Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Traditionally, for Imbolc (Tuanmas, Candlemas, Groundhog Day), I should be baking with milk products-- goat cheese, ewe's milk, cow's milk-- but I'm not a big fan of ewe's milk, and I have these candied winter melons I've been dying to try. Since it's also nearly Chinese New Year, and winter melon is an Asian fruit, I'll try this for a snowy day.

Winter melon is not a sweet fruit. It looks like a cucumber with a pituitary problem, and has a mild, almost smoky flavor more similar to zucchini in taste and texture than anything else. It's not actually a melon, but lives in a genera all its own, Benincasa. They grow beautifully in Illinois, in fact a little too beautifully. I ended up with several melons totaling nearly 50 pounds. Guess what kind of preserves everyone got for Christmas.

This one's an experiment, my notes on flavor below. If someone wants to mess with the ingredients, get back to me and let me know how it goes.

Winter melon scones
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (reduce to 2 cups, increase oats)
1/2 cup oats, ground (post-taste notes: I'd try maybe increasing this to 1 cup, with half of it unground)
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 cup diced candied winter melon (conserve the liquid)
1/2 cup wintermelon preserves, plus the liquid from the candied fruit
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk (maybe reduce, don't put in the extra yolk)
2/3 cup sour cream (try 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup sour cream instead)
crushed almonds, no more than 1 cup

Preheat oven to 400F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Adjust a baking rack to the middle position.

Mix the dry ingredients, then cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, knife or your hands until it resembles a coarse meal. Stir the candied melon into the flour mixture. Lightly beat the preserves, candied liquid, egg, yolk, and sour cream together in a bowl, then add this mixture to the flour mixture. Stir until just combined.

On a well-floured surface with floured hands, pat the dough into a 1-inch-thick round (about 8 inches in diameter). Using a 2-inch round cutter or rim of a glass dipped in flour, cut out as many rounds as possible, rerolling scraps as necessary. Arrange rounds about 1 inch apart on baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until pale golden. Transfer the scones to a cooling rack and let them cool slightly before serving.

Post taste: flavor was light, a little bland, but nice with butter and honey. Very springy, but slightly gummy texture, my notes on possible fixes in small type in the recipe. I like the white color of these--no wheat flour--but whole wheat flour might improve the texture.

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