Friday, November 21, 2008

Cranberry Orange Scones

I was describing this recipe to someone the other day, and they immediately dismissed it as something they could never make. This totally stumped me! If I can do it, anyone can! I have no more skill than the next guy in the kitchen, believe me! Again, this just goes back to being able to follow directions. So I was going to just post this recipe, but apparently it's intimidating to some. I want to break it down to the very basics. Please just try it. You will feel great that you accomplished something in the kitchen, your house will smell delicious, and you'll be 5 pounds heavier after eating the entire batch. =) What motivation, huh? So I've decided that I'm going to post my recipes as-is at the top of the posts then explain some of the tips below. So, if you're proficient and not lacking any kitchen skills, you can just read the top. And if you want to dive further, read on.

Cranberry Orange Scones
(adapted from the Joy of Cooking recipe)


2 Cups Flour (all-purpose)
1/3 Cup Sugar (white)
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
6 Tablespoons Cold, Unsalted Butter
1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries
1 Large Egg
1/2 Cup + 3 Tablespoons Heavy Cream
Zest of One Orange
Juice of 1/2 Orange
Sanding Sugar


Baking Sheet, Ungreased
Two Mixing Bowls
Wooden Spoon
Oven set at 425
Pastry Blender or 2 Knives
Pizza Wheel
Pastry Brush
Cooling Rack


Preheat your oven to 425, and make sure the rack is in the center of the oven.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut the cold butter into cubes, and drop into the dry ingredients mixture. Cut in with a pastry blender or 2 knives. Work the butter until the mixture resembles bread crumbs with the largest pieces of butter no larger than pea-sized. Stir in the dried cranberries.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, 1/2 cup heavy cream, orange zest, and orange juice. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the heavy cream mixture all at once. Stir with a wooden spoon just until the ingredients are moist and come together.
At this point, use your hand to knead the dough against the sides of the bowl until all of the pieces come together and the bowl is clean. Place the dough on a floured surface, and pat into an 8-inch round. Using a pizza wheel, slice the dough into 8 pie-shaped wedges. Place the wedges 1/2 inch apart on the baking sheet. Brush the tops with the remaining 3 tablespoons of heavy cream, then sprinkle them with sanding sugar to coat.
Bake at 425 degrees for approximately 12-15 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.

Break it Down:

Cutting in the butter: Basically this means to cut the butter into teeny, tiny pieces that are completely coated in the flour mixture so that when the dough bakes, there is butter spread evenly throughout. A pastry blender looks like this:
It makes the job quick and easy. If you don't have one, hold a knife in each hand, and cross-slice the dough until you've broken up all of the pieces of butter into pea-sized or smaller chunks. It is important to make sure the butter is very cold when you put it in the dry ingredients. You want your mixture to still be dry at the end. So if you're working and working and it sits at room temperature for awhile, stick it in the freezer for a few minutes before adding the wet ingredients. If your scones turn out really flat, this could be the problem.

Kneading the dough: Think play-dough on this one. Remember how the dough would sometimes break into little pieces all over the table, so you'd use the ball of dough to pick up those pieces? That's exactly the point here. Your dough will be all crumbly, and you want it to come together. So you use the warmth of your hand to smash it (yes, that's the technical term =) all back together. You don't want to over-do it, though. I'd say pressing it into the bowl 5-8 times should do it. If you over-mix, your scones will be sort-of tough and chewy instead of flaky and melt-in-your-mouth.

Sanding your scones: The point of brushing the tops of the scones with heavy cream is to develop a rich, golden-brown, crunchy crust on top. If you don't have a pastry brush (and I'd highly recommend a silicone brush if you want to pick one up - this helps to avoid the bristles falling out on top of your scones - yuck!), you can simply spoon some heavy cream over the top and use the back of the spoon to spread it evenly. You can skip the sanding sugar altogether, but I love the extra sweetness and crunch it gives the scones. Sanding sugar is sold in the baking aisle (I found it at our Neighborhood WalMart grocery store, so I'm sure they sell it just about anywhere) where the rest of the sprinkles and colored sugars are sold. I always have the clear sanding sugar on-hand because it's more versatile. But you could use any color you like. The heavy cream will help the sanding sugar stick nicely.

The baking process: When you put the scones in the oven, you can pretty much leave them alone. Opening the oven often to check on them will make the temperature vary way too much. Check them at 12 minutes. If they aren't beginning to turn golden around the edges, set the timer for 2 more minutes. All ovens vary, so it may be closer to 15 minutes for you. Mine were perfect after 13. When they look like the picture at the top, pull the baking sheet out of the oven, and let it sit for a minute or two. Then, using a pancake-turner, gently lift them off the baking sheet and onto a cooling rack. Of course, you can just eat them right off the baking sheet as well. But the consistency should be solid enough for you to put them in a basket once they're cool without them falling apart.

Variations: I used the cranberries and orange zest to mimic my favorite scones at Starbucks and since they are seasonally-appropriate (and I thought these were leagues above Starbucks' scones). But you can change it up any way you'd like. Instead of cranberry orange, why not substitute white chocolate chips and raspberries, lemon zest and macadamia nuts, or milk chocolate chips and almonds? This is the perfect basic scone recipe to adapt to your taste.

Alright, I hope you enjoy these. They really aren't as complicated as all of these instructions imply. But I wanted to give you the baking basics because I'm sure they'll be used in future recipes. Please let me know if you have any questions, and also leave a comment if you make these. I'd love to hear about all the flavor combinations you try!

[Try pairing these scones with this recipe for a perfect Autumn combination. This was the menu for a coffee I hosted this week, and it was a huge hit.]

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