Sunday, January 6, 2008
Cranberry Walnut Scones
I got some more cranberries at the store yesterday, and from the looks of that sorry bag, cranberry season is almost over. Hopefully I will be able to find a bag of two next weekend that I can vacuum seal and put in the freezer, otherwise, cranberry baking will have to wait until next fall.
I love scones, I love cranberries, I love my pastry queen books, therefore this recipe was a no-brainer for me to try. Like all scone and biscuit recipes the key is to work the dough as little as possible and keep the butter as cold as possible. Overworking the dough develops the gluten in the flour and that can create a tough, chewy scone. Plus, you want cold, solid chunks of butter in the dough so that they will melt as the scones bake, helping create a flaky texture.
A lot of people find scones or biscuits difficult, but I have rarely had problems with them (the Martha Stewart recipe was an exception, but then again, I think most bakers have a problem with her book...) These scones came out of the oven rather gimpy looking. The bottoms of the scones had spread out, while the tops stayed mostly in place, leaving very strange, and distorted scones. Instead of the nice puffy triangles I expected, I got flat, kind of lumpy messes. Very strange indeed.
Despite their appearance, the scones actually tasted pretty good. The texture was still light and fluffy, and the cranberries were very tart against the only slightly sweet scone background. The toasted walnut added a nice crunch and another depth of flavor. I'm not sure why they flattened out like that, but I will definitely have to make them again to see if it's the recipe, or just something going on with my ingredients or oven today.
1/2 cup walnuts
4 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cups granulated sugar
2 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into tbsp size pieces
2 1/2 cups cold heavy whipping cream
2 cups fresh cranberries or sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 cup course natural sugar for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 350. Arrange the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and toast them for 5-7 minutes (book say 7-9 but I always burn them if I leave them in that long) until golden brown and aromatic. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Coarsely chop the walnuts.
Increase the oven temp to 425. In a large bowl, combine the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. Use your hands or a pastry cutter to incorporate the butter into the flour mixture until it is crumbly and contains lumps the size of small peas. Add half of the cream and lightly stir it into the flour mixture. Add the remaining cream and stir until just mixed. Do not overwork the dough.
Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and gently knead in the cranberries and walnuts, handling the dough as little as possible. Form the dough into a 3/4 inch thick rectangle. Cut the dough into 6 even squares, then cut each square on the diagonal to make triangle-shaped scones. Top each scone with a sprinkling of coarse sugar. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, until a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to wire racks. Serve warm or at room temp.