October 24, 2009

Scones and breakfast

It's the season for scones, scones made with spices and dried fruits, or whatever you please. Of course, I bake scones throughout the year, but when the weather changes for cooler temperatures through the fall and winter, the inclination to bake more often hits. And, with this increased inclination comes the desire to create, to play around with flavor combinations, and to indulge in all ingredients particular to the season and holidays to come.

These scones are easy to pull together. So easy, and quick, that I ended up baking two batches in one day, first for breakfast, then later on with butternut squash soup for dinner, because they were that good. It's a versatile recipe, too. It's the base of a lemon scone recipe that I make all the time, greatly adapted from an old recipe I found online some years ago. A couple of weeks ago, I had a request for scones with spices or raisins or something of the sort, and I thought, why not just take the lemon out of my lemon scones, add some cinnamon, a little nutmeg, and dried cranberries, and see how they turn out. Obviously, they turned out excellent, because they were requested again the same day. I'm sure I'll be baking several batches of these scones over the next few months, or similar variations, maybe with different spices or dried cherries or pecans or walnuts.

The base of the scones is what makes them so good as well as versatile. They're fluffy and light in the center, with a somewhat dry texture, but not stale, just as scones should be. I attribute yogurt to this success. Something about yogurt adds to the texture, the moisture level, and the airy quality, although one scone is pretty filling. It's about the balance of ingredients, too, because if a little too much yogurt or extra milk is added, the scones will turn out lumpy and heavy in the middle due to the excess moisture.

Once baked, cool the scones for a few minutes, then eat to your heart's content, because they're best warm out of the oven, especially with tea for breakfast. I prefer my scones sliced in half slathered with a little butter, but these ones are good enough to eat on their own, with that subtle touch of cinnamon and tang of chewy dried cranberries adding a lot of flavor. If you have any left over, they're still pretty decent for munching on the next morning, but they'll begin go stale over a couple of days, so it's best to eat them up quickly.

Cranberry Cinnamon Scones
Inspired by Bon App├ętit, November 1997

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
5 Tbsp salted butter, chilled, cubed
⅔ cup plain whole milk yogurt
2 - 3 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
¼ cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 400° F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cut in butter with a pastry blender (or a couple of knives) until it resembles moist crumbs. Make a well in center of flour mixture, then add yogurt, 2 tablespoons milk, and vanilla.

Stir together with a wooden spoon until dough forms, adding one more tablespoon of milk if dough is dry. Mix in cranberries just at the end.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead a few turns until dough is smooth, adding a little more flour if dough is sticky. Flatten dough into a round and cut into 6 wedges. For slightly smaller scones, cut into 8 wedges.

Place scones on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until lightly golden, about 18 minutes. If you've made smaller scones, bake for about 15 minutes. Transfer scones immediately to a wire rack to cool for a few minutes, then place in a towel lined basket to keep warm. Serve with butter.

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