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Thursday
Feb192009

PBS MASTERPIECE Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens fans take note - the new season of PBS MASTERPIECE just began this week, and will feature an encore presentation of "David Copperfield" with Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) in his first film role (3/09 - check listings), and an Andrew Davies version of "Little Dorrit" (starts 3/29), and culminating with "The Old Curiousity Shop" (5/3).

PBS_Dorrit.jpg
Claire Foy in Little Dorrit; BBC 2008/ Mike Hogan for MASTERPIECE

The Brass Sisters also teamed up with PBS to develop Dickensian comfort foods (Sheila and Marilynn Brass of Heirloom Cooking with The Brass Sisters) for the MASTERPIECE Book Club. You can download recipes like Hearty English Meat Pie, Shepherd's Pie, and Irish Sponge Cake. Or Try the scone recipe below!

Currant Cream Scones
by Marilynn and Sheila Brass
Makes 12 scones

Scones were the comfort food of the Victorians. A Scottish contribution to the English culinary menu, they were enjoyed hot with butter and jam, and clotted cream. Originally made with oats, the composition of scones has become more refined because the texture of flour and sugar and the size of eggs have become more standardized. The cooks of Dickens' time had to break up their sugar with metal nips because it came in large cones wrapped with blue paper. They also had to pulverize it to the desired grain. Flour varied from mill to mill, and eggs came directly from the hen. Scones were enjoyed by the upper and middle classes, but the ingredients were too costly for the very poorest in Dickens' England.

pbs_scone_dickens.jpg

2 cups flour (plus 1/4 cup for kneading dough)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 cup dried currants, plumped in 1/3 cup orange juice*

1. Set the oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Cover a 14-inch by 16-inch baking sheet with foil, shiny side up. Coat the foil with vegetable spray or use a silicone liner.

2. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.

3. Cream butter and sugar in a medium bowl. Combine eggs and 1/2 cup of the heavy cream and add to butter mixture. Add grated orange zest. Add sifted dry ingredients and stir until a soft dough begins to form. Squeeze orange juice from currants and incorporate fruit into dough with your fingers.

4. Place dough on a generously floured surface. Knead gently five times, turning corners of dough toward the center. Pat dough into a 1/2-inch thick circle. Using a floured knife, cut dough into 12 equal wedges. Using a floured wide spatula, transfer each wedge to baking sheet. Brush wedges with the remaining heavy cream and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until tops of scones are lightly brown and bottoms are golden brown. Place baking sheet on a rack and cool about 10 minutes. Serve scones warm with butter and jam. They are best when eaten the day they are made.

*To plump currants in tea, orange juice, or water, bring the liquid to a boil, immerse the raisins, continue to boil for 1 minute and set aside to allow them to absorb the plumping liquid. If needed immediately, place in plastic container and chill in freezer for 10 minutes. If not used the same day, refrigerate and use when needed.


Recipe originally appeared as "Marion A. Carter and M. E. Carter's Cranberry-Orange Cream Scones" in Heirloom Baking With The Brass Sisters by Marilynn and Sheila Brass, published by Black Dog & Leventhal, Inc. © 2006 Marilynn and Sheila Brass. Photographs copyright © 2006 Andy Ryan.

Check it out at: www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/dickens/

For more MASTERPIECE Book Club recipes: www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/bookclub

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