On Saturday afternoon we had a fairly spontaneous picnic with Mike and Jo-Lyn, Tracy and Lee at Yarra Bend Park. Not so spontaneous that I didn't have time to bake, though! Over banana bread and Video Hits late on Saturday morning, I flicked through a few recipe books and settled on this recipe from Taste Favourites. This book is a compilation of recipes from New Zealand's Taste magazine and I was lucky enough to win my copy in 2006's Menu For Hope campaign, thanks to Barbara of Winos and Foodies.
This modest batch of savoury scones were just the fit for this task. A food processor gets the butter/flour step done speedily and they don't take long to bake; they fit neatly into a plastic container, and then into a backpack; and although the recipe suggests serving them with butter and ham, they are plenty flavoursome enough to eat as they are, straight out of the box with your hands. And that's what we did, the entire batch between six of us. The gruyere cheese had a soft but deep flavour, and the pecans' woodiness bloomed with the scant 15 minutes of baking. I'm sure that any good quality cheddar (mmm... imagine smoked cheddar!) would do well here - just leave off with the Bega, a'ight? Likewise some walnuts or fresh herbs could do very nicely.
It was only after I had them in the oven that Michael pointed out Laurie Black's words across the top of the cookbook page:
"These scones are ideal to serve as part of an afternoon tea with friends."
Damn right they are.
Gruyere and pecan scones
3 cups plain flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
50g butter, cold and diced
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
2 cups gruyere cheese, grated
1 to 1 1/2 cups milk
Preheat the oven to 210 degrees C and lightly grease a baking tray.
In a food processor, briefly pulse the flour, baking powder and salt to combine. Add the butter and process again until it well distributed - the mixture will still be powdery.
Shift the flour into a large mixing bowl, then stir in the pecans and about half of the cheese. Use a butter knife to gradually incorporate the milk. Use only as much milk as you need to form a dough (I needed little more than a cup) and mix until it only just comes together. (Over-mixing makes the dough tough.)
Get yourself a clean, floured surface and turn the dough onto it. Give it a short, gentle knead to bring it all together in a neat blob. With your hands, flatten it out into a rectangle roughly 3cm thick. Use a sharp knife to cleanly slice the dough into twelve scones - don't saw away at it, you'll get dough everywhere!
Place the scones on the tray, leaving about 2cm gap between them, then sprinkle over the remaining cheese. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until firm.