Vanilla & Fig Scones
Makes 8 scones.
Vanilla is at once warm, creamy, sweet, and floral — its exceptionally complex flavor profile includes over 200 aromatic compounds! Wonderful in baked goods, it also amplifies the caramel notes of dried figs. For this recipe, we added a hint of brightness with lemon zest and black pepper. Serve these vanilla-scented scones for breakfast or as an afternoon treat.
Note: You can make the ‘dry mix’ ahead and freeze it for up to a week in an airtight container. To make the scones, transfer the frozen mix to a bowl and follow the instructions below for adding the liquids, shaping, and baking. If you don’t have spelt flour on hand, use all-purpose flour instead.
For the dry mix:
1¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup spelt flour
¼ cup sugar
2½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon finely ground black peppercorns
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, frozen
½ cup diced, dried Turkish figs (from 8–10 figs)
For the topping:
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (coarse natural sugar)
¼ teaspoon sea salt, optional
1 tablespoon heavy cream, for brushing
Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and pepper into a large mixing bowl. Zest the lemon into the bowl, then whisk gently to mix the dry ingredients.
Grate the butter on the large holes of a box grater into the dry mixture. Use a pastry cutter (or two dinner knives) to cut the butter into the flour until it is evenly distributed and in pea-sized crumbles. Add the figs and toss to distribute them evenly.
Combine the buttermilk and cream in an oversized measuring cup. Using the back of a paring knife, scrape the seeds from the interior of the vanilla bean and add them to the liquids. Add the egg and whisk until smooth. Stir in the vanilla extract.
Pour the liquids into the dry ingredients. Use a spatula and quick, strong strokes to fold the ingredients until just combined. Working in the bowl, gently knead the dough 5–6 times until no dry flour remains.
Transfer the dough onto a sheet of parchment paper (cut to the size of the baking sheet). Pat the dough into an 8-inch disk and cut it into 8 wedges using a bench scraper or sharp knife. Use the parchment to lift the dough onto a plate and put the plate into the freezer for at least 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400° F. Stir the topping sugar and salt (if using) together in a small bowl. Pour the tablespoon of cream into a separate small bowl.
Remove the dough from the freezer and transfer it, using the parchment, to a baking sheet. Gently separate and rearrange the wedges so that there is about 2 inches of space between them. Brush the tops with heavy cream and sprinkle generously with the sugar-salt topping.
Bake until golden brown around the edges and lightly browned on top, 20–25 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Note: After scraping out the seeds, save the vanilla bean husk and drop it into a pint jar. Fill the jar with plain sugar and cover tightly; set aside for a week or two. A spoonful of vanilla-scented sugar is a treat in a cup of tea!