Cranberry Orange Scones with Toasted Pecans
In general I'm a pretty healthy eater. I mean, I have delicata squash roasting in the oven right now to go in a kale salad. I try and eat my veggies every day, I do yoga, and run a couple times a week if I'm lucky. But I have a weakness for baked goods. And you know what, I'm OK with it! All part of a balanced diet, right? Back when I worked in an office, the sweets craving hit every afternoon between 3 and 4 p.m. I'd run out for a much-needed coffee (or tea) and something sweet. I'd usually head to Starbucks or Le Pain Quotidien (the two closest options), but I'd always be disappointed with their baked goods–they were always too big, too sweet, and sort of stale.
Now that I work from home, when my sweets craving hits I usually just bake something. This is great because I can use fresh ingredients and tweak the recipe to make it a bit healthier. But it's also dangerous, since there are just two of us here and I really don't want us to polish off whole batches of sweets! I try and bake on days when I'm meeting up with friends or have people coming over. Otherwise I just freeze half the recipe.
The other day I picked up a bag of fresh cranberries at the store (hooray for cranberry season!) and when the sweets craving hit, I was ready for it. I decided to make some cranberry orange scones with toasted pecans. It's funny that I even like cranberry orange scones, because as a kid I remember my mom serving them for breakfast one morning and I HATED them. After taking one bite of a scone, I scrunched up my face and refused to eat any more. So, she pulled the typical parent response: "Well you're not leaving the table until you finish your scone." And being the very strong-willed child that I was, I sat there for at least 3 hours until I finally got so bored and frustrated that I stuffed the scone in my mouth (I probably swallowed it whole) and got down from the table. Needless to say she never made those again!
As an adult, however, I'm a huge fan of anything cranberry orange: bread, coffee cake, scones, muffins...I just love the way the citrus compliments the tart cranberries. I found an old Gourmet recipe for cranberry lemon scones and adapted it to create the version below. The key with scones is not to overwork the dough. In this recipe, you pulse the butter into the dry ingredients in a food processor (you could use a fork and knife if you don't have a processor) then transfer everything to a bowl to add the cream and eggs. Combine the ingredients just until everything holds together, then dump the dough onto a floured surface. The dough will be really sticky at first, so flour your hands, and keep sprinkling the dough with flour. You'll shape it into two 8-inch rounds that look like this:
At this point you have a choice: you can either make triangle scones (by cutting each round into 8 triangles) or round ones (by using a floured biscuit-cutter). I actually made round ones out of half the dough, cut the other half in triangles, and froze it for another day. (You can put frozen scones directly in the oven to bake–no thawing necessary!) Arrange your scones on a parchment-lined baking sheet, brush with cream and sprinkle with sugar. After 15 minutes or so, start boiling the water for tea. Because there's no better pairing than a warm scone and a cup of Early Grey.CRANBERRY ORANGE SCONESMakes 20 round scones (or 16 triangle ones)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup fresh cranberries, chopped
1/4 cup chopped pecans (toasted)
1 egg + 1 yolk
1 cup heavy cream + additional for brushing
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line two sheet trays with parchment paper.
Pulse the flour, 3 tablespoons of sugar, baking powder, salt, and zest in a food processor a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles course meal.
Transfer to a large bowl. Toss the cranberries in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Add the sugared cranberries and pecans to the flour mixture, stirring to combine.
In a smaller bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolk, and cream. Add the cream mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
Turn the dough onto a floured surface and sprinkle with additional flour. Knead the dough (it will be sticky!) a couple of times with floured hands. (Do NOT overwork the dough! The less you handle it, the more tender the scones will be.)
Divide the dough into two roughly 8-inch circles (the dough will be about 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick). At this point you can do one of two things:
Option 1: With a sharp knife (dipped in flour), cut each dough circle into 8 triangles.
Option 2: Using a 2-inch biscuit cutter (dipped in flour), stamp out about 7 or 8 rounds into each circle. Roll the scraps together and stamp out additional rounds. You should have about 20 scones.
Place the scones on the parchment lined trays about one inch apart. Brush the tops with a bit of cream and sprinkle with turbinado sugar (if you don't have turbinado sugar, just use regular granulated sugar).
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a pale golden color. Let cool on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.
Serve with butter and jam and a cup of tea!