Spring, Strawberries, and Scones

What to do with left-over strawberries? After making lunch for my mother and my sister, I have about 2.6 lbs of strawberries, from a 4 lb container, that I did not use in the fruit salad. The strawberries are beautiful and delicious, and I want to justly serve their rich quality. The day is beautiful as well: one of those sunny, breezy, clear, dry days that occasionally occur at the end of April and the first of May, just as the South Texas spring is preparing to give way to the unforgiving, impossibly hot and humid days of summer. The lavender fields in the hill country haven’t quite opened at this point, but I have some dried lavender on hand. The perfect sunshine, the sweet breeze, and the vibrant colors of the potted plants on our patio inspire me to combine the strawberries and the lavender to create a jam with flavor that speaks the season. I will make strawberry-lavender jam.

I wash the strawberries well. Before I weigh the berries, to find out the exact amount of fruit with which I’ll be working, I cut the tops off the strawberries, and then quarter each berry. The quartered strawberries weigh, according to my Escali digital scale, 1179 grams, or about 2.6 lbs.  I will have a small batch of jam, but it will be worth the labor.  I want to infuse the jam with the essence of lavender, but without the lumpy texture that would result if I leave dried lavender buds in the jam.  I decide to make a bouquet of lavender buds by placing about a tablespoon of buds in a small square cut from cheesecloth.  Using kitchen string, I tied the ends of the cheese cloth together, making a little bundle of dried lavender to place in the bowl with the sugar and the strawberries.  This way the lavender can be easily removed from the berries when I am ready to put them in the pot to cook.

To be sure the lavender flavor is detectable in the jam, I made a fresh lavender bouquet and placed it in the pot to cook with the strawberries and sugar. When the jam was ready, I removed the bouquet from the pot before I poured the jam in the jars.  I did not use pectin to thicken this jam, so the final product was a rather small yield; however, it was rich, flavorful, and delicious.  The lavender flavor was subtle, but noticeable, and beautifully complemented the sweetness of the strawberries.

Strawberry – Lavender Jam

1179 grams (about 2.6 lbs) strawberries, hulled and quartered
453 grams (about 1 lb) cane sugar
2 tbls dried lavender
2 tbls Santa Cruz lemon juice (not from concentrate)
2 squares cut from cheese cloth
Kitchen string

-Place one tablespoon of dried lavender buds in the center of a square of cheesecloth. Pull up the corners of the square to
form a bundle. Using a length of kitchen string, tied the corners together to form a bundle.
-In a large bowl, mix together the strawberries, lemon juice, and sugar. Place the lavender bundle on top of the berries.
-Tightly wrap the bowl with the berries with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in the refrigerator; leave overnight.
-The next day, sterilize eight 4 oz jelly jars.
-Remove and discard the lavender bundle from the bowl of berries.
-Place the berry-sugar-lemon juice mixture in a pot.
-Using the second square of cheesecloth and the last tablespoon of dried lavender, make another lavender bouquet.
-Place the bouquet in the pot with the berry mixture; bring the berry mixture to a boil.
-Boil to the setting point (ten to twenty minutes).
-When the jam is thickened, test for doneness by placing a little jam on a spoon.  Hold the spoon vertically; if the jam runs
fairly slowly, or not at all, the jam is done.
-Remove the lavender bouquet from the jam; pour the hot jam into prepared jars.
-Process the jam in a hot water bath for ten minutes

A perfect jam requires a perfect accompaniment as a vehicle for its self-expression: something sweet, but not overpoweringly so; something with a hint of flavor that will enhance, but not conquer, the natural flavors of the strawberries and lavender in the jam. Scones fit the requirement of this particular duty. Scones are sweeter than biscuits, but not as sweet as sweet rolls. They can be lightly flavored, as well.  Almond scones, I decide, make the perfect accompaniment for the strawberry-lavender jam.  I had a trip to Austin planned the week I made the jam; I promised my mother a trip to see her great-grandsons (my grandsons). The trip, with jam and scones, will be a perfect time for to visit Antonelli’s Cheese Shop, a place at which I had been longing to shop.

To make the scones for the jam, I decided to use something other than my usual mix of superfine white rice flour, superfine sorghum flour, and tapioca flour. Instead, I replaced the sorghum flour with almond flour, and the tapioca flour with sweet rice flour.

Gluten-Free Almond Scones:

129 g (1 1/2 c) finely ground almond flour*
84 g (3/4 c) Authentic Foods superfine brown rice flour
29 g (1/4 c) sweet rice flour**
100 g (1/2 c) sugar
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp aluminum-free baking soda
1 tsp guar gum
½ tsp salt
1 tsp pure almond extract
113 g (1/2 cup) unsalted, cultured butter
¼ c Greek whole fat vanilla yogurt
1 egg, beaten

*Although Bob’s Red Mill almond meal seems to be the most commonly available almond flour, I dislike the course texture of the flour.  I order almond flour from Nuts.com; this almond flour is a much finer grind and texture than Bob’s Red Mill

**Sweet rice flour is also known as glutinous flour; however, it does not contain gluten.  It is made from the short grain white rice that’s known as sticky rice in Asian cooking.  This rice flour adds more hold than regular brown and white rice flours; I use it in small amounts when I make cookies, pie crusts, or any baked item that I want to roll out or shape in some way.  I find that using a small amount of sweet rice flour in my scones makes them less crumbly, but still tender.

-Preheat oven to 400˚
-Fit a food processor with the dough blade.
-In the food processor, mix the dry ingredients.
-Using a grater, grate the frozen butter into the food processor with the dry ingredients.
-Mix the butter and dry ingredients on low speed until it resembles course meal.
-In a separate bowl, mix together the almond extract, beaten egg and  yogurt.
-Add the egg / yogurt mixture to the mixture in the food processor and mix on low speed until the
dough begins to stick together.
-Spoon dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a 7 or 8 inch circle, adding a bit flour to the
dough if the dough is too sticky.
-Sprinkle with sugar, or vanilla sugar (optional)
-Using a sharp knife, cut the circle into 8 triangles.
-Place the triangles, about an inch apart, onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
-Bake until slightly browned (or golden), about fifteen minutes.
-Cool for about five minutes, and serve warm or at room temperature.

These scones traveled well to Austin, and tasted absolutely heavenly with the cheeses we picked up at Antonelli’s, and the strawberry-lavender jam.

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