Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cranberry Scones

On Monday morning I had some time and was experiencing the urge to make something, but as some of you may know, Monday is my grocery-planning day, which is equivalent to no longer having a full fridge and pantry. I had an abundance of oranges, so I knew that would be one ingredient, but what to make? I was caught between my favourite orange coconut loaf, cranberry orange scones, and pull-apart raisin cinnamon muffins. The scones won out because I will be making a coconut cake later in the week, and I didn't think I had enough time to make the muffins. Oddly enough though, the scones were more frightening to me than the multi-step yeast-rising pull-apart raisin muffins. I'm not sure why, as my mother frequently made scones for Sunday morning brunches and I would see her throw all the ingredients into the food processor and be finished in no time. While I always loved my mother's homemade scones (sorry if you're reading this mom!) they were frequently dry and dense, and would require a lot of butter to go with them! And that was my sole experience with scones, so I was in for a surprise with the cranberry orange scones.

These are remarkably simple to make, particularly if you do have a large enough food processor (I do not and instead have a mini food processor, and so did it in 2 batches because I thought this would be less complicated than trying to mix it myself- probably caused me more work realistically). If you do not have a food processor a stand-mixer, pastry blender, or 3 knives works as well. The end result was a delectably light and fluffy scone that was slightly tart from the cranberries but had a hint of sweetness from the sprinkled sugar on top and an undertone of orange from the zest. Unfortunately both my batches got slightly burnt on the bottom :( which confused me because for both I took them out before the minimum allotted time, and the second batch I moved the rack higher up in the oven and turned the temperature down. But it didn't make that much of a difference, they were still the best scones I've ever had! To give you an idea, I brought 2 freshly-made scones into work for Sean to have, and he later told me that he had gobbled both up probably before I had even made it up the 2 flights of stairs to my office, WITH the burnt bottom included! (Although I did tell him to peel it off/ignore it/not look at it/pretend it wasn't there)

Yield: Approximately 10 scones, depending on size

1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated orange zest (lemon works great as well)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
1 cup heavy cream  (I didn't have a full cup, and so ended up using 1/3 cup heavy cream and the remainder with table cream and this worked fine, so for a lighter version I'm sure you could substitute a full cup table/half & half cream)
Additional sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

In a food processor, combine the lemon zest, flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Pulse briefly to blend. Add in cold butter pieces and pulse again briefly until the mixture resembles coarse meal and the butter pieces are no larger that peas. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl.

In a small bowl, toss together the chopped cranberries and remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar. Stir this into the flour-butter mixture.

In another small bowl or a liquid measuring cup, combine the egg, egg yolk, and heavy cream; whisk to blend. Add the liquid ingredients to the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir gently with a spatula or wooden spoon just until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Knead gently to be sure the dough is evenly mixed, being careful not to overwork the dough.

Place a 2 1/2 or 3-inch round biscuit cutter on the lined baking sheet. Scoop some of the dough inside the cutter and pat down gently to form a 1-inch thick round. Repeat with the remaining dough, placing the rounds 2-3 inches apart on the baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with additional sugar. There are many different ways to shape scones, You can shape the dough into one large disc and slice it into triangular wedges, roll it out and use a biscuit cutter, make drop scones, etc.

Bake in the preheated oven until lightly golden brown, about 14-18 minutes.

If you'd like to make scones ahead of time, they can be frozen. Flash freeze the scones at the point before baking them (once you've shaped them the way you want) by placing them on a baking sheet in the freezer until frozen. Transfer to a freezer-safe plastic bag and store until ready to bake. If baking from frozen, add an additional 5 minutes to cooking time.

Source: adapted from: Smitten Kitchen

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