the scones before baking.
Makes 8 scones.
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (regular or gluten-free), plus more for forming scones
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 10 pats
3/4 cup plus 4 tablespoons lowfat buttermilk, divided
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup fresh or frozen wild blueberries*
1 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
*If you use frozen blueberries, you my find you need a little extra flour on your work surface to prevent the dough from sticking.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, with a rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a large work bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, ground ginger, baking soda, and salt. Add the butter, and, using your fingertips or a pastry cutter, squish the butter into the flour mixture until all the chunks are about the size of large peas.
In a small bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the buttermilk (reserving 2 tablespoons for the glaze), the egg, and the vanilla until smooth. Pour the liquid mixture over the flour and butter mixture, and mix with a wooden spoon just until it forms a big shaggy mass. Using floured hands, knead the dough a few times, until it begins clumping together. Add the blueberries, then knead a few more times, until you have a cohesive dough. (It’s okay if the blueberries get smashed.)
Turn the dough out onto a floured board and pat it into a 7-inch circle about 1 1/4 inches thick. Using a large knife, cut the dough into 8 wedges, like you’re cutting a pizza, and arrange the wedges on the prepared baking sheet with plenty of space between them.
Bake the scones for 18 to 22 minutes, until the scones are firm on top and the undersides are golden brown. Once they’ve cooled enough to touch, transfer the scones to a rack to cool completely.
While the scones cool, in a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and the remaining 2 tablespoons buttermilk until a thick glaze forms. Drizzle or pour the glaze over the warm scones. Serve immediately, or let the glaze harden as the scones cool completely and serve.