This morning I was taking note of the baking supplies I had out in the freezer located in the garage. I have a variety of flours, butters, seeds and nuts in there to keep them as fresh as possible - when I was going through the nut section, I found a few (way underused!) hazelnuts! I guess I had forgotten about them, but after seeing them, I knew I had to bake with them today.
I was trying to think what type of baked good we haven't had for awhile and when I asked Jeff, his first response was cookies (that is always his first answer) - he then mentioned scones! Score! I knew I had a recipe for Hazelnut Scones in my untried piles, I just needed to figure out what stack I hid it in.
The first step for these scones is to grind together a small handful of hazelnuts with the sugar used to sweeten the dough. While you could just grind the nuts by themselves, the sugar is added as a layer of protection - it will absorb some of the excess oils so you don't grind them right into hazelnut paste.
You don't often find hazelnuts (also called filberts) without their skins (though I used to be able to get them at Trader Joe's... alas I haven't seem them there in a very long time), so for the remainder of the hazelnuts, you'll want to toast them and rub the skins off with a kitchen towel. Because you are really using a small amount in the first step, you don't really need to worry about skinning those - besides, the slightly bitter coating added a nice contrast to the sweet sugar. I've also heard of boiling the nuts with a pinch of baking soda and then toasting them to dry them out, but I haven't tried that method yet (this supposedly is more successful in removing all of their skins - but, as I said earlier, I don't mind them that much).
The dough for these scones is a very basic combination of flour, a portion of the ground hazelnut/sugar mixture, baking powder and baking soda that had cubes of cold butter worked in with a pastry blender (if you don't have that handy tool, two knives work well). The mixture should resemble coarse crumbs - the butter doesn't need to all be the same size either, a few bigger lumps is okay. Rather than using a rich cream, as a lot of great scone recipes do, this recipe takes them a bit lighter by using tangy buttermilk and an egg for that bit of extra fat from the yolk to keep them tender. Once the wet ingredients are mixed into the dry, keep a light hand and try not to mix more than you need too - just stir until the flour is moistened and knead it just a couple times until the dough comes together.
Instead of cutting rounds out like a biscuit, the dough is patted into a large circle and scored into 12 wedges - you're not looking to separate them, but only defining where each portion is. The remaining ground hazelnut/sugar mixture is then scattered over the dough to give the top a crunchy finish as it baked. These scones had a light crust on the outside and were soft and moist, with a nice tang from the buttermilk, on the inside. The chunky nuggets of toasted hazelnuts added a rich crunch that reminded me just how much I love them! Just sweet enough, a bit of preserves, curd or even a pat of softened butter would have been a nice compliment, but we found we didn't need anything else to enjoy these!