There are really few things that make me lose focus as the possibility of a freshly baked batch of luscious scones. Well, as I told you —or rather, warn you— some posts ago, scones needed their own part of the play here on the blog. I was saying that, to loop the loop, classic British scones (Scottish, to be more precise) and American scones, such as these cranberry scones, are not necessarily the same thing, even though they are both halfway between a so-called quick bread and a pastry of sorts.
This is an historical discussion that doesn’t seem to have reached a definite conclusion. But broadly speaking, the differences between one scone and the other lie, chiefly, in the amount of sugar used —comparatively lower in the UK than in the US—, as well as the amount of butter —quite higher in the US than in the UK, sometimes even substituted by shortening, partially or totally, in the first case.
The use of eggs may be another key factor, as they will almost certainly be present in the American version but not in the British one. And there is also the question of the addition of extra ingredients, such as raisins, berries, nuts, chocolate chips, or even cheese, bacon, vegetables, etc. (an addition completely discarded by the more purist advocates of the traditional scone).
What’s more? Shape can also make a difference. American scones are usually cut in wedges to make full use of the dough. However, in the UK, these little buns are generally rounded.
And then there is the way they are served. While classic scones are usually split in half and spread with jam and clotted cream, or butter (one of the reasons why they do not include so much sugar nor butter in the dough), American ones are commonly eaten just as they are or, at times, even frosted (something that would rarely happen with a traditional scone).
In short, after having tasted both versions, I just can deduce that I can’t choose a favourite. Both are a real delight for the palate; the only factor that may make us incline to be in favour of one or another is, perhaps, the occasion. And this particular occasion is perfect for these cranberry scones. And what about you? How do you like your scones?
- ? cup (160 ml) buttermilk, very cold (plus extra for brushing)
- 1 large egg
- 2¾ cups (360 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons orange zest, grated
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (140 g) unsalted butter, very cold and cut into small cubes
- ¾ cup (120 g) dried sweetened cranberries
- 1 cup (115 g) icing or confectioner's sugar, sifted
- 3-4 teaspoons tablespoon (15-20 ml) orange juice
- Preheat oven (electric) to 400°F (200ºC) and line a baking sheet with some parchment paper or a silicone mat. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, stir the egg and buttermilk together and keep refrigerated until further use.
- With your fingertips rub sugar and orange zest.
- Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, orange-flavoured sugar, and salt together in a large bowl until totally combined.
- Drop in the butter and, using your fingers, toss to coat the butter cubes with the flour mixture. Quickly, working with your fingertips, a pastry blender or even two kitchen knives, cut and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is pebbly and crumbly but still small pieces of butter are visible.
- Pour the egg and buttermilk mixture over the sandy crumbs and stir to just bring the dough together. Don't over do it or you’ll have a hard, dense scone.
- Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface to complete bringing it together with your hands. Flatten the dough out and press the cranberries into the dough, folding it over and flattening it out a few times just to incorporate the cranberries evenly. Remember to work quickly, otherwise the dough would warm up and definitely you don't that; it would get harder to handle. If that were the case, do not add any more flour, just refrigerate for a few minutes before continuing.
- Divide the dough in half and pat each part into a rough circle about 7-inches (17.5 cm) across and 1-inch thick.
- Using a large, sharp knife, cut each disc into 6 wedges and place them on the prepared baking sheet, leaving a couple of inches between them. Using a pastry brush, brush the scones with some buttermilk.
- Set the baking sheet to middle position and bake for 20 to 22 minutes until the scones are well risen and lightly browned on top.
- Let cool completely on a cooling rack before glazing or serve warm after 20 minutes if you prefer to skip the glazing part.
- Whisk the icing sugar and orange juice together until smooth and totally combined. Mind you add the juice one teaspoon at a time until desired consistency. If it were too runny or too thick, add respectively more icing sugar or more juice .
- Drizzle over the scones using the whisk or a fork. Let the glaze set for an hour before serving.
The scones are best enjoyed the day they are baked. If stored, keep in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
- Scones can be frozen either after or before baking. In the first case, rebake in a preheated oven (320 degrees F / 160ºC) straight from the freezer for a few minutes. In case you prefer to freeze your scones right before baking, put them in the oven straight from the freezer when you are ready to enjoy your scones and just prolong the baking time for 5 minutes further than in the original recipe or until they are fully risen and golden brown.
- National scone day: May 30th