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Yep, that’s right. Pistachio nuts have their very own day of celebration. Every year on February 26th we are supposed to rejoice in the pistachio (and my mother-in-law – she is lucky enough to share her birthday with the pistachio – Happy Birthday Susan!). For some reason I don’t find many reasons to use pistachios on a daily basis, and I rarely have them in my kitchen. To honor this 9000 year old nut, I bought a pound last time I was at the store. I wasn’t sure what I was going to use them for right away, but I knew I wanted to use them with these awesome Tahoe Gold Mandarin Oranges. I thought it would be a great flavor combination since pistachios and mandarins are both prolific in the Mediterranean. 

So how did I settle on scones? If you haven’t picked up on the fact that I am big into breakfast, I’ll just come out and say it – I love breakfast! I have been a big breakfast eater since I was a kid. I think maybe that is where my love of cooking started from. I was always an early riser, so I would sneak into the kitchen before anyone else was awake and practice all sorts of breakfast recipes. My love for breakfast only grew once I started working in restaurants. Restaurant hours for the most part are late nights, so very rarely do you get to eat out unless it is before work. When my husband and I lived in San Francisco (although he was just my boyfriend then), most of our “date nights” were trying different breakfast joints in the City. We loved places that offered a full array of breakfast faire, but we were also just as happy with a great cup of coffee and a pastry.

I started making scones in high school when my Dad wouldn’t shut up about this awesome hazelnut chocolate chip scone he had in Portland, OR at the Pazzoria Bakery. I wanted to recreate it for him, so I scoured the internet for the best scone recipes. I think I tried making three different recipes, but my favorite was from Williams Sonoma. Their recipe is for a basic cream tea scone. Even though there are few ingredients, the scone has a nice crumbly texture and is not too dry or too sweet. The secret is to not overwork the dough and to brush the top of each scone with heavy cream to get that nice golden brown color. I use this recipe all the time and just substitute different nut and fruit combinations.

On this occasion, I decided I wanted to shake things up a bit and see if I could make the recipe a little healthier. The original recipe calls for 2/3 cup heavy cream, instead I swapped it for plain non-fat yogurt that I had on hand. I have never made a quick dough with yogurt before and I wanted to give it a try to see what would happen. What happened was a success! The dough came together and was just a little stickier than normal, so I sprinkled in a little more flour and that took care of the problem. The pistachios add a nice crunch and a mild nutty flavor, while the bits of mandarin explode in your mouth and create sweetness. The texture of the finished scones aren’t quite as crumbly as the original cream recipe, but there is a pleasant underlying sourness from the yogurt. I enjoyed the yogurt version, but my husband disagreed and likes the cream recipe better. I have included both recipes below (my interpretation with yogurt, and the original cream) so you can decide which scone is for you. Just remember that if you do any baking today, February 26th, that you pay homage to the pistachio and include it in your recipe.

Pistachio Mandarin Scones
Adapted from Williams Sonoma
Makes 8 large scones, or 16 small

2 1/4 cups All Purpose Flour
2 TBSP Granulated Sugar
2 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 TBSP Butter – cold and cut into bits
2 Eggs
2/3 cup Plain Yogurt (not greek, it is just too thick)*
2 Mandarin Oranges (seedless) – segmented and each segment cut in half
1/2 cup Pistachios – toasted & chopped
1 TBSP Raw Sugar

*if you don’t care about the calorie/fat content, use heavy cream instead of yogurt, and the scone will have a more crumbly texture

  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Combine 2 cups flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Using your fingers or pastry cutter, cut in the cold butter. When you have pea size crumbs, add in 1/3 cup chopped pistachios.    
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt (or cream if that is what you are using) and eggs. Set aside 2 TBSP of this mixture for later. Using a rubber spatula, stir the eggs/yogurt into the flour mixture. The dough will start to become sticky. 
  3. Gently fold the mandarin oranges into the scone dough. Turn dough out onto a floured cutting board. Use your hands to bring dough together. Use 1/4 cup flour as needed to keep dough from getting too wet. Be careful not to work the dough too much, or the scones will be tough and the mandarin oranges will release too much liquid. Form dough into a disk that is about 1″ thick and then cut into 8 pieces.                                   
  4. Place scones on baking sheet lined with parchment or silicone baking mat. Brush the tops with the reserved egg/yogurt mixture & sprinkle with the raw sugar and remaining chopped pistachios.          
  5. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.
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