An elegant, autumnal treat.
Earlier this week, I profiled talented baker and food photographer Elizabeth Tulis of the Washington, D.C.-based food blog Pastry and Prose. Elizabeth not only has a gorgeous aesthetic; she also is a passionate and gifted baker with a talent for exploring and layering flavors in fresh, delicious ways. Her recipe for Apple, Sage, and Gruyère Scones demonstrates her skill. The result is a seasonal and elegantly-rustic baked good that tastes incredibly good.
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Recipe Notes: Apple, Sage, and Gruyère Scones
The flavors of apple, sage, and Gruyère complement one another perfectly. These flaky, many-layered scones strike a perfect balance of sweet from apple, nutty and savory from the cheese, and earthy, autumnal notes from sage.
This is not the fastest scone recipe in the world, but it is not complex, either. Mostly you have to spend a little extra time preparing the ingredients and following best practices with the technique, like doing a book fold for the dough and fillings, pre-baking the diced apples to reduce hydration, and allowing plenty of chilling time.
The importance of chilling.
Baked goods like pie dough, biscuits, scones, and other pastries layered with butter require cold butter and chilling to achieve maximum flakiness. This is for two main reasons.
First, cold butter equals flaky pastry. When butter melts inside of a scone or pie dough while baking, the butter creates steam. That steam forms tiny pockets in the dough. Those pockets create the flakes. If the butter is chilled — and stays chilled — it can smear into the dough and not steam.
Chilling also develops less gluten. Gluten is a protein that creates elasticity in flour-based baked goods. Creating elasticity can be a good thing: You need good gluten development in bread to form a good, chewy texture. But scones and biscuits should be flaky and tender. You want them to break apart, not pull apart.
These scones are worth the time — though it will be hard to find the patience to wait for them to come out of the oven.
Did you make these Apple, Sage, and Gruyère Scones? Tell us about it!
Apple, Sage, and Gruyère Scones
- 2 3/4 cups (380 g) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
- 10 tablespoons (140 g; 1 stick + 2 tablespoons) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 cup (2 1/2 ounces; 70 g) coarsely-grated Gruyère cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
- 1 cup cold buttermilk
- 2 smallish crisp apples, peeled, cored, and cut into a 1/2" dice
- buttermilk or a lightly-beaten egg, for brushing
- thin slices of apple
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- small, fresh sage leaves
For the Apples
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spread the diced apple on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the apple pieces are dry to the touch. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
For the Scones
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and black pepper. Add the cold butter chunks. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, cut in the butter into the flour mixture until it is well distributed and the largest pieces are the size of peas. Mix in the chopped sage and half the shredded cheese and chill.
- Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the buttermilk. Using a wooden spoon or your fingers, mix together the flour mixture and buttermilk, switching to your hands as the mixture starts to come together into a dough. Once the mixture has mostly come together in a shaggy mass (there will be some lingering stray dry bits of flour), turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and gently press it together into a cohesive dough.
- Lightly flour the dough, top and bottom, and use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a 9 x 12" rectangle. Spread the roasted apple chunks over the dough, then sprinkle with the remaining shredded cheese. Press down gently on the apples and cheese to help them adhere.
- Fold the dough into thirds, like a business letter, to encase the apples and cheese. Turn the now-smaller rectangle of dough 90 degrees, then roll it wider, into a larger rectangle about 6 x 12" inches in dimension, and approximately 3/4" thick.Loosely cover the dough in plastic wrap and freeze on a flat surface (like a baking sheet) for 30 minutes. If you do not have room in your freezer, chill for one hour.
- Increase the oven temperature to 450°F.
- Remove the dough from the freezer and transfer it to a lightly-floured work surface and dust the top of the dough with flour. Use a lightly-floured 2 1/2" or 3" round biscuit cutter to cut out the scones. Gather the scraps, roll them out again, and cut out the last scones. Place the scones on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and brush the tops with some buttermilk or lightly-beaten egg.
- Place a thin slice of apple and a couple of sage leaves, if desired, on top of each scone. Cover and chill for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Lightly sprinkle the tops of the scones with granulated sugar. Reduce the oven temperature to 425°F and bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until the edges are golden brown.