Scones are a food that will either taste like bits of heaven or they will taste like bricks made from saw dust. There's really no middle ground. I have had scones that were wonderful and some that were barely edible even with the generous addition of butter and lemon curd. Ina Garten from the Food Network has a recipe that creates perfectly light scones that have the right amount of sweetness.
Cranberry Orange Scones
courtesy of Ina Garten
4 cups plus 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
3/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup cold heavy cream
1 cup dried cranberries
1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water or milk, for egg wash
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
4 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix 4 cups of flour, 1/4 cup sugar, the baking powder, salt and orange zest. Add the cold butter and mix at the lowest speed until the butter is the size of peas. Combine the eggs and heavy cream and, with the mixer on low speed, slowly pour into the flour and butter mixture. Mix until just blended. The dough will look lumpy! Combine the dried cranberries and 1/4 cup of flour, add to the dough, and mix on low speed until blended.
Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead it into a ball. Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough 3/4-inch thick. You should see small bits of butter in the dough. Keep moving the dough on the floured board so it doesn't stick. Flour a 3-inch round plain or fluted cutter and cut circles of dough. Place the scones on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Collect the scraps neatly, roll them out, and cut more circles.
Brush the tops of the scones with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are browned and the insides are fully baked. The scones will be firm to the touch. Allow the scones to cool for 15 minutes and then whisk together the confectioners' sugar and orange juice, and drizzle over the scones.
I don't normally make cranberry orange scones. It's a nice combination but it's not my favorite. If you want to make scones the way Ina does then by all means go right ahead. If you want to make scones the way I make scones then follow my recipe.
In a large bowl, sift together
4 cups of AP flour
1/4 cup of sugar
2 tbs baking powder
2 tsp kosher salt
In a separate, medium bowl mix together:
3/4 pound (3 sticks) of slightly cold butter that has been cut into pea-sized cubes with a butter knife
4 extra large eggs
1 cup of half-and-half (you could even use whole milk)
I use a hand mixer to blend the wet ingredients until half of the butter no longer resembles cubes (start with the milk and eggs first, mix, and then add the cubed butter). Don't beat this mixture too long, it's not meant to be homogenous.
I add the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients. With my hand mixer on low I lightly beat the two elements. I blend only until the liquid is incorporated into the flour. I stop using the hand mixer and then dig in with my hands. If you don't want to get messy then you won't get nice scones. No pain, no gain my friend.
Using my fingers I pinch the larger clumps of butter until they are more or less blended. You won't be able to blend the butter completely into the dough and that's ok. Just learn from my mistake: when I leave too many large clumps of cold butter in the dough, then all of that butter will melt out of the scones and create pools of clarified goodness at the bottom of the baking sheet and leave you with slightly dry scones.
The dough will get sticky really fast and become kind of gummy. This is good. Do your best to blend all the ingredients together. The dough is supposed to be lumpy. Then, using your fingers, pick up small amounts of dough and drop them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Making scones in this 'drop' method helps keep the air inside. If you knead the dough and add that extra flour I feel like you lose the light texture. Try not to compact the dough in your hands before putting it on the sheet (granted, this will be hard because the dough is so sticky and thick). Just scoop with your fingers and drop onto the sheet and be sure to leave atleast 1.5 inches between each scone. Easy-peasy. Put them into the oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes and then check on them. I found that in my oven the tops of the scones look light but the bottoms get really brown, so be sure to lift up the scones at the 15 minute point. If they look tannish to a light brown give the scones a couple more minutes. Once the scones look brown in some parts but still maintain a light brown color in other parts then they are done. Again, you have to eye ball it. It's that easy.
This past Christmas I made a lot of scones. When my family is together we drink tea atleast twice a day and scones with tea go together like peanut butter and jelly. What flavor of scones was everyone's favorite? Crystallized ginger and dark chocolate. If you made a face while you read the previous sentence then you need to repent. It's a fabulous combination! Crystallized ginger can be found in most grocery stores and it is candied ginger that has been coated in sugar. I chop it until the pieces are small but not too small. The degree to which you chop your ginger is a personal preference. We love ginger in our family so I'm never afraid to keep some pieces medium-sized. As for the chocolate, it's best to use atleast semi-sweet. The reason I use dark chocolate is because the bitterness from the chocolate pairs beautifully with the sweetness from the ginger. Some people don't like dark chocolate, so if you don't prefer it then don't use it. When you bake it's important to follow the recipe but I think it's more important to use common sense and do what your taste buds like.
Here are some other variations you can try:
-instead of white sugar use brown sugar and maple syrup. Mix in finely chopped pecans with cinnamon and nutmeg.
-add 1 cup of pumpkin puree with some pumpkin spice. (Although I've never personally done this you may have to reduce the amount of milk you add)
-white chocolate with finely chopped macadamia nuts
-dried cherries with semi-sweet chocolate
-ground cardamom with finely chopped pistachios
-dried blueberries with lemon zest
-chopped, candied peel
You can even make savory scones to compliment a brunch, light lunch or dinner. Remember to remove the sugar.
-finely chopped leeks that have been sauteed in oil, chedder cheese, fresh chives and chopped ham
-grated, smoked hard cheese and parsley
-replace 1/2 cup milk with 1/2 cup sour cream and add chives
-sauteed onion, bacon and grated cheddar cheese
-blue cheese, freshly chopped spinach, parsley and green onion
-cheddar cheese and mustard powder
-Romano cheese and finely chopped walnuts
Scones are no longer "that dry stuff" British people eat with their high tea. Scones are simple to make and a versatile palette for your palette.