Apple Cinnamon Scones

My semester is done! I’ve powered through the stack of final exams, tallied the final grades, and pushed all the papers that need pushing to wrap up the last 15 weeks of teaching. Of course, I’m still writing and researching and generally chipping away at my dissertation, but the end of the semester means a bit more time for sewing, holiday baking, and catching up on some blog posts.

Apple Cinnamon Scones via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

These scones were a last minute addition to our Thanksgiving menu when I decided the day before that I’d like something special for breakfast Thanksgiving morning. I wanted to use some apples that we had on hand and Aidan wanted scones, and thus began the hunt for an appropriate recipe. I’ve made these apple cinnamon scones from King Arthur Flour before, and they were excellent. Unfortunately, the recipe calls for several ingredients that I didn’t have on hand, and there was no part of me that was willing to brave the grocery store just for scones. Since sour cream was the best liquid I had on hand (it’s weird to think of sour cream as a liquid, but it functions as one in baking), I started looking for a sour cream scone recipe that I could tweak a bit to make apple scones.

Apple Cinnamon Scones via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

Ultimately, I ended up adapting a recipe from The Kitchn for Sour Cream Strawberry Scones. I omitted the brown sugar crumble topping called for in the recipe, swapped the strawberries for a chopped apple, and added some cinnamon to the batter. In the end, these scones turned out well and were a great way to kick off our holiday. The sour cream gives them a good flavor and a nice, tender texture. They are only slightly sweet—appropriate for breakfast and not the kind of scone that you would mistake for dessert. If you like a sweeter scone, it would be easy to add a bit more sugar. Perhaps 1/2 a cup instead of 1/4. Using the crumble called for in the original recipe might also make the scones a bit sweeter. The next time I make these, I might also toss the chopped apple in a cinnamon sugar mix before adding them to the batter. Regardless, this is a solid recipe. And the best part is that you can make these scones the night before—just mix up the batter, shape the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and keep them in the refrigerator overnight. I’m looking forward to making it with strawberries when winter is over—perhaps as a way to celebrate the end of the spring semester!

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Apple Cinnamon Scones (adapted from The Kitchn)

  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 c (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 c sour cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 medium apple, chopped

For the topping:

  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  1. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles a course meal.
  2. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the sour cream, egg, and vanilla. Add the sour cream mix to the flour mix and, using a wooden spoon or spatula, fold the sour cream mix into the dry mix. When almost all of the flour has been incorporated, turn the dough out onto counter.
  3. Gently pat the dough into a rectangle and sprinkle half of the chopped apple over the surface of the dough. Fold the dough in half and again pat it into a rectangle. Sprinkle the second half of the apples over the surface of the dough and fold the dough in half a second time.
  4. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Pat the dough into a large disk about 1” thick. Place the pan in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
  5. Half an hour before baking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Combine the sugar and cinnamon for the topping. When the oven is fully heated, brush the top of the dough with some milk and generously sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over the dough. Using a bench scraper, knife, or pizza cutter, cut the scone dough into 8 wedges. Pull the scones apart so that there is at least an inch between each scone.
  6. Bake the scones for 18-20 minutes until they are golden brown and the sides of the scones are firm. Allow them to sit on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring the scones to a wire rack. The scones are best served warm.

Cranberry Orange Scones

I’ve knocked the first item off of the Winter Break Ten list: cranberry orange scones.

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.

Cranberry Orange Scones 2

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 3

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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Pumpkin x3

Like a lot of people, we’re getting ready for Halloween over here. We’ve got all the pieces for our costumes together, and I plan to spend part of the day throwing together some Halloween treats for a party our friends are throwing tomorrow. On Tuesday night after we did some shopping for the last few pieces of our costumes, Aidan and I came home and carved some pumpkins.

jack-o-lanterns

Mine is on the left; Aidan’s is on the right.

I really love pumpkin carving. When I was a kid, my parents would spread news paper all over the floor, cut open the tops of our pumpkins, and set us to scooping out the guts. My dad would be elbow deep in pumpkins, even though he’s allergic to them, scraping the sides clean. He’d give us each a Sharpie so we could draw a face on our pumpkin, which was a bit dangerous since I distinctly remember drawing some weirdly complicated designs. I believe my sister also had a penchant for drawing mouths with lots of tiny teeth and would get very upset if any of them broke off. I think we all struggled with not being able to carve our pumpkins ourselves, but now every time I take a knife to a pumpkin as an adult, I totally understand my dad’s caution. Because I really appreciate the fact that I still have all ten of my fingers.

Our family would also always roast the seeds from our pumpkins.

pumpkin seeds

I don’t know how my parents did it, but I rinsed these and left them out on a baking tray overnight to dry. Then I tossed these together with 2 tbsp of melted butter and about a teaspoon of seasoned salt and baked them for about 30 minutes at 300 degrees. Tasty. We got about 3 cups of seeds from two pumpkins.

Continuing the pumpkin frenzy, I decided to whip up some pumpkin scones this morning when I got home from teaching my early morning classes. I followed the recipe as written, adding a bag of Hershey’s cinnamon chips to the dough and topping the scones with a cinnamon-sugar mix. I’ve never made scones before, but these came together quickly and easily–it’s a great recipe and the King Arthur Flour blog posted step-by-step photo instructions for this recipe that are also helpful.

scones ready for the oven

After the dough is formed into rounds and sliced, the recipe recommends putting them, uncovered, in the freezer for 30 minutes while you preheat the oven. Chilling the scones before you bake them is supposed to help with the rise, and while I don’t have any prior scone experience to compare it to, multiple people reviewing this recipe said that putting them in the freezer really did make a difference. As someone who can’t ever seem to get my biscuits to rise the way I’d like, it makes me wonder if some pre-oven chilling would help in that situation too. Hmmm . . . I’ll have to experiment and see.

Pumpkin scone

Anyway, these scones were seriously good. I was worried I had over-handled the dough, but they had a great tender, light texture with a crunchy top from the cinnamon-sugar mix. These scones are about a million times better than the dry, dense, iced pumpkin scone I got a few weeks ago from the Starbucks across the street from the building I teach in. Today, one of my students asked me if I preferred Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts. I said Dunkin’ Donuts, but I now realize that I really should have said my house. Where else can you get warm pumpkin scones and fresh french press coffee while you watch The Real Housewives of Atlanta?

Ike the Giraffe

In closing, Ike hopes you have a fantastic Halloween weekend. He can’t wait to party.