Ever had a really good, juicy carrot? Not the kind that’s all white and dehydrated like your skin in the winter, I mean a plump, bursting balloon of sweetness, with a few wisps of fuzzy roots and wrinkles, maybe, but a thin skin that betrays its more-orange-than-an-orange flesh? Thankfully, I have. And it’ll never be forgotten. Granted, I can eat carrots any way, shape or form: raw, cooked, juiced, shredded or mashed — and yes, wispy and dry as my skin right now, too. But it’s a whole other level of enjoyment when the ingredient is at its prime.
So when I saw carrots that looked really good at the Greenmarket, I did the only sensible thing and stocked up like a lunatic. Who cares if there’d be only carrots to eat that week? Not too many things looked particularly fetching that day anyway. This is one of the reasons why it usually makes more sense to do your menu-planning after you shop, especially if you plan to eat locally and seasonally. The time spent “planning ahead” frequently just goes waste. Sure, you might have a sense of what’s available beforehand, but you won’t necessarily know what’s available that’s amazing until you check it out, so dependent on chance and nature this is. That’s it, I’m going on an amazing-only diet.
So these carrots and I had some good times. I roasted a number of them, as triangular chunks in olive oil and sea salt and they turned out better than expected. I made a lot of stock that week, which they went into, and a minestrone-like soup with them, too. I ate them as snacks, skins and all. Then a birthday brunch potluck party was coming up. I had to make something to bring. “I’ll just see what’s at the market that morning,” I told the host, when reserving my place with a plus-dish. It was on the way to his home. But that’s not what I ended up doing, as there was one carrot left.
I was never a huge fan of muffins, which so often seem like a more socially acceptable way to eat extra-large cupcakes in the morning. Scones suit me better, they’re barely sweet and more biscuity. They’re not supposed to knock your socks off with flavor, if you’re wearing any at that hour, just fill you up in a few portable bites. But like with muffins, you can manipulate them to be more healthful, by using whole grain flours or adding fresh fruit, vegetables or nuts to the batter. So I dyed a batch of scone dough orange with the carrot, finely shredded, and added some cinnamon and walnuts as well.
And ginger, nutmeg and equal portions of whole wheat flour and all-purpose. The egg was beaten and combined with the carrot, and mixed with the dry ingredients, which had already been cut with butter. Because of all the moisture that the shredded carrots lent the dough, I hardly needed to use any milk, as most recipes include. Give it a splash if you try it out yourself; it can really depend on how juicy your carrot was.
Once you have a workable dough, forming the scones is really simple. Imagine making a pizza, but not having to deal with yeasty dough that pulls back every time you stretch it, or wanting to make as thin a round sheet as you can possibly make — okay, so it’s not actually like making pizza at all. Which is good. You just pat the dough into a ball, squash it down on a floured surface, and pat it into a wheel about 1 1/2 inches thick. Now, cut the round into quarters, and then wedge-shaped eighths. Sprinkle the surface of the wedges well with sugar, if you want to make them glisten a little. Bake, and let cool. And a halfway healthy breakfast pastry is done — these last pretty well throughout the week.
Carrot Walnut Scones
(makes 8 )
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3 tablespoons sugar, plus more for sprinkling
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup milk
1 medium carrot, finely shredded (about 1/2 cup packed)
1/3 cup or so walnut pieces
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or using your fingers until butter pieces are no larger than a pea. Make a well in the center and add the egg and milk. Beat gently with a fork. Add the shredded carrot and continue stirring, scraping down some of the dry ingredients from the sides as you stir. Add the walnuts about halfway into mixing. Stir until all ingredients are incorporated.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pat dough into a ball and turn onto a lightly floured surface. Press down into a round, evenly flat wheel about 1 1/2 inches or so tall. Cut into eighths and sprinkle the wedge-shaped eighths with sugar. Place about an inch apart on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until just golden.
Five brownie points: This is still a buttery, traditional breakfast pastry, but it’s not as buttery as can be, and it’s also been given a boost with fresh vegetable vitamins. True, you’re only getting one eighth of a carrot if you eat just one scone, but it’s better than nothing. And whole wheat flour has a host of health benefits over refined, yet is not often found in scones and other stuff like this.
Seven brownie points: I’ll have to scope out some of these locally sourced flours next time I’m at the market, or rather, when my hulking bag of whole wheat flour is out. It’s been exciting to hear that more grains and flours are available from small farms upstate through Cayuga Organics, and if reports are correct, may have that amazing quality over the average versions. The upstate small farm carrots, of course, we know are already there.