Scones get a bad wrap sometimes and I can’t say I completely disagree with the sentiment. For years, scones were not my pastry of choice. I found them to be quite dry and crumbly and, just not my cup of tea (wink- get it?). But a couple of years ago while happily perusing a neighborhood farmers market I came across a bakery vendor selling beautifully crusty baguettes, sourdough rounds, aromatic rosemary loaves, ridiculously tempting cookies, and more. They also had scones. When I arrived to the bustling market I was fashionably late and much of the breakfast breads were already sold out. They had only a few scones left. Hungry after quite a bit of walking, I “settled” for the scone. But when I had my first bite I was completely blown away. This moist flaky bread studded with beautiful cranberries and tart orange zest was beyond delicious. It was unlike any scone I had ever had. And that is when I found my hidden love for scones. What I came to find is that there are some very strong opinions out there about what a scone should and shouldn’t be but the most important thing to realize is that there are different types of scones. I don’t love the dry crumbly scone you must dip in tea to absorb any sort of moisture but many purists feel that’s exactly what a scone should be. But I am a complete sucker for a flaky moist scone studded with a variety of goodies, sweet or savory, so that’s the recipe I’ll keep in my back pocket.
This is a recipe I developed awhile ago as a result of my newfound love for scones and all of their possibilities. As a tribute to the one that started it all, these are cranberry orange flavored but feel free to play around with ingredients to mix into the scone batter. I’ve made blueberry, lemon poppyseed, and bacon and cheddar scones all using this batter so it can be very versatile. Have fun!
(makes 8 scones)
2 cups all purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into little squares
½ cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon orange zest
¼ cup orange juice (from zested orange)
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons milk or cream
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Zest the orange until you have 1 tablespoon. Cut the orange in half and juice it into a smallish (cereal size) bowl. Pour the dried cranberries into the bowl with the orange juice. After a few minutes they will start to plump up a bit as they absorb some of the fresh orange juice. In a large bowl, combine the flour, ¼ cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or with your fingers (lightly and quickly) until the mixture forms pretty coarse crumbs.
Drain any excess juice from the bowl of cranberries (I usually drink it, it’s so tasty!). Stir in the orange soaked cranberries and orange zest. Gradually add the buttermilk and stir until a soft dough forms. Do not overmix, this batter will not come together completely from the added moisture. Your hands will assist in doing that. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead the dough gently five or six times. Pat it into a circle (about 7 or 8 inches round).
Cut the circle in half and then again crossways. Cut across the round twice more as if cutting a pizza, to give you 8 equal sized wedges. Place the wedges on the parchment lined baking sheet. Brush the wedges with the bit of milk or cream. Sprinkle the tops with sugar (this will help them brown and will give the scones an addictively crunchy crust). Bake 20-24 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, if you can keep yourself from them that long. I think they’re best nice and warm so if making them for company I often just slide them right off of the baking sheet onto a platter so everyone can help themselves.