You trust us, right? Enough that if I put the words "basil" and "dark chocolate" side by side you won't immediately wrinkle your nose in disgust? You'll give it a chance? I hope so. Have we ever steered you wrong before?
No! Of course not!
I made these scones for an autumnal tea Audrey and I hosted for some friends last weekend. We had a number of sure crowd pleasers on the menu - Carrot Zucchini Bread, Pumpkin Cookies, Green Goddess Tea Sandwiches - so I felt it was safe to throw something a little more experimental into the mix.
One of the first "foodie," serious baking projects I tackled, something beyond christmas cookies or banana bread, was actually a recipe for Chocolate Cakelettes with Basil Buttercream (I think it may even have been this recipe - it even includes a meringue layer, my how ambitious I was! I think they must have turned out only out of sheer luck to be honest) that I made during the holidays in 2010. Thinking back, I'm actually surprised my family humored me to the extent they did. I didn't have the track record I do now; they really had no reason to trust me that putting a basil-flavored dessert in their mouths was a good idea. (It was, though.) I do remember my brother being (understandably) skeptical. Much the way you may be feeling right now. But everyone gamely tried my cakelettes (thanks, guys!), and to all our pleasant surprise, they were delicious!
I don't know why basil and chocolate work so well. But they do. They really, really do. Both dark chocolate and basil are rather smooth flavors in their way, no? They slide right into harmony. I was worried about how the scones would be received at the tea because not everyone has the same experimental sense of taste that I do, but I have to say, with a little 'toot, toot' of my own horn, that they seemed to be by far the favorite treat on our tea table. We served them with some vanilla curd, and the extra sweetness it added really made the flavors pop, I think.
These scones start with a solid basic scone recipe as their base. You may recognize those perfectly lumpy, homely-cute, browned and crackly surfaces from the Coffee Bacon Dark Chocolate Scones I made earlier this year. With such a strong base, it was a simple matter of adding some fresh basil and dark chocolate.
Fresh basil is the key to the flavor of these scones. You may be tempted to use dry, packaged basil because you already have it in your cupboard, but don't do it! It won't be the same. Using fresh herbs really makes the flavor come to life in a way that dried herbs can't imitate. You want lively flavor, don't you? Of course you do. You live vivaciously. You live on the edge. You mix basil and chocolate and eat it for breakfast.
Basil Dark Chocolate Scones
Makes 6 large or 8 small scones
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar plus 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated or coarse for sprinkling
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt plus additional for egg wash
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs, 1 for dough, 1 for glaze
1 handful fresh basil, finely chopped
1/2 cup dark chocolate, finely chopped
Heat oven to 375°F.
Whisk flour, baking powder, 1/4 cup sugar and salt together in a bowl. Toss in bits of butter, heavy cream and 1 egg. Using a fork, mix the dough until it just comes together. Don’t overmix. Add the basil and chocolate shavings and mix until combined.
On a very well floured counter, pat out dough into a 6-inch round. Cut into 6 generous wedges and transfer to baking sheet at least two inches apart. Whisk remaining egg in a small dish with 1 teaspoon of water and a pinch of salt. Brush each scone with egg wash and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of sugar.
Bake scones until firm and golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack. As soon as they're cool enough to touch, dig in.
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen