When ripe, strawberries should have a strong sweet aroma, rich coloring, and a sweetness that virtually melts in your mouth. I like to look for smaller berries, as they tend to be sweeter than the large ones. A hint for looking for a well ripened strawberry - look to see if the flesh is red all the way to stem's base. Many times when you purchase strawberries in the supermarkets out of season, they will be mostly white at the top. This is a sign that the berry likely doesn't have much flavor and will be white through most of the inside.
Nutrition: Rich in Vitamin C, dietary fiber and manganese. Also a good source of potassium and folate.
Season: Depending on climate/region, harvest can begin as early as March and go into November.
We officially ushered in Spring yesterday, with the weather in San Diego being it's "perfect" 72 and sunny. While I'm personally mourning the passing of my favorite weather seasons, I'm gleefully rejoicing in the arrival of my favorite food seasons, Spring and Summer. And the best way to celebrate the arrival of these wonderful food seasons? By eating. Duh.
Strawberries are one of the first fruits to arrive in our markets in the spring and boy do I get excited over them. The sweet, melt-in-your-mouth goodness of a ripe strawberry compares pretty much to...well, nothing. So, to celebrate this Spring goodness, tastebud party inducing berry of deliciousness, I've put them in one of my favorite breakfast items - the (can't ever just eat one) scone. Being honest with you upfront, scones take a little time (and get a bit messy), but they are much easier to make than most people think and are 100% worth it.
Now, some of you might be unsure about the idea of fennel being in a scone, or maybe anything you eat, but trust me on this one. The fennel flavor won't knock your socks off from licorice-ness. Instead, you'll be delighted with a lightly flavored, highly aromatic, very yummy piece of Springtime breakfast heaven. Oh yeah, and roasting the strawberries will make your kitchen smell AMAZING.
Roasted Strawberry + Fennel Scones
- 1 pint fresh strawberries
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup cane sugar + 1 Tbsp
- 2 cups all-purpose flour + some for dusting
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 Tbsp ground fennel
- 6 Tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces
- 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup half & half or whole milk + 1 Tbsp set aside
- Fennel Sugar (1/2 Tbsp cane sugar + 1/2 tsp ground fennel, mixed)
Preheat oven to 425 F.
Hull and cut the strawberries into roughly 1" chunks. Toss them with 1 tablespoon cane sugar and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract. Spread out on a lined baking sheet, giving the strawberries as much room between each other as possible.
Roast for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer the strawberries to a bowl to cool. Drop the oven temp to 375 F.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredient, minus the butter and fennel sugar, and stir to throughly combine. Add the butter and work it into the flour using a pastry cutter, or two butter knives, until no large pieces remain. The texture should resemble large bread crumbs (about 3-5 minutes using a pastry cutter).
Mix the ricotta and milk together until the texture is mostly smooth. Add to the flour mixture and begin gently folding everything together with a fork. Fold about 8 times, just until the wet and dry ingredients are beginning to come together. Add in the strawberries. Mash with the fork or switch back to the pastry cutter as you mix them in to break the strawberries up, and blend 6 to 8 times. At this point, the dough will be sticky but crumbly.
Lightly flour a smooth surface or large cutting board. Carefully empty the scone mixture onto the floured surface. At this point, you will finish the process with your hands (things will get a bit messy, but that's part of the fun). Gently fold and press the mixture together, working the bits of dry goods into the sticky areas of dough. Be cautious that you aren't kneading the dough - your dough should come together after 6 to 8 gentle folds. Sprinkle the top with additional flour as needed to help keep the dough from sticking to your hands or the work surface. The dough will look a bit cracked and flakey when finished, but you'll know it's done with the dough is holding together as one mass.
Gently press the dough into a 1.5" thick circle. Cut into 8 pie shaped pieces and transfer them to a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush the top of each scone with the remaining milk. Generously sprinkle them with fennel sugar and place the pan in the middle of your pre-heated oven.
Bake the scones for 14 - 16 minutes or until the edges just begin to brown. Remove from the oven and transfer the scones to a cooling rack. Let them cool for at least 10 minutes - you may have to reach in deep for some self-restraint (or maybe that's just me...). Serve warm as is, or with butter and jam.
Makes 8 scones