Scones for Afternoon Tea – Cranberry Scones with Orange Honey Butter

Have you ever tasted something new, scrunched your face and immediately decided that you do not like it? It has been said that we need taste something three times before making that decision. I would add that we should try the dish at different places as well…and if possible in different countries.

I used to not like scones. No wonder you eat them with tea, the dry crumbly pastry would leave me parched. Or so I thought. That is, until many years ago when my friends and I made a three-day whirlwind trip across the Atlantic to visit London. We were in Great Britain; home of the royal family, Cadbury Flakes, and afternoon tea.

We milled about Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guards, and ogled the sparkling crown jewels at the Tower of London. My friend Yin-Jen and I stopped at every candy stand and bought every chocolate that was not available back home. This was years before they started selling British chocolates in New York (you can now get your fix at The London Candy Company which has every chocolate bar imaginable). Her husband Ray stared in disbelief as we scarfed down about 20 pounds of chocolate in a span of 48 hours. Unfortunately, the “not for girls” Yorkie chocolate bar was disappointingly plain. I have a feeling that Nestle labeled it “not for girls” to shrewdly target women. However, I did enjoy many other chocolates including airy Flakes, the crisp honeycomb filled Crunchie, and Picnic bars filled with chewy nougat and crisp rice.

Other than a nice cup of black tea with milk and sugar, I always associate afternoon tea with scones. And so I found myself trying scones in London, despite my preconceptions. I am so glad that I did! The tender, slightly sweetened, cake-like pastry was nothing like what I had tried back home. Along with thick, decadent clotted cream, scones became a new favorite. The challenge was how to get this when I lived in a different continent. Similar to Guinness Cupcakes and Beet Ravioli with Poppy Seed Butter, I always figure that I can enjoy a dish any time and anywhere if I figure out how to make it.

My challenge was to figure out how to create the tender, cake-like texture. I tried a number of approaches such as including an egg in the batter to create a cakey texture. I could taste the egg, which did not quite work for a cranberry scone. However, my friend Jason loved the test batch with the egg so I will use that for a savory scone in the future. In another test batch, I used buttermilk to make the scones tender. I never thought there could be such a thing as “too tender,” but it was. After many test batches I ended up coating the flour with the butter, which is a technique that I sometimes use to create tender cakes. The butter/flour mixture should be crumbly instead of “pea-sized” since the goal here is a tender crumb and not a flaky crust.

Cranberries and orange go perfectly together like blueberry and lemon. (Try my Mascarpone Panna Cotta with Cranberry Orange Compote.) I considered adding orange zest to the cranberry scones, but thought it would be more elegant to serve the orange as a spread for afternoon tea. Clotted cream is available at specialty stores, or if you have the time you could make it at home. Stephanie (a.k.a. Wasabimon) recently wrote about how to make clotted cream using a double boiler or on the stove top. Homemade clotted cream is definitely something to write home about! Just make sure you use unpasteurized cream. Since it may be difficult to get a hold of unpasteurized dairy, try to stick to ones that are only lightly pasteurized (not ultra pasteurized).

But the goal is to be able to have these scrumptious scones any time and anywhere…so I thought a quick and easy homemade spread would be perfect. Oranges, honey and butter are fairly accessible (for the Philippines I will have to see how cranberries pair with calamansi).

I made this for my friend Jo-Ann’s bridal shower, and had the pleasure of demonstrating this recipe at Williams-Sonoma. I used their mini scone pan to create perfectly shaped triangles. Lisa at Chambre de Sucre spruced up my demonstration display with their handmade sugars from Japan, and generously provided a box of sugars to a lucky attendee.

Some people eat to live, others live to eat. I on the other hand, travel to eat. Recreating food that I had on my trips is a wonderful way to collect souvenirs without paying the extra baggage fees.

Cranberry Scones with Orange Honey Butter

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) of butter, softened plus 1 tablespoon butter for greasing the pan
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Orange Honey Butter
1 stick butter, softened
zest of 1 orange
2 teaspoons orange juice
2 teaspoons honey, preferrably a high-quality flowery honey
pinch salt

Cranberry Scones

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Grease the scone pan with the extra butter.
In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Using an electric mixer on low, mix the dry ingredients until well blended, about 1 minute. (You could also mix the dry ingredients by hand using a whisk to prevent flour from flying all over your counters.)

Add the butter to the flour mixture and mix on medium-low using the electric mixer until it looks like coarse sand, about 2 minutes. (We want a fine tender crumb and not a flakey pie crust, so the butter needs to be much smaller than the size of small peas. We are coating the flour with the fat in order to prevent gluten formation later on.)

Add the heavy cream and mix briefly on medium-low until the dough is smooth, about 30 seconds. The dough will be wet. Add the cranberries and mix on low just until the cranberries are evenly distributed, about 15 seconds.
Scoop the dough into the individual wells in the scone pan. I like to use an ice cream scooper. Wet your fingers with water and pat out the dough into all of the corners. Continue wetting your fingers when they start to get sticky. The dough should fill each well halfway.

Bake the scones for approximately 18 minutes until it is a pale golden color. Remove the pan from the oven and let the scones cool in the pan for 15 – 20 minutes. Run a pairing knife or small spatula around each scone, and remove by inverting and tapping the bottom of the pan.

Serve each scone with a pat of Orange Honey Butter.

Orange Honey Butter

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl until well blended. Can be served as-is in small cups. Can also be rolled in wax or parchment paper and refrigerated, then sliced. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

Hazel Sy
August 2011

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