Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cherry Almond Scones

I’ve wanted to try a dried cherry and almond version of these Cranberry Orange Oatmeal Scones since I bombed an attempt to make them with fresh cherries last summer. I’m happy to say that using the delicious dried cherries I picked up on a mini vacation to Door County, WI last year was a much better idea. Besides, dried cherries are available year-round making them a better choice for out of season baking.

My original idea was to talk about making a basic scone recipe that I could vary as I chose, but, then, I realized that if I’m really working on such a thing, I’ve been working backwards. To have such a narrative make any sense at all, I should start with basic cream or buttermilk scones and show you how adding this or that has made my life wonderful. I didn’t do that. I made the Cranberry Orange Oatmeal Scones two years ago because they looked good. Then I decided to make a cherry-almond version without the oatmeal. Not a particularly fascinating story.

These scones are good, though. Dried cherries and chopped almonds are a delicious combination and I enhanced their shared performance with some almond extract, too. The scones are a bit softer than the oatmeal version, simply because I used all-purpose flour without, she said guiltily, any whole grain additions. The buttermilk contributes to this fluffiness as well.

These scones are not very sweet on their own, but I drizzled a bit of a buttermilk glaze over them. I think I’ve become obsessed with glaze since making this cake, and just couldn’t go without it. You, of course, don’t need to use it and could sprinkle some coarse sugar over the scones before baking for a bit of enhancement, or go without the additional sweetness altogether.

I cut these tea-time treats into heart shapes (aaawww…) with a cookie cutter. Actually with two different cookie cutters making some 3-inch and some 2-inch hearts for Valentine’s Day. You can cut them into whatever shape you want, although baking time might vary if you make them much larger or smaller than I have here. For me, I find them good enough that I should have made them even smaller, so I could have several at a time without quite so much calorie guilt.

Cherry Almond Scones
Both the glaze and the coarse sugar sprinkle are optional for these scones. Feel free to swap in other dried fruit and nuts to suit your taste.

for the scones:
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon fine salt
½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
½ cup chopped almonds
½ cup buttermilk
½ teaspoon almond extract
½ cup dried cherries
Coarse sugar for sprinkling, optional (do not use if using the glaze)

for the optional glaze:
½ cup sifted powdered sugar
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/8 teaspoon almond extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pulse a few times to combine well.

3. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is distributed in pea-size lumps. Add the almonds and pulse just until they are evenly distributed.

4. Add the buttermilk and almond extract and process just until the dough starts to come together. Add the cherries and pulse a few times to distribute them.

5. Turn out the dough on a floured surface. Gently knead the dough to bring it together. Form the dough into a disc about 1inch thick. Cut out the dough with 3-inch or 2-inch heart-shaped cookie cutters (I made some of each) or cut the dough into 8 to 12 circles, squares, or triangles if you prefer.

6. Transfer the cut dough to the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse sugar if desired and you are not planning to glaze the baked scones. Bake at 350 F for 20-25minutes or until the scones are gently brown on top and golden brown on the bottom. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

7. Cool the scones completely, if not using the glaze, or enjoy them slightly warm. If using the optional glaze, set the cooling rack with the scones on top of a baking sheet or a sheet of parchment paper. Cool until they are just warm to the touch.

8. To make the glaze, place the powdered sugar in a small bowl. Whisk in the 2 tablespoons buttermilk and ¼ teaspoon almond extract. Spoon or brush evenly over slightly warm scones. You should have just enough glaze to pour about a teaspoon over each scone. Allow to cool long enough for the glaze to set. The glaze will remain slightly sticky.

Makes about 12 three-inch heart-shaped scones.

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