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December is the busiest month for restaurants and my schedule doesn’t allow me to spend much time in my home kitchen.  Yet, whenever I can, I’ve been baking to resolve my craving for various mix of flour, butter and sugar.  I blame winter, the season to store more fat in my body to keep myself warm.

Making scones promises fast, delicious results with easy variations.  Along with baking, another recent obsession of mine is black sesame seeds.  I can’t quite pinpoint the re-discovery of this ingredient I grew up with, but I love black sesame seeds for naturally sweet, nutty aroma and flavor that can be played both in sweet and savory recipes. 

Black sesame seeds (검은깨 geom eun ggae) are called heuk yim ja (흑임자) in traditional Korean medicine, which seems to have become a more common term these days.  In traditional Korean medicine, where it is believed that food and medicine share common roots, black sesame seeds are easily associated with preventing hair loss and premature graying of hair.  Even without citing the benefits noted in traditional medicine, black sesame seeds also stand as a great source of copper, iron and calcium as well as dietary fiber.

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Combine these with chestnuts.  The resulting scones hugging black sesame seeds and chestnuts are delicately nutty and more moist than a dryer scone texture I’m used to.  Not too sweet, but sweet enough, flaky, soft and warm.  Great with coffee.           

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Chestnuts in syrup – Cook together about 12 peeled, fresh chestnuts with 1/4 cup (C) of water and 1/4 C of sugar over low heat.  When the chestnuts turn soft, turn off heat and let them rest in syrup.  Fresh chestnuts are abundant these days but if you don’t find the idea of peeling chestnuts one by one, peeled, frozen ones are also available, at least in Korean grocery stores.

Toast black sesame seeds – Toast 2 tablespoons (TBSP) of black sesame seeds in a pan over low heat.  Stir once in a while for even toasting.  When it’s done, you will smell the sweet nutty black sesame seeds and start hearing popping sound.  Remove from heat and let it cool.  If you have mortar and pestle, grinding the seeds coarsely helps the seeds release the nutty aroma better.  If you don’t grind it, that’s fine as well.

Scone dough – Cut 1 stick (1/2 C) of cold butter into small pieces.  Keep it in the refrigerator.

Sift together 2 cups (C) of all-purpose flour, 1/4 ts of salt, 1 1/4 ts of baking powder and 1/2 ts ginger powder.  Work with your hands to mix the cold butter into the flour mix to a coarse, sandy texture.  Do not overmix.

Beat 1 egg with 1/3 C of milk (I use 2% low fat milk) and 1/4 C of sugar.  Pour over the flour mix and combine just enough to bring everything together.

Don’t forget the chestnuts! Strain the syrup from the chestnuts. Reserve syrup for later to make chestnut icing.  Chop the chestnuts and mix in the dough.

On a lightly floured surface, shape the dough into a rectangle and divide it into 12 portions (or however big you want it).  Transfer the pieces on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Brush the top of each piece with egg wash made by beating 1 egg and 1 TBSP of milk together.

Place the baking sheet in the 400F (200C) preheated oven and bake for 15-18 minutes or until the bottom turns golden brown.  Cool on a rack.

Chestnut Icing – Mix 2 TBSP of confectioners’ sugar in the syrup strained after cooking chestnuts.  Drizzle over the scones after the scones have been cooled a bit.  A pastry bag or a plastic bag makes it easier to drizzle.  If the glaze hardens while you wait for the scones to cool, just run the pastry bag through hot water for a few seconds to loosen up.

KOREAN WORDS

sesame seed   깨       (ggae)

chestnut          밤       (bam)

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