Friday, May 10, 2019

CHOCOLATE CHERRY SCONES: Guest Post by Laura Benedict

I love when my mystery and chocolate worlds collide. Here's a great recipe from my friend, mystery author Laura Benedict. You'll want to read her latest novel The Stranger Inside while eating these delicious Chocolate Cherry Scones. And, these Chocolate Cherry Scones are perfect for your Mother's Day Brunch!

Laura Benedict:
Chocolate Cherry Scones 

The first time I tried to make scones, I was in college and was no baker. That was the same year I accidentally seasoned spaghetti sauce with celery seed instead of oregano. Yes, it was as disgusting as it sounds. I also deboned an entire raw chicken in order to make chicken soup, because—in those no-Internet days—I had no idea you should cook the chicken first. Goodness knows where I found that first scone recipe. No doubt I grabbed the first one I found at the library, and made it the night before the scones were to be used in a one-act play for which I was props master. Never having eaten or even seen a scone, I had no idea how they were supposed to taste. These had a classic hockey puck texture, and no recognizable flavor. My BFF from college (who had to try to nibble one on stage, bless her heart) and I still laugh about it. On reflection, I suspect I forgot to add the baking powder.

In the last couple of decades, I’ve discovered what a miracle a not-too-sweet, butter-rich scone can be. While many bakeries reduce fat by sacrificing all that yummy butter and shortening, they also increase the sugar so that their scones are simply puffy cookies. One of my family’s favorite scones (dense, with plenty of small chocolate chips) came from a coffee shop in Roanoke, Virginia, and lately I’ve had a hankering for them. Unable to head to Virginia right now, I decided it was time to take a second stab at baking scones.

These chocolate and cherry scones have a hearty crumb, and the tartness of the cherries is a delicious counterpoint to the rich dark chocolate. They definitely satisfied my cravings. Knowing I wanted a traditional, basic recipe, I started with a well-reviewed Alton Brown recipe from The Food Network, and adapted it from there. Don’t get out your mixer. Handle this dough with care.

Makes 12 wedges. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

6 oz Ghirardelli or similar 72% cocoa chocolate (bars)
½ cup dried, tart cherries
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (King Arthur is my preference)
3 teaspoons of baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup white sugar
4 Tablespoons butter (chilled)
2 Tablespoons shortening (chilled—Butter flavor Crisco is my go to)
¾ cup plus
1 Tablespoon whipping cream
1 egg
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling

2 cup glass measuring cup
Large spatula
Floured surface
Rolling pin (optional)
Baking sheet
Hand pastry blender (or fork)
 Large knife Parchment paper (optional)
Wire tester


Leaving chocolate bars in their foil wrapping, break into rough chunks with a kitchen mallet or meat tenderizer. Empty into bowl. Add cherries. Set aside.

Beat egg in ramekin or small bowl. Pour cream into glass measuring cup. Whisk in egg. Set aside.

Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl.

Remove butter and shortening from refrigerator. Cut into dry ingredients and quickly work in with pastry blender or fork until lumps are smallish and covered in flour. It’s okay if the chunks are uneven. Don’t overwork and let the butter get too soft, or scones will be tough.

Add cream/egg. Fold into dry ingredients with spatula until mixture just hangs together.

Dough should be ragged but not soaking wet. Add flour by tablespoons if too sticky. Add cream by teaspoons if too dry.

Use hands or spatula to quickly mix in chocolate chunks and cherries.

Gather into ball and lay on floured surface. Knead gently with floured hands until thoroughly mixed, and a minimum of dough sticks to hands.

Break into two equal portions. Form first portion into a ball, flatten on floured surface and either roll or pat into circle. Cut into six wedges. Arrange separately on parchment paper (optional) on baking sheet. Repeat for second portion.

Sprinkle wedges with Turbinado sugar to taste.

Bake between 15 and 20 minutes, depending on thickness. Tester should come out clean, and scones should be lightly browned on tops and edges.

Cool on rack. When completely cool, store at room temperature in an airtight container.

Laura Benedict is an Edgar and ITW-nominated author of suspense novels and short stories. Her latest novel, about a woman who returns home to find the locks changed and a strange man living in her house, is The Stranger Inside (Mulholland Books, 2019). Dark chocolate is her operating system.

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