when i want a little something with my morning cup of tea, but don’t want to fuss, i turn to the noble scone. it’s simple. unassuming, yet satisfying. exactly what i would serve my friend Alex from the U.K., should he pop across the pond for an impromptu visit.
thought to have originated in Scotland, scones are made much like down-home southern biscuits. light and flaky wonders, scones are easy to whip up, and flavorings—like dried fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, culinary lavender, zests and cheeses—provide sweet and savory diversity. as one might imagine, scones can become quite addictive. and so it was at our home in the Colorado mountains.
when we’d grab a scone at a local bakery or coffee shop, they were nearly always overcooked: light brown on the outside and dry as Death Valley in July on the inside. gosh, we have to be able to do a better job than this at home. and, indeed, mastering how to make a very presentable, deliciously edible scone didn’t take long. treat the dough like a pie crust or a biscuit: mix it by hand, don’t overwork it, don’t overcook it.
soon, donning my headset, i was on early-morning conference calls with my east-coast team, passionately discussing creative projects—and banging out scones in the background. putting my little handset on mute, i’d ask my partner, what flavor do you want today? the breakfast scone-making practice went on for quite some time. i never got tired of making them. but my partner got tired of eating them. and frankly, so did i. perhaps it was too much of that good thing.
we took a break from scones. and i began to make them more judiciously. there’s a lot of great advice about scones and their nuances at joy of baking. by applying baking common sense, you can make them in a heartbeat. your friends and family will be duly impressed by your skill and civility—especially if you remember the Earl Grey.
the recipe here delivers a scone that’s flaky, but has depth/density. i add just a bit more sugar to give a hint of sweetness and to balance the tart cherries and lemon. apply your own true north to the flavorings; the combinations are endless!
Tart Dried Cherry and Lemon Scones
a variation on a recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 heaping tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup tart dried cherries
the zest of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup whipping cream, plus one tablespoon
1/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
for icing (optional)
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- preheat oven to 425F; lightly butter a sheet plan; or cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. (i actually bake mine scones at 375F.)
- in a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.
- cut in the butter, until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. (i like to leave in a few pea-sized pieces of butter.)
- add the cherries and lemon zest.
- in a small bowl, combine the eggs, cream and vanilla.
- add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients.
- turn the dough onto a floured surface, and lightly knead, 8 – 10 times.
- pat or roll the dough into a circle about 1/4-inch thick.
- cut into wedges or use a biscuit cutter to make rounds.
- brush the tops of the scones with the tablespoon of cream. (if you don’t add the icing, you may want to sprinkle the tops with sugar.)
- bake about 15 minutes, until lightly golden.
- cool slightly on wire rack.
- combine the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl.
- drizzle icing over warm scones, and serve!