I am on a cranberry kick, ’tis the season after all. I like this recipe because it is simple and straight forward, but it is also easy to alter to make whatever type of scone you want (more on that below). That’s the nice thing about having a bit of confidence in the kitchen is the carefree abandon of trying your own recipe. That is, after all, how recipes get made. You either research the basics and combine multiple recipes together, have a vague idea of what you’re doing and keep at it until it works, or you find a good basic recipe and tweak it just a little. And don’t believe the hype, even professional chefs have spectacular culinary disasters now and again, but that’s why you don’t just decide to make something up the day you’re going to serve it (unless you’re really confident it’s going to work).
This recipe is from Bon Appétit, with a couple minor changes.
3 cups all purpose Flour
1/3 cup Sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 tablespoon grated Orange Zest (about 1 medium sized orange)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted Butter, cut into pea-sized pieces
3/4 cup dried Cranberries
1 cup chilled Buttermilk
Preheat your oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda into a large bowl. Mix in orange zest. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal (alternatively you can do this portion of the recipe in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal). Evenly mix in dried cranberries. *Gradually add buttermilk, tossing with fork until moist clumps form. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead briefly to bind dough, about 4 turns. Form dough into 1-inch-thick round. Cut into 8 wedges. Transfer wedges to prepared baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until tops of scones are golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let stand on baking sheet 10 minutes. Serve scones warm or at room temperature.
*I find it works better to just use your hands rather than a fork. You do need to work quickly,however, so you don’t melt the butter with the heat from your hands.
Bacon and Cheddar scones: Remove the orange zest, reduce the amount of sugar to 2 tablespoons and replace the dried cranberries with 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar, 1/2 cup of freshly cooked bacon bits, and 2 tablespoons minced chives. Follow the basic directions of the recipe and you’ll have a good savory scone.
Blueberry Scones: Replace the dried cranberries with 1 1/4 cups of fresh blueberries. Toss the blueberries with a little flour so they are evenly coated, but there is no excess (this helps keep them suspended evenly in the scone). Make the scone dough and carefully fold in the blueberries at the very end (after the buttermilk) without squishing them (or you will have scones that look bruised).
Blueberry Lemon Scones: Remove the orange zest from the recipe and follow the directions for the blueberry scones above. While the scones are baking, make a lemon glaze by combining the zest from 1 lemon with the juice of 2 – 3 lemons (about 1/3 cup) and 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar over a double boiler. When the sugar is dissolved add 1/2 tablespoon of butter and whisk it in. Drizzle the glaze over the scones after they have cooled for 10 minutes (or the glaze will just absorb into the scone).
Tips and Tricks:
Any time you are making scones (or any quick bread – one that doesn’t have yeast) be careful not to overwork the dough once you add your liquid or the gluten (protein) in the flour will become elastic and the scones will be dense and tough.
I like to brush my sweet scones with either an egg wash (made by combining one egg and a tablespoon of water) or cream and dusting them with sanding sugar (a little regular sugar works if you don’t have sanding sugar on hand, it’s just not as visible) just before baking. This is overkill, however, if you are making a glaze.
If you don’t have buttermilk, take a tablespoon of lemon juice and add enough regular milk to it to make exactly 1 cup. Let it stand for 5 minutes and you’ll be good to go.
I like petite scones so I divide the dough into 3 disks and cut each mini-disk into 6 pieces. The cooking will go faster this way, too. They should take about 12 to 15 minutes.
Try your own variation, if it doesn’t work it’s not the end of the world.
The recipe in its original form will make 8 scones.