October 25 can never come fast enough. For October 25 is the day each year when the Mutsus arrive.
Do you know the Mutsu? If you don't, I strongly suggest you make its acquaintance. The Mutsu is a tart green apple, a late-fall beauty whose tangy bite slowly gives way, if stored properly, to a subtle sweetness. She's a glory with which to bake, and a treat to eat. I go a little bit crazy waiting for her each year, counting down the days until the end of October, bypassing the lesser apples that are ready earlier. Then, finally, the cool fall sun rises on the 25th and I know what I must do: get to the orchard and buy a peck or two. And while I'm at it, I better get some for my dad. I didn't get him any this year, and I really heard about it. Had to make a special trip back to the orchard just for him.
The Mutsu is so important to me (well, as important as fruit can be to a person) that people who know me well often give me bags of them for my birthday. I load up my car with them and then take photos. It's a little embarrassing, really, such an abiding love for an apple. But I let my Mutsu flag fly.
Now. Even with all this apple-love -- even though I can easily eat my way through peck after peck of Mutsus, biting off big, tart chunks as I journey toward the core -- I still look for ways to bake with them. I feel that the Mutsu deserves a little diversity; maybe she wants to be tossed together with a little flour, sugar and butter and turned into something sweet, something delectable, something new. When I saw this recipe for apple and cheddar scones I got excessively excited. It was yesterday morning, really early (like 6:30 a.m. early) when I spied it. "Oooh," I thought. "The beer fridge is half-full of Mutsus. And I have that cheddar from Cheddar that the cute old British cheese man was sampling at West Point Market the other day." The freshly-baked scones were out of the oven by the time Husband and Jet meandered downstairs for their breakfast.
Now I know that the only thing better than a Mutsu, is an apple and cheddar scone baked with a Mutsu. These babies are amazing: sweet, tart, savory, buttery, possessing a depth of flavor not necessarily expected from a modest triangular lump of dough. I plan to bake a whole lot of them, until the beer fridge doesn't have any apples in it anymore.
However, please note that I stopped at the orchard again today. So it could be awhile.
APPLE AND CHEDDAR SCONES
Adapted from The Perfect Finish, by Bill Yosses and Melissa Clark, via Smitten Kitchen
I doubled the recipe, baked half right away and stashed half in the freezer to bake another day (and by "another day," I mean tomorrow). To bake the frozen scones, just place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for a few minutes longer than the suggested time, keeping an eye on them to make sure they don't burn.
Update: Just baked the batch from frozen, and they're even lovelier and tastier than yesterday. So don't hesitate to pursue the bake-some-now, freeze-some-for-later option.
1 lb. firm, tart apples (like, ahem, Mutsus)
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. sugar plus a few more tablespoons for sprinkling
1/2 T. baking powder
1/2 t. kosher salt plus a pinch for egg wash
6 T. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 c. sharp cheddar, shredded
1/4 c. heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Peel and core the apples, and cut each into 16 pieces. Place them in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and bake until they take on a little color and are dry to the touch, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let them cool completely on the baking sheet. Leave the oven on.
In a medium bowl, sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together. Set aside.
Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the cooled apple chunks, cheese, cream and 1 egg. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the top and mix on low speed just until the dough comes together. Do not over-mix. The dough will be very sticky.
Generously flour a work space and place the dough on top of it. Pat the dough into a circle about 1 1/2 inches thick and 6 inches in diameter, adding more flour if necessary. Using a bench scraper or a knife, cut the circle into 6 wedges. Transfer the scones to a baking sheet that has been lined with a fresh piece of parchment paper, leaving at least 2 inches between each scone. (Note: if you're doubling the recipe, divide the dough in half and make 2 6-inch circles, cutting 6 wedges out of each for a total of 12 scones.)
Beat the remaining egg in a small bowl with a pinch of salt. Brush the scones with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until firm and golden, about 30 minutes. Use a spatula to remove the baked scones to a wire rack; cool for 10 minutes before tucking in.
Makes 6 scones. Which is totally not enough.
Previously, on A Stove With A House Around It:
One year ago: twice-baked cauliflower
Two years ago: ribollita