Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Buckwheat Fig Scones

I am approaching Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours like an unforgettable novel.  Each page is taken in and savored, parts are read over and over again, and one just doesn't want it to end.  In my humble opinion, author Kim Boyce has written one of the most fascinating and informative baking books of all time.  What's more, the photography is stunning in a humble and rustic way.

I've been skipping around a bit and letting things jump out at me, like the quinoa porridge and the graham nuts (a homemade version of Grape-Nuts).  But nothing grabbed my attention more than the buckwheat fig scones.  I love buckwheat, but until four or five years ago I wasn't all that familiar with it.  Then I married a French man with a fondness for galettes, savory crepes made with buckwheat flour.  My world gradually opened up; now, on lazy weekend mornings, we often make American-style pancakes with a mixture of buckwheat and all-purpose flours.

Will you hate me if I tell you that the recipe is somewhat labor intensive?  Well, I assure you that you simply won't care once you bite into one of these delectable scones.  Trust me.  There are two parts to the recipe: the fig butter and the actual scones, but the beauty is that you can divide the work over the course of days, if you wish.  And I was first in line for that train.

One day I made the fig butter; the following day I prepared the scone dough, applied the fig butter, rolled it into a log (cinnamon roll-style), sliced it in two and set it in the refrigerator where it sat for two days. The recipe says to chill for a minimum of 30 minutes to a maximum of two days. I can tell you that assembling the recipe this way made it a whole lot easier than doing everything in one day, although it's completely realistic to tackle it that way, too.

In Denmark right now the markets are full of gorgeous dried fruit, just in time for the holidays.  Namely, dates and figs.  I must admit, I was (and am) completely absorbed by the idea of fig butter. Compared to apple butter, which I like but can also border on banal, fig butter is exotic.  Kim's recipe makes enough for the scones as well as a good sized jar to use on toast or whatever else one fancies.  It's rich and a little goes a long way, but oh my goodness is it delicious.  I can almost guarantee you've never tasted anything like it.  (With the holidays coming up, it would make a superb gift!)

Enjoy the scones warm or at room temperature.  We ate them warm at breakfast and as a snack later in the afternoon.  Divine.

Fig Butter
Recipe (with directions I've truncated slightly) from Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours

1/2c sugar
2 whole cloves
1 star anise
1c red wine
1/2c port (I used Marsala)
12oz. dried Black Mission figs, stems removed (while the package didn't say Black Mission, the figs I bought worked perfectly)
1/4t cinnamon
4oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter; softened

1.  Place the sugar and 1/4c water in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Stir the mixture together with a wooden spoon, incorporating the sugar without splashing it up the sides.  Add the cloves and star anise.

2.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat and cook 7-10 minutes, until the syrup is amber-colored.

3.  Add the red wine, port, figs, and cinnamon, standing back a bit, as the syrup is hot.  Don't panic when the syrup hardens; this is the normal reaction when liquids are added to hot sugar.  Continue cooking the mixture over medium heat for 2 minutes, until the sugar and wine blend.

4.  Reduce the flame to low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The mixture is ready when the wine has reduced by half.  Remove the pan from the stove and cool to room temperature.

5.  Fish out the star anise and cloves.  Pour the cooled figs, with their liquid, into a food processor and purée until smooth, about 1 minute.  Add the softened butter to the fig paste and process until smooth.  The fig butter can be spread right onto the buckwheat scone dough or stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.  If it is refrigerated, bring it to room temperature before using.

Buckwheat Fig Scones
From Good to the Grain:  Baking with Whole-Grain Flours

Dry Mix:
1c buckwheat flour
11/4c all-purpose flour
1/2c sugar
2t baking powder
1/2t kosher salt (I used table salt)

Wet Mix:
4oz. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
11/4c heavy cream (for those in Europe, I used 18%, not 38%, to great success)

1c Fig Butter

1.  Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grain or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter.

2.  Add the butter to the dry mixture.  Rub the butter between your fingers, breaking it into smaller bits.  Continue rubbing until the butter is coarsely ground and feels like grains of rice.  The faster you do this, the more the butter will stay solid, which is important for the success of the recipe.

3.  Add the cream and gently mix it into the flour with a spatula until the dough is just combined.

4.  Use a pastry scraper or a spatula to transfer the dough onto a well-floured surface.  It will be sticky, so flour your hands and pat the dough into a rectangle.  Grab a rolling pin and roll the dough into a rectangle that is 8-inches wide, 16-inches long, and 3/4-inch thick.  Use flour generously to prevent sticking (under the dough, on top of the dough, and on the rolling pin).

5.  Spread the fig butter over the dough.  Roll the long edge of the dough up, patting the dough as you roll so that it forms a neat log 16-inches long.  Roll the finished log so that the seam is on the bottom and the weight of the roll seals the edge.

6.  Use a sharp knife to slice the log in half.  Put the halves on a baking sheet or plate, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes (or up to 2 days).  While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

7.  After 30 minutes, take both logs out of the refrigerator and cut each half into 6 equal pieces about 11/4-inches wide.  Place each scone flat, with the spiral of the fig butter facing up, on a baking sheet, 6 to a sheet.  Give the scones a squeeze to shape them into rounds.

8.  Bake for 38-42 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through.  The scones are ready to come out when their undersides are golden brown. They are best eaten warm from the oven or later that same day.


  1. Wish I wasn't allergic to figs because you make it sound so amazing. Look at those scones!

  2. Thanks, Gitte! Too bad you are allergic to figs, but you could try using apricots or another dried fruit instead...

  3. Fantastisk Blog! This recipe reminds me a bit of the "KanelSnel" that my roomies like to make! Thanks for sharing!

  4. That's great! I have never tried kanelsnel but would like to! Thanks for reading my blog!!