I am not a Valentine's scrooge. I like the idea of celebrating love and friendships and relationships, or if you're single, giving yourself a little love in the form of pampering. And I like most holidays that allow me to get creative in one way or another. What I don't like is the idea that Valentine's Day is the apex of romance or grand gestures. Why can't we forget the fancy prix fixe menus that harass your wallet as well as the kitchen/wait staff; the giant stuffed animals that will be donated to goodwill in two weeks; the box of chocolates that no matter how delicious won't ever top a heartfelt 'I Love You'?
The first Valentine's Reid and I had was spent playing Battleship and listening to Fleetwood Mac. And it was perfect.
So if you are going to celebrate, whether by your single self, or with people you love, make sure you're doing something that celebrates who you are. Coffee lovers? How about a coffee tasting tour? If your city doesn't have one (we can't all be Seattle), make your own. Call ahead to the roasters and see if they would be willing to give you a run down of their process. Beer lovers? Skip the bars and hold a beer tasting in your apartment. Food lovers? Plan and execute a meal together from start to finish- recipe research, grocery shopping, cocktail pairings, cooking and baking. Then leave the dishes for the next day.
Now, I'm not against going out, even though that is kind of what it sounds like right now. I'm against going all out on the one night a year when every other couple in the city is going all out. I hate crowds and waiting, and waiting in crowds. Just don't fall for the mob mentality that accompanies this holiday. Not every girl wants jewelry or chocolate or lavish usage of a bank account that is desperately modest.
Anyway, I'll get off my soapbox now and get on to the real topic at hand: Valentine's Scones/Shortcakes! I've had some maraschino cherries kicking it in my fridge for a while, and although I am a fan of Shirley Temples, I will never in my life be making one at home. And when it comes to ice cream sundaes, well, let's just say I haven't made of those since Sundae Night in college. But I thought scones would be the perfect way to incorporate those little bursts of sugary-sweet redness into your life.
But before we get into that, let's talk a little bit about what the difference between scones and shortcake is. Because it all comes down to one thing: texture. Scones should be biscuity, with complex layers and a fairly flaky crumb. Shortcakes should be halfway between a biscuit and a cake, with a more crumbly, slightly spongey crumb. Now I don't put eggs in my scones, because I believe it to be more traditional, also I feel like I don't need to. And the name of shortcake alone implies no eggs are involved there either. Which means that essentially the recipes for the two can be the same.
This is where it gets tricky: work your butter into your scones too much, and let it get too warm, and you'll end up with shortcake. Or accidentally add too much liquid to your scone dough, and you'll end up with shortcake. Which sucks for you if you were going for one thing and ended up with another. But on the other hand, it's an easy fix. Instead of telling people they were scones/shortcake, just tell them they're shortcake/scones!
When I first made this recipe, I managed to actually make scones as this picture will attest.
Maraschino Cherry Shortcakes!
.5 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
dash of salt
1 stick cold butter
3/4 cup chopped maraschino cherries
juice of half a lemon
milk or cream
juice of other lemon half
Combine your dry ingredients in a bowl and mix together a bit. Cut in your butter with a pastry blender or your hands. I start with the blender and then finish with my fingers, making sure I get all the larger chunks of butter broken down. When your butter is about the size of small pebbles, you can add the maraschino cherries. Make sure all the fruit is thoroughly distributed in the dry mixture. The cherries can clump, so you will need to break those apart and be sure each bit is coated in flour. Then add the juice from the lemon. Next, slowly add your milk or cream. How much you need to use will depend on how wet your cherries and flour are, but it will generally be between 1/2 and 1 cup. After each small addition gently mix the dough around.
If you want scones: Use your hands and do a sort of 'lift and roll' technique, turning the mixture from the bottom of the bowl up and over. Once the dough is sticky enough to hold together when pressed but still crumbly, you're ready to bake. I like free-form scones, so I simply lump and drop them onto a lightly greased baking sheet.
If you want shortcake: Mix the dough until thoroughly combined, adding enough liquid to make it nice and sticky. This is how you will achieve that beautiful pink color. If you want to make shapes, liberally flour a nonstick surface (silpats are life savers) and gently roll your dough out, then use a cutter of your choice. A floured spatula will help lift the shortcakes onto a baking sheet. Otherwise you can use the same drop method as for scones.
Bake until the tops are golden brown and there is a nice spring back when touched. Remove from oven and let cool.
Combine the rest of the lemon juice and some powdered sugar until you have a thick glaze. If you taste it and it has that cornstarch/powder flavor lingering, add a pinch of salt and if you want to get really crazy, a dash of powdered ginger. Stir until smooth.
Glaze your scones/shortbread and serve with love.