I’ve knocked the first item off of the Winter Break Ten list: cranberry orange scones.
I didn’t have scones for the first time until I was already in grad school and decided to spring for a cinnamon scone from ye old Starbucks. At the time, I thought it was okay. Now, I know that Starbucks scones are dry and tough and, weirdly, display no signs of actually being a baked good. I mean, how are they so uniformly shaped? How can a scone have no rise to it? Also, Starbucks, you should know that a thin layer of glaze will not salvage something that is basically a bland choking hazard. I say all of this only because I keep running across scone recipes that claim to be approximations of Starbucks scones. Why would you want to replicate that?
These scones are not dry or tasteless or tough. They were, in fact, delightfully soft, not overly sweet, and easy to make. I did everything short of the actual baking ahead of time, so that I could just throw them in the oven in the morning and enjoy warm, fresh scones with basically no effort. It’s a truly beautiful thing. To make these ahead of time, I mixed the dough up, formed the scones on a baking sheet, and then put the baking sheet in the freezer, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. After that, I transferred the scones to a freezer bag. When you’re ready to bake, the scones can go right from the freezer to the oven–no need to defrost. The benefit of freezing the scones is that you can make as many or as few at a time as you want, which is especially nice since they are best when they’ve been freshly baked.
I used the Meyer Lemon and Cranberry Scone recipe from Gourmet (also featured on Smitten Kitchen), substituting the zest from one medium sized orange for the lemon zest called for. Between the fresh cranberries and the orange zest, you end up with a scone that has a strong cranberry flavor against a distinct, albeit more subtle backdrop of orange. I imagine it’s something like what Mariah Carey was talking about with top notes and base notes when I watched her hawking her perfume on HSN. If these scones were a perfume, then cranberry would be the top note and orange would be the base note. Maybe. I don’t really know. (Also, why the hell was I watching Mariah Carey on HSN? Oh right–I got sucked in by the sheer absurdity of peep-toe knee-high boots. Of course.) You could probably zest two oranges for more intense orange flavor, but as is, Aidan described these as a “taste explosion.” I’m going to take that as high praise.
Cranberry Orange Scones
- Zest from 1 medium orange (about 1 1/2 tbsp), finely chopped
- 2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
- 1/2 c granulated sugar, plus an extra 3 tbsp to sweeten the cranberries
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 1/4 c fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 c heavy cream
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, 1/2 c sugar, baking powder, and salt. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut or rub the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles a course meal.
- In a small bowl, combine the chopped cranberries with the 3 tbsp of sugar and then stir the sugar-coated cranberries into the flour mixture.
- Beat the egg and egg yolk together, and then beat in the heavy cream. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined and dough begins to clump.
- Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly flour the parchment. Turn the dough out onto the pan and form it into a single mound. At this point, you can roll the dough out until it’s around 3/4″ thick and use a biscuit cutter to cut out the scones. Or you can do what I did, which was to divide the dough in half, shape it into two 3/4″ thick rounds, and then cut each round into 6 triangles. Pull the triangles apart so that there is about an inch between each scone.
- If you want to freeze the scones, place the pan in the freezer for 45 minutes and then move the scones to a freezer bag. These will keep in the freezer for about a week.
- Bake the scones in a 400 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes until scones are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of each scone comes out clean. Frozen scones will take 3 or 4 extra minutes to bake. Serve warm.