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by Sandra Lewis    Sat, Feb 11, 2006, 04:10 PM

star ansie scone.jpgOn my Indian-spice-buying-fling a few weeks back I picked up a bag of star anise; it was an impulse purchase since none of the recipes I had looked at called for this rather mysterious, star-shaped spice.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find an article in the January 2006 issue of Bon Appetit magazine devoted entirely to star anise.

One recipe in particular was calling out to me on this sunny, but nippy Saturday morning – Star-Anise Scones.

I’m delighted I answered the call.

The flavor combination of the freshly ground star anise and lemon peel was both warm and fresh, a perfect compliment to the chilly, bright morning.

Star anise and anise seed are unrelated although they share a common chemical compound that gives them a similar licorice-type flavor.   Star anise is the product of a small evergreen tree in northeast China, anise seed is the product of the anise herb plant.

Reputed to have curative powers, star anise is used in some homeopathic treatments. There may be some truth to this as star anise is also the source of a primary ingredient in Tamiflu, a flu drug.

Some cooks are now choosing to use star anise as a substitute to anise seed.

Based on my first experience with the mellower, sweeter star anise I might prefer it to the harsher flavored anise seed as well. 

Coupled with a good cup of coffee, it felt like it cured something for me this morning. 

Star Anise Scones
2/3 cup (about) heavy whipping cream, divided
1 large egg
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon peel
2 ¼ cups cake four
3 ½ tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons freshly ground star anise
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter
½ cup raisins

2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons raw sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk ½ cup cream, egg, and lemon peel in medium bowl. Whisk flour and next five ingredients in large bowl. Using pastry blender, cut butter into flour mixture until coarse meal forms. Add raisins and cream mixture. Stir until moist clumps form, adding more cream by tablespoonfuls if dough is dry. Turn out onto floured surface; knead just until dough comes together.

Pat dough into ½-inch thick round. Using a pizza wheel, cut dough into 8 scones. Transfer to baking sheet.

Brush tops of scones with 2 tablespoons cream; sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake until golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 16 minutes. Transfer to a rack; cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sandra’s Kitchen Notes:

  • I used a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour (and modified the directions accordingly). The original recipe called for grating the butter and then using your hands to mix the butter into the flour; that just seems like a lot of extra work for no good reason.
  • I used plain flour instead of the cake flour as called for, but sifted it first to give it the lighter texture of cake flour.
  • I cut the dough into the traditional scone shape  using a pizza cutter. The original recipe called for a 2-inch round cutter.
  • I didn't use raisins, but I will next time.  So if you're not a raisin fan, no worries.
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