I can never resist the combo of strawberry and black pepper. I can’t remember where or when I first heard of pairing the two together, but it’s somehow genius! I’ve done it before with these popsicles, and I had always wanted to apply those flavors to a pastry of some kind. These scones seemed like a natural match!
The cornmeal isn’t overpowering — cornbread, these certainly are not — and it provides a hint of a crunch and some welcome texture. I went the freeze-dried route with the strawberries, cause some of you who have tried to use fresh strawberries in a soft dough will know how sticky and unforgiving that dough becomes. The freeze dried berries absorb some moisture while baking, so they do not stay brittle and crispy. Their strawberry flavor is more pronounced than fresh berries, which is great in these scones. Top them with a drizzle of black pepper icing, and breakfast is served!
strawberry scones with
cornmeal + black pepper
(yields 12 scones)
3 2/3 c (446 g) all purpose flour
1 1/3 c + 2 Tbs (226 g) cornmeal
1/2 c + scant 3 Tbs (140 g) granulated sugar
3 1/4 tsp (14 g) baking powder
1/2 tsp (3 g) baking soda
1 1/4 tsp (3 g) kosher salt
1 tsp (2 g) fresh ground black pepper
1 # unsalted butter, cold and chopped small
1/2 tsp (3 g) cider vinegar
scant 1 c (227 g) milk
2 c (32 g / 1.1 oz) freeze dried strawberries
2 Tbs milk + 2 Tbs sugar,
for brushing and sprinkling on the scones
black pepper icing
1 c (180 g) powdered sugar
1 Tbs + 1 tsp (23 g) milk
1/2 tsp (1 g) fresh ground black pepper
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, place your flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper. Using the paddle attachment, mix on low (speed 1) for one minute, to get everything well mixed. Add the cold butter chunks and mix on speed 1-2 for 3 minutes, until the mixture looks damp and crumbly. Beware, some of the flour mixture might get thrown out of the bowl from all the moving chunks of butter!
Add in the strawberries and mix for 10-15 seconds until they’re incorporated. In a measuring cup, combine the milk and vinegar. Crack the egg into the milk and stir with a fork to make sure the egg is combined thoroughly. Pour the egg/milk mixture into the mixer and turn on to speed 2-3 and mix just until the scone dough forms.
Scoop the dough out of the mixer, combining by hand any dry bits that didn’t mix in, and place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle with a bit more flour, and pat the dough out to a a 1/2-inch thick square shape. If it’s a little more rectangular, don’t worry, I won’t call the cops on you. Just go with it! When you have your dough in an even shape, score it in quarters one direction, and in thirds the other direction, so that you have 12 even pieces. With a sharp knife (a pizza wheel would work great for this, too), cut the scones at the guidelines. Grab two sheet pans and line them with parchment paper, placing no more than 6 scones per pan. Chill until firm.
If’ you’d rather bake half now (or even just 2 or 3), portion out the rest of the scones in the same way, but throw the pan into the freezer. Once the scones are frozen solid, transfer them to a zip-top freezer bag and store them until you’re ready to bake them, but no longer than 1 month. If you’re baking the scones from frozen, add a few more minutes to the baking time. If you’re baking all 12 right now, brush each previously-chilled scone with a little of the milk and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon sugar apiece. Throw them into your preheated oven, one pan above the other, and bake for 14 minutes. When time’s up, rotate the pans 180 degrees and also switch their shelf positions so that they bake more evenly. Set the timer for 14 minutes more, and soon you’ll have tasty scones!
When the scones are ready, they should be lightly golden brown and puffed, and not yield toooooo much when you press their centers gently with your finger. Any indentation your finger initially leaves should spring back up within a few seconds. If it doesn’t, and the indentation stays, bake them for about 2 minutes more.
While the scones are cooling, it’s icing time, didn’tcha know? In a small bowl, gently stir together the powdered sugar, milk and black pepper. There ya go, it’s that easy! When the scones are mostly room temperature, grab a spoon and scoop up a small amount of icing, drizzling one spoonful over each scone.
I love these. They’re amazingly soft and tender, not the least bit tough. The strawberry flavor is subtle at times, but when you do get a strawberry in your bite, it’s super sweet and just a little tart — a perfect pairing with the spicy, almost fruity black pepper. The icing is like, well, the icing on the
cake scone. It bumps up the sweetness of the whole thing, and gives you a more lingering bit of heat. Make ’em for breakfast, make ’em for dessert, make ’em for brunch… it doesn’t matter, so long as you get to have one (or two, or three… I won’t judge).