To build a better savory breakfast scone, baker Briana Holt took inspiration from a classic Tuscan dinner combination: kale and pecorino cheese.
“I took lots of pecorino and kale and cooked it until it was soft, and then tossed it with lots of pasta,” says Holt, owner of Portland, Maine’s Tandem Coffee + Bakery. “I ate that and thought, ‘How good could that be in a scone?’”
Supremely good, it turns out—but only after Holt borrowed a technique for tenderizing the tough greens for salads. She chops the kale and tosses it with lemon juice, oil and salt, then massages it. The combination of acidic juice and rubbing with coarse salt breaks down and softens the fibrous leaves.
For balance, she also adds currants, the sweetness of which offsets the briny pecorino and sharp white cheddar. A topping of toasted sunflower seeds brings a pleasant crunch that contrasts with the tender interior.
To ensure her scones bake up tall and light, Holt adds both baking powder and baking soda to her relatively dry base dough, which is mixed with buttermilk, cream and chilled butter. Cheese oozes out the sides as the scones bake, leaving crispy bits along the bottom.
When Holt makes her scones, she’s working with commercial volumes. At Milk Street, we found that our smaller batches of kale didn’t require massaging. Finely chopping the kale, tossing it with the juice and setting it aside while we prepared the dough tenderized it enough that the salt massage was unnecessary.
We also preferred the extra tang added by eliminating the cream in favor of using more buttermilk, which reinforced the bright lemon in the softened kale. And we were careful not to overwork the dough, mixing the ingredients only enough to combine them into a craggy, loose mixture that we formed into a round before cutting into triangles.
Brushed with an egg wash to brown the seed-studded top, the scones showcase a classic Tuscan flavor combination balanced with pops of sweetness and plenty of texture. And we were pleased to find we enjoyed them as much at dinner as at the breakfast table.