Captivated by Caraway

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Cooking for one person is no easy task. Lately, my pantry has been getting precariously full and some of my perishable items were beginning to edge dangerously close to expiration. I needed a sweet recipe that involved zero new ingredients.

I settled on a scone recipe (because you can never have too many scone recipes) which called for fruits — great, I have blueberries that I bought for no reason — and a tablespoon of caraway seeds, which I also had and honestly never expected to use. Before making goulash, I had never used or even heard of caraway seeds. The goulash had so many flavors, mainly paprika, that I wasn’t really sure what caraway seeds would add.

I don’t know if this is a testament to caraway seeds or to the fact that I have no life, but that first bite of scone was the best part of my day. The seeds added an earthy, sharp flavor and a spice-y aroma that I instantly fell for. So of course I had to do a little research on the origins of caraway seeds. According to NPR, caraway was Europe’s oldest condiment and became a staple in Northern European cuisine before being spread by the Romans to Southern Europe. However, it was shunted aside in favor of exotic spices and because it appeared mainly in homier dishes consumed by the lower-class, it never garnered the same appreciation as cinnamon or even dill and parsley, members of the same plant family as caraway.

Funny how history works — I’d say more people know the flavors of cinnamon and pepper than the that of caraway. Traditional North European dishes like sauerkraut and pumpernickel bread and some Scandanavian spirit called aquavit still use it, but it has disappeared from the mainstream diet, while pepper is part of basically all cuisines.

Caraway deserves a comeback in a big way. It is no longer the spice of your German grandma; it imparts a truly unique flavor and adds texture to baked goods. I look forward to future forays with caraway seeds…though I guess I’ll have to wait until I clear out a couple more items in pantry :p.

North Fork Table and Inn Scones (adapted from Smitten Kitchen) – makes 12-16 scones

2 3/4 cup pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
6 oz butter, frozen
1 cup fresh fruit + 1 tbsp caraway seeds
3/4 – 1 cup buttermilk, depending on how juicy your fruit choice is. (The juicier the fruit, the less buttermilk is needed.)

Preheat oven to 375F.

Mix together all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Using a box grater, grate 6 tbsp butter and mix gently into dry ingredients. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk, mix until buttermilk is mostly incorporated, then add the blueberries. Mix together dough until blueberries are well-distributed throughout batter, being careful not to over-mix.

On a well-floured surface, knead dough until it is 1inch thick, then cut into squares. (You could then cut them into rectangles, or be lazy like me and just leave them as squares.)

Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until lightly browned.

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One thought on “Captivated by Caraway

  1. Pingback: Franconia, NH | kitchen whimsies

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