Sweet Potato Scones + A Vanilla Bean Baking Book Giveaway

I'm struggling to find the words to express how I feel, so today I'm just going to share what's going on in our lives and some things that make me happy and have inspired me.

Friendsgiving. Menu planning, shopping, and cooking for 23 friends. I can't wait to have everyone gathered around the table this Saturday. 

Thanksgiving in New Jersey. Also, menu planning and cooking. Most of it's done... but I still need to figure out a cocktail.

Fires. We split a cord of wood with our neighbors. So, we're planning on having lots of fires this winter.

With everything that's been going on, I've been inspired to give a bit more than I have in the past (something I'm trying to be better about). A few organizations I like to support: Planned Parenthood, The Posse Foundation and The Trevor Project (I'm always looking for more suggestions)

This is the Album of the Year... maybe the Album of the Decade. (And here's a video for We the People...)

Went to see this movie and this movie. Both are moving, important pieces of cinema. 

If you missed SNL this weekend, check out the opening tribute to Leonard Cohen, Dave Chappelle's monologue, Kate McKinnon as RBG, and A Tribe Called Quest.

Two weeks until our trip to the Dominican Republic. A few days away spent on a beach, reading books, drinking cocktails. 

This (certified organic and fair-trade) cold brew coffee.  Besides being delicious, they're also giving back, with a percentage of the proceeds going to an organization that assists injured veterans.  It's sold in stores throughout New England and online.

My friend, the talented food-stylist Catrine Kelty, is currently displaying her work at the Bedford Public Library. There will be an opening reception on December 4th

And speaking of talented friends... I'm so excited for Sarah Kieffer and the release of her first book, The Vanilla Bean Baking Book. Her passion for baking and her inventive creations have always been an inspiration. Her book does not disappoint.

Sarah explains in her book's introduction that cookies were her gateway to baking. For me, it's scones. I find most baking to be stressful (it shouldn't be... I'm just not big into measurements), but not scones. It doesn't require as much finesse as other pastries. You can do all the work by hand (no fancy appliances necessary), they can easily be altered to fit with whatever seasonal ingredients you're working with, and they're supposed to look rustic, so imperfections are welcome. I made my first batch of scones years ago and, ever since, I've been hooked. I've lost track of all the kinds I've prepared for myself and friends (like Sarah, I find "contentment in both baking to keep and baking to give away." 

I was thrilled to see a couple of scone recipes in Sarah's book. However, before I decided to make one of them, I asked her what recipes from her book were her favorite. When she listed the pumpkin scones, it was a done deal. Instead of the pumpkin puree, I included sweet potato (which I find is underused in fall baking).  They came out just how I wanted them, golden brown outside with a crumbly, moist interior. The scones aren't all that sweet on their own, so the maple glaze is a nice addition (also, I give her a big thumbs up for including some salt in the glaze... something I've never seen before).  



To enter, just leave a comment on this post. Only one entry per person. Eligible to US residents only (sorry international friends)! Giveaway ends at 12PM EST on Tuesday, November 22, 2016. The winner will be notified via e-mail. If the winner does not respond within 48 hours, another name will be drawn. (Note: Be sure to fill out the e-mail field in the comment form) 

Sweet Potato Scones

Adapted from the pumpkin scone recipe from The Vanilla Bean Baking Book by Sarah Kieffer

12 scones

For Sweet Potato Scones
2 ¼ cups (320 g) all-purpose flour
⅓ cup (66 g) sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsweetened sweet potato puree, recipe below
⅓ cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks; 170 g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into ½-inch pieces

For Maple Frosting
⅓ cup pure maple syrup
1 cup (113 g) confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch salt

Adjust an oven rack to the lower middle position. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Stack two baking sheets on top of each other and line the top sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the sweet potato puree, heavy cream, egg, egg yolk, and vanilla.

Add the butter to the dry ingredients and use a pastry cutter to cut it into the mixture until the flour-coated pieces are the size of peas. Add the wet ingredients and fold with a spatula until just combined.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface, and knead until it comes together, 4 to 6 times, adding flour as necessary if the dough is sticky. Flatten the dough out until it is about 1 1/2 inches thick and about 9 inches wide.

Cut dough into rounds with biscuit cutter that’s 2-3/4″ in diameter (if you don't have a biscuit cutter, you can use a water glass or just cut them into triangles). Transfer rounds to the baking pan. (This should result in approximately 12 biscuits.) 

Transfer the scones to the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with a little heavy cream, making sure it doesn’t drip down the sides.

Bake 18 to 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until the tops and bottoms are golden brown.

Transfer the sheet pan to a wire rack and let the scones cool slightly. Top with the Maple Frosting.

FOR THE MAPLE FROSTING: In a small bowl, whisk the maple syrup, confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and salt until smooth.

Reprinted by arrangement with Avery Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Sarah Kieffer, 2016.


Sweet Potato Puree

1 large sweet potato
2 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Line a baking pan with aluminum foil.  Using a fork, poke holes into the sweet potato.

Place pan in the oven and cook for 50-60 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.  Remove from oven and let cool. Once it is cool enough to handle, use your hands to remove the skin.

Place peeled sweet potato in a food processor and puree with 2 tablespoons whole milk (alternatively, place in a bowl and use an emersion blender to puree.)

Fig and Black Pepper Scones with Clotted Cream + A Giveaway

I don't know if other people have such strong feelings about scones, but I'm very picky about mine. For years, I've been making them one way and have been happy with the results. The recipe isn't anything particularly complicated: flour, , butter, heavy cream, sugar (you know, the best things on Earth), some baking powder, and salt. The dough is always loaded with whatever I feel compelled to mix in (blueberries or chocolate chips never disappoint). The recipe works... providing a dense, but flakey pastry. I've made it countless times and thought, "Well, I got that one down. Can't imagine a better scone recipe than this."

And then I made Samantha Seneviratne's fig and black pepper scones from her gorgeous book, The New Sugar & Spice: A Recipe for Bolder Baking. I came late to the party and, for some reason, just recently got around to baking from it. Having heard rave reviews, I had to try something... anything. When I saw these scones, I knew that I had to whip up a batch. They are marvelous scones. To be honest, the best I've ever had. And, with her permission, I'm sharing the recipe with all of you. Per Samantha's suggestion, I served them with a dollop of clotted cream.

In addition, I'm thrilled to announce that I'm giving away a copy of The New Sugar & Spice to one lucky person. Just leave a comment on this post (one entry per person). It's only open to U.S. residents (sorry to my Canadian and international readers). Giveaway closes at 12PM EST on Friday, May 6th. The winner will be contacted via e-mail. 

Mission Fig and Black Pepper Scone

The New Sugar & Spice by Samantha Seneviratne (very mildly adapted)

8 big scones

1/4 cup cold heavy cream, plus more for brushing
1/4 cup cold buttermilk
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups (10 1/8 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 1/2 ounces dried Mission figs, stemmed and finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)

1. In a small bowl, stir together the cream, buttermilk, egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, pepper, and salt. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it is the texture of coarse meal with some larger pea-size pieces. Add the figs and toss to combine.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

3. Add the cream mixture to the flour mixture and mix with a fork just until shaggy dough forms. Tip the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it, just 2 or 3 times, to get the mixture to come together. Try not to overwork the dough. Form the dough into a 6-inch circle. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 8 equal triangles. Spread the triangles out evenly on the prepared sheet. Freeze for 20 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

4. Brush the tops of the frozen scones with cream and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake the scones until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 15 to 18 minutes. Completely frozen scones may take a few extra minutes. These are best eaten warm.

Serve with clotted cream (see recipe below)

Credit: Reprinted with permission from The New Sugar and Spice, by Samantha Seneviratne, copyright © 2015, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Quick Clotted Cream

2 cups

1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar, sifted

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the heavy cream until it forms stiff peaks.

2. Hand whisk the sour cream, vanilla extract and confectioner's sugar into the whipped cream until completely blended.