Tuesday, August 30, 2011

buttermilk scones with crispy pancetta and cheddar

These scones have so many things going for them. Fancy bacon. Extra old cheddar. Butter. Flakiness and gooeyness. Need I go on? In all seriousness, I can't imagine anyone (vegetarians and vegans aside) resisting such a luxurious once-in-a-while treat.

I was inspired to make these by a recipe I found in the Alice's Tea Cup cookbook. Sadly, that recipe turned out to be disastrous; I remember feeling skeptical at the idea of using melted butter in scones. Doesn't that traditional flaky scone texture come from cold butter? The second time around, I ended up using an old standby scone recipe in Joy of Cooking and just adding in the pancetta and cheddar. The result was spectacular. Rich buttery texture, gooey cheese cavities, and a little bit of salty bacon crunch.

Speaking of the salty bacon crunch, if you've never had pancetta before, you can find it in many supermarkets along with the finer meats and cheeses. It is a delicious and flavourful Italian cured bacon that my dad introduced to me through his amazing carbonara. I like to describe it this way: ham is to prociutto as bacon is to pancetta. It's worth the extra cost - you're getting food of a higher quality than anything you will get in a standard pack of bacon.

Again, I used my favourite trick of grating frozen butter with a cheese grater. It helps to minimize your handling of the dough. I can't tell you enough how much I love this trick!

buttermilk scones with crispy pancetta and cheddar

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 tsps baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup cold or frozen butter, grated with a cheese grater
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup diced pancetta (generous... heaping!)
1 tbsp fat from frying the pancetta
1/2 cup extra old cheddar cheese in 1/4 inch cubes (again, heaping)

Preheat oven to 450ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Fry your pancetta until it is nice and crispy, but don't let it burn. Drain and allow to cool in the fridge or freezer, reserving your tablespoon of yummy pancetta fat.

Mix together the fat with the buttermilk and eggs in a small bowl.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the dry ingredients and throw in your grated butter and buttermilk mixture, working it with your hands until it comes together to make a dough. Really try to minimize the amount that you handle the dough. Turn it onto a lightly floured surface and form into an 8" round, approximately 3/4" thick. Cut into wedges.

If you like, you can brush the tops with beaten egg and sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until they begin to turn a golden brown.

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