Monday, August 20, 2012

Strawberry Orange Scones

Up until two summers ago, I never enjoyed eating scones.  The ones I had tasted from coffee shops or grocery store bakeries were dry and crumbly, and a little tasteless, and at the time it didn't occur to me to try making a better one myself.

When we stayed in Florence, CO for my birthday a few years ago, Jamie took me to a place called Queen Anne in Canon City, where the owners serve an English tea before dinner, starting with scones...

The scones she presented us with were soft and moist, flaky and sweet, with plenty of jam and clotted cream dolloped over them.  After eating the scones, I was already full, and yet we still had a whole dinner ahead of us.

Traditional scones, originating in the UK, were dry and crumbly, before baking powder was available to the public, but with the introduction of leavening, the layers of dough rose more beautifully, more like a biscuit.

Scones, or biscuits, can be savory or sweet, and when I make drop biscuits to eat with soup on winter nights, I especially love adding cheese, onions and herbs.

I've tried a few recipes for scones, and especially loved the flavor of a lemon cream scone, but they flattened out while baking, instead of rising and holding their shape.  So in the end, I simply adapted my tried and true baking powder biscuit recipe that I've used for so many years, to make a sweet scone in pretty wedges.

While I mix up baking powder biscuits with olive oil, which works wonderfully, for these scones, I wanted to use chunks of cold butter, so that when the water evaporated from the butter in the oven, it would create steam, which in turn creates very light and fluffy scones.

I used dried strawberries, rather than fresh, because I didn't want the extra liquid from the water in fresh strawberries.  Orange zest and almonds complemented the strawberries beautifully.  A light egg wash gave them a pretty golden sheen, and the crunch of toasted almonds contrasted nicely with the flaky biscuit inside.

I love the scene in You've Got Mail where the girls from the bookshop are having tea, and the scene begins with Birdie saying, "The scones are lovely, dear."  Birdie hints at a romance she had years ago in another country, but won't tell Kathleen who it was...  I would love to spend an afternoon sharing tea and scones with someone over secrets and stories of long-ago love affairs, which, I suspect, is why the English came up with the idea of afternoon tea...

Strawberry Orange Scones
printable recipe
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and diced into cubes
  • 1/2 cup dried strawberries, chopped
  • zest of one orange
  • 1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, sliced almonds
  • 3/4 - 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water

Preheat the oven to 425.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Sprinkle the butter over the flour mixture and use a pastry cutter to cut in the butter until the mixture is coarse and crumbly.  Stir in the dried strawberries, orange zest, and 1/4 cup sliced almonds.

Add the buttermilk, starting with 3/4 cup and adding more as needed, using a spoon or your hands to bring the dough together.  Dough will be very thick, but moist.

Lightly sprinkle the parchment paper with flour.  Turn the dough out onto the parchment, and sprinkle the top of the dough with a little more flour.  Gently press the dough into a circle, measuring 7-8 inches across and 2 inches high.  Using a sharp knife dipped in flour, cut the disk into 8 equal wedges.  Move the wedges apart, so they have 1-2 inches of space in between.  Brush off any excess flour.

Lightly beat the egg with the water, then use a pastry brush to brush over the dough.  Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons almonds.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until golden brown.  Serve immediately, with honey or jam.

Cook's Note: As with any biscuit-like bread, these are best eaten within a few hours, while they are soft and flaky.  They will be more dry and crumbly the following day.

Yields 8 scones.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen