Sundays in the fall for me mean group trail running at Rock Creek Park, followed by a sweaty brunch, often hosted at one of the runners’ homes. Last week was hosted by Mr. Sean W. (Sean served up some fancy-pants dill crêpes with smoked salmon and capers . . . to 12 people . . . immediately after a workout. Talk about a classy and well-prepared chap!) I always want to contribute when someone else is hosting brunch, but I was limited by the fact that whatever I brought had to be ok sitting in a warm car for two hours. I settled on scones.
My experience to date has led me to believe that you are either a scone person or you’re not. I happen to love scones. I think a nice dry scone with cappuccino on a fall day is about as delicious as it gets (and a treat that seriously knocks my socks off is a plain scone with lemon curd and clotted cream, à la high tea in England). Some people, I have discovered, have a strong anti-scone sentiment and can’t comprehend why someone would ever choose a scone over a muffin. I’m not going to try to change those minds - it’s their loss. But the existence of scone polarity made me think long and hard about variations in scones and what kind of scone I wanted to make. Dry or moist; glazed, sugared or plain; eggs or no eggs? Ultimately, some of my decisions were made for me (e.g., a few scones got a little crispy in the oven due to my inattention and glaze became a must).
These scones were actually kind of difficult to make. Or, rather, I should say that my expectations were not on par with the actual process of making scones. I was envisioning a nice firm dough that I could roll out with ease and artfully chop into triangles, the way you would find them at a bakery or coffee shop (triangles, g-d-it, I wanted triangles). Uuuuuuuum, not the case. This particular dough is VERY sticky and a bit difficult to shape. (You'll notice that there are no photos of the rolling and cutting process because I was too busy swearing at random items on my countertop.) If you don't have triangle-shaped-scone-obsession like me, you can do drop scones, which are much easier (and described below). Whichever you choose, the taste of these babies is spot on.
To find the perfect scone recipe, I did a little reading and then turned to my friends Ina (Garten) and Tyler (Florence). Neither of their recipes was exactly what I wanted, so I fashioned an amalgamation of sorts. Might this inexact science have led to my shaping difficulties? Possibly, but the finished product was so tasty that I don't regret a thing. In retrospect, maybe I should have turned to Nigella Lawson or any British person. I think they have scone-making in their blood. That and a love for weird brown sauce.
Cranberry Orange Scones with Citrus Glaze
1-1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 cup heavy cream
zest of 1 orange
juice of 1/2 orange
1/2 cup dried cranberries
extra flour for rolling
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sift together flours, baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut in cold butter using a pastry blender or your hands (I find using my hands is most efficient). The result should be crumbly. Tyler suggested cutting the butter into the mix "using 2 forks." This suggestion is a joke. If you don't believe me, try the fork method. Then I will laugh at you.
In a separate bowl, mix cream, egg, orange juice and zest. Slowly incorporate wet and dry ingredients. Fold in cranberries.
For triangles: Generously flour a cutting board or whatever surface you like for rolling dough (I use silpats). Roll out dough to about 1/2 inch in thickness. I used lots of extra flour during this process. One helpful trick is to place a piece of wax paper on top of the dough while you roll - this leaves your roller clean for continued rolling. You should then be able to peel the wax paper off pretty easily.
For drop scones: Using a large spoon, scoop out large helpings of dough and plop down onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten down a bit so that they are loosely shaped like biscuits and uniform in size (this will help with even cooking).
Bake for 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees or until the edges just start to brown. Place scones on a baking rack and let cool for 10-15 minutes before glazing.
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tbs. fresh squeezed orange juice (from remaining half of orange)
Whisk powdered sugar and juice together. These measurements are a starting point. Depending on the humidity in your house, your taste in glaze consistency and the alignment of Saturn's moons, you will probably have to add more of the sugar or juice. You'll want a glaze thick enough so that it stays on the scones, but not so thick that you can't pour or spoon it onto the pastries. If you're having trouble, err on the thicker side - you can always spread it on with a knife, but you can't scoop runny glaze off the countertop (though I probably wouldn't question you if you did).
Once scones have cooled for 10-15 minutes (they should be a little warm, but not hot), pour or drizzle glaze onto scones. High-five yourself for a job well done.
Makes 18 scones