Dan Smith Will Teach You To Bake Scones

No, this is not a Recipe Corner from Dan Smith, the ubiquitous guitar teacher whose visage graces the community bulletin boards of countless Manhattan establishments. We're talking about one of our own, chorister Daniel Clark Smith, who will walk you through mastering his favorite blueberry scone recipe! But first, a bit about Dan…

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Name: Daniel Clark Smith.

Hometown: Wheaton, IL.

Years at the Met: Almost 18, full-time.

My favorite opera is: Lohengrin.

One of my most memorable experiences at the Met so far is: Early on as an extra chorister, I was cast in the new production of La Forza del Destino. I will never forget the feeling of wearing a costume that was made especially for me. It fit me like a glove.

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Other than opera, my favorite type of music is:

I have eclectic tastes: Sara Bareilles, Stephen Sondheim, Steve Reich, Oscar Peterson

When I’m not at the Met, you can find me:

One of three places: at home in Teaneck, NJ with my husband & cat Cookie; in Kauai, snorkeling at Tunnels Beach; or dreaming of being in Kauai!

The most outrageous thing I've ever cooked (or eaten) was: The tasting menu with wine pairings at Charlie Trotter’s in Lincoln Park, IL was outrageous. Sadly, it’s closed.

The three things in my kitchen I can’t live without are: Green & Black’s Organic Maya Gold dark chocolate; a good chardonnay or sauvignon blanc; An app called Paprika, which I use to find, input and organize all my recipes.

Currently, my three go-to ingredients are: Bitterman’s Fleur de Sel Sea Salt; almond milk; basil pesto.

If I had to choose, my “last meal” would be: Del Frisco’s 8 oz Filet Mignon, medium rare; Caesar salad; charred broccoli or Brussels sprouts; vodka martini with olives


by Daniel Clark Smith

I finally gave in and binge-watched "The Great British Baking Show" on Netflix last summer. Completely hooked, I watched every episode I could. After "The Great British Baking Show: Masterclass" [S1:E4], I scoured the internet looking for Paul Hollywood's Chocolate Cherry Loaf recipe. I thought, "this doesn't look too difficult", and when Mary Berry, with her mouth full, exclaimed "I could just sit here in the sun with a glass of wine...I don't need anything else. It's delicious!" I was inspired, and took up the challenge.

Of course the white-haired master had made it look so easy. I've tried it about 5 times now (after watching the techniques ad nauseam from the episode), and although each one has tasted delicious, the texture and rise on the loaf has been inconsistent. I've learned that baking seems to be all about trial and error — thankfully, I'm happy to experiment whenever I have free time.

Since then, I have searched for recipes that are more of a "sure thing". There's only so much free time a chorister has! The recipe I'll share with you today has been so consistently great, I can recommend it highly. If you follow the directions, these scones will be flaky, buttery and packed with blueberry flavor; perfect with a cup of coffee. There are a hit at a brunch, or you can even bring them to work and give them to your hungry colleagues.

I found it on the Food52 blog, but it's a "Cook's Illustrated" recipe, which you can check out here.

One thing I've learned in my internet travels is a cooking technique called "mise en place", which directly translates as "setting in position". You'll feel like a TV chef if you do it correctly. It means gathering all your utensils and ingredients in the correct measurements, and setting them up for easy access. It's not just for the OCD folks in the world. It actually serves a purpose with this recipe: you won't be covering your kitchen in flour looking for that plate or measuring cup. It also allows you to complete each step quickly so that the butter doesn't get too warm. This is key: you want the butter in the dough to be cold when it hits the oven. When cold butter heats up, it creates steam and expands, creating the flaky texture you want in a scone.

So, follow the directions below, enjoy the process and realize that you'll likely only have seven scones to give away -- the eighth one will be your reward when you're done! The chef has to test the product, after all...

Cook's Illustrated Blueberry Scones

Preparation: 30 minutes—Cooking time: 25 minutes—Servings: 8 hefty scones

Ingredients:

16 tablespoons unsalted butter, each stick frozen (you'll be using 10 tablespoons total)
7 1/2 ounces blueberries (1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sour cream
10 ounces unbleached, all-purpose flour (2 cups; plus more for work surface)
3 1/2 ounces granulated sugar (1/2 cup) + 1 T. for finishing
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Tools (for "mise en place"):
Baking scale
Rolling pin
Citrus zester
Grater
Spoon
Rubber spatula
Bench scraper
Baking sheet (lined with parchment paper)
Small microwaveable dish (for butter)
Whisk
Small bowl for milk & sour cream
Medium bowl for butter
Large bowl for flour mixture
Small plate (floured)
Measuring cups & spoons
Sharp knife
Pastry brush

Directions:

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425°. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove half of wrapper from each stick of frozen butter. Grate unwrapped ends (half of each stick) on large holes of box grater (you should great total of 8 tablespoons) or with a handheld grater and a medium bowl. [ed: I score each stick butter with a knife so I know when to stop grating.] Place grated butter in freezer until needed. Melt 2 tablespoons of remaining ungrated butter and set aside. Save remaining 6 tablespoons butter for another use. Place blueberries in freezer until needed.

2. Whisk milk and sour cream together in small bowl; refrigerate until needed. Whisk flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest in large bowl. Add frozen grated butter to flour mixture and toss with your fingers until butter is thoroughly coated.

3. Flour the counter and a small plate. Add milk mixture to flour mixture and fold with rubber spatula until just combined. Using spatula, transfer dough to liberally floured counter. Dust surface of dough with flour and with floured hands knead dough 6 to 8 times, until it just holds together in ragged ball, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking.

4. Roll dough into approximate 12-inch square. Fold dough into thirds like business letter, using bench scraper to release dough if it sticks to counter. Lift short ends of dough and fold into thirds again to form approximate 4-inch square. Transfer dough to plate lightly dusted with flour and chill in freezer five minutes.

5. Transfer dough to floured counter and roll into approximate 12-inch square again. Sprinkle blueberries evenly over surface of dough, then press down so they are slightly embedded in dough. Using bench scraper, loosen dough from counter. Roll dough into cylinder, pressing to form tight log. Arrange log seam side down and press into 12 by 4-inch rectangle. Using sharp, floured knife, cut rectangle crosswise into four equal rectangles. Cut each rectangle diagonally to form two triangles and transfer to prepared baking sheet.

6. Brush topped with melted butter and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake until tops and bottoms are golden brown, 18 to 25 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Notes:

To make ahead: after placing scones on baking sheet in step 5, either refrigerate them overnight or freeze for up to one month (you may also use a ziplock freezer bag). When ready to bake, for refrigerated scones, heat oven to 425 degrees and follow directions in step 6. For frozen scones, do not thaw, heat oven to 375 degrees and follow directions and step 6, extending cooking time to 25 to 30 minutes.

I use a handheld Microplane grater, but grating frozen butter is a bit of a workout. I tried using the grater attachment in a food processor once, and the texture of the scones were tough.