I am no expert on the history of coffee or coffee culture, so I am not sure who first had the idea to add ground spices to coffee but as ideas go, it was a pretty good one. Today, we have Turkish coffee which, although primarily referring to a specific brewing method (the process by which very finely ground coffee, typically made from Arabica beans, is brewed in a special small pot called Cezve or Ibrik), also refers to coffee often flavoured with cardamom. Then there is Arabic coffee, which is often spiced (often rather heavily) with cardamom, cloves and sometimes even saffron or cinnamon. Both are strong drinks, typically served in small glasses or small cups, that are typically consumed laced with industrial amounts of sugar.
Despite these long-standing traditions for preparing coffee flavoured with fragrant spices, there are plenty of people who insist that good coffee is best enjoyed as is, and should not even be adulterated with the addition of milk or sugar (let alone with spices) which dilute or change the flavour of the coffee itself . While I certainly enjoy coffee ‘as is’, there is something intriguing about coffee laced with the likes of cardamom, cloves, cinnamon or nutmeg. Their brightness pairs well with coffee’s flavour and the warming qualities of these spices make the flavour of the coffee linger that little bit longer on your tongue.
When it comes to ‘Warming Flavours’, the SCAA’s Flavour Wheel mentions ‘pepper’ and ‘cedar’ as notes you might detect during a cupping. I cannot recall ever having tried a coffee I would have described as peppery, although woody notes like ‘cedar’ sound less far off from some of my coffee experiences. When I think of warming flavours, I think of warming spices, and ginger is usually the first spice to come to mind. A flu remedy not just because of it’s anti-septic and anti-inflammatory properties but also because it helps you sweat, thereby helping to bring body temperature down in case of a fever, a steaming mug of hot ginger and lemon tea is usually my go-to remedy at the first sign of a cold. Although, if I am being honest, I much prefer to bake with ginger, whether in powdered form, as stem ginger in syrup or candied ginger.
I have already written about my love of scones and how much I love that I can wake up any day of the week with a sudden craving for scones and less than 30 minutes later I can pull a tray of fresh scones out of the oven. My gold standard of perfect scones are the ones you can get at GAIL’s bakery in London. Back when I still lived in Angel (only about 2 years ago, although it feels like much longer), I would sometimes get up early on weekdays just so that on my walk to work I could go to GAIL’s in Exmouth Market to have breakfast, specifically to have one of their scones.
What I love in a good scones is an outer layer that is ever so slightly crispy (or even positively crunchy thanks to a layer of coarse sugar) but that gives easily away to a soft and buttery interior, studded heavily with fresh or dried fruit, chocolate chips or nuts. GAIL’s scones have all of that and then some. If my tastebuds can be trusted, my favourite version at GAIL’s is made with fresh blueberries, dried apricots and candied ginger (and, as I discovered when putting together this post, I am not alone in thinking these scones are ‘it‘).
Until I muster up the courage to check whether GAIL’s new book includes a recipe for these scones (if it does, I clearly have to buy the book, something I can’t really justify given the huge pile of cookbooks I already own and don’t have enough time to cook or bake from, if the recipe is not in the book then the distance to my nearest GAIL’s bakery now that I live in Brussels is even harder to live with), I will happily settle for this sourdough version studded with persimmons and candied ginger.
I first started baking sourdough scones last winter in Rome after coming across a recipe in Tartine No 3. And while I have yet to try the recipe actually in the book, adapting my own scone recipe to mainly rely on leaven as a rising agent (as well as a small amount of baking powder and baking soda) gave my scones an even better texture, producing scones that are crisper on the outside yet softer on the inside.
I recently started baking my own bread again (with much better results now that I finally succumbed and bought a heavy casserole that I use not just for stews but also to bake bread in – if you want to know why baking bread in a Dutch oven results in better oven spring, i.e. a better risen bread, it is to do with head conduction and this article explains it all). My go to formula for preparing leaven for 2 loaves of bread leaves me with exactly 50g of surplus leaven – now I could just adjust the ratios and either bake bigger loaves or just make less leaven, but it turns out 50g of leaven is the perfect amount to make 6 sourdough scones. And a fresh batch of sourdough scones is the perfect Saturday morning coffee accompaniment when you have just mixed your bread dough and now have to face an agonising 24h wait before you can enjoy a slice of fresh bread.
Before we get to the recipe for these scones, I just wanted to say that I did not really expect to be away from this space for so long (the longest I have ever gone between posts if I remember correctly). The reasons are altogether uneventful – work is keeping me so busy it’s been 2 weeks since I last did laundry, most dinners come courtesy of the sushi shop across the road from my office and eating breakfast at home rather than in front of my pc at work feels like a huge achievement. That being said, I have been testing a few recipes which I am hoping to share with you all soon (like this buckle for example).
If you would like to learn how to make Turkish coffee, SeriousEats did a great a while back which you can find here.
For an easy recipe for making spiced coffee, click here.
Persimmon and Candied Ginger Sourdough Scones
Notes: Persimmons can be very very juicy. Which is nice when you eat them on their own, ideally bent over your kitchen sink, but not so nice when they turn your scone dough into a soggy mess. So try and find persimmons that are still a bit firm. As for the ginger, I used candied ginger but I reckon stem ginger would work equally well. While I am perfectly happy to enjoy a scone fresh out of the oven as is, come day 2, I prefer to cut them in half, toast them and slather them in salted butter (come to think of it, a miso butter would be nice here).
Makes 6 large scones.
200g plus 2 tbsp wholemeal spelt flour
30g cane sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
80g butter, cold, cubed
1 small firm persimmon (you are looking for ca. 150g flesh), diced
30g crystallised ginger, chopped finely
Optional: 1 tbsp cane sugar
1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
2. In a bowl whisk together the yoghurt with the leaven. Set aside.
3. Add the 150g spelt flour, cane sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder to a bowl and stir together with a spoon. Add the cubed butter and cut the butter into the flour with a knife or a pastry cutter (you can also use your hands) until the mixture is sandy with only a few larger pieces of butter remaining.
4. Add the yoghurt and leaven mixture and briefly knead until the dough just starts coming together but is still a bit shaggy. Turn out onto a floured surface, pat into a rectangle and add the persimmon and ginger on one side of the rectangle. Fold the other side of the rectangle over the persimmon and the ginger then briefly knead the dough to evenly distribute the persimmon and ginger. If your persimmon is very juicy and the dough starts feeling very sticky, add the remaining 2tbsp flour, kneading briefly to incorporate.
5. Place the dough onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Shape the dough into a rectangle, ca. 3 cm high. Using a floured knife cut the rectangle into 6 squares and carefully pull them apart, leaving 2-3cm of spaces between the scones. For extra crunch, sprinkle the scones with cane sugar before placing them in the preheated oven.
6. Bake for ca. 20-25 minutes until the scones are well risen and light brown in colour.
Other Posts in the “Goes well with coffee” series: