Secret Garden Recipe: Buttermilk Cranberry Scones

by Julie Ruble on July 19, 2010 · 32 comments

This post brought to you courtesy of Mike’s laptop. Who knew blogging while lounging around could be so much fun? My poor little computer chair is singing the “Baby Come Back” song from those Swiffer commercials.

Anyway, onto more important things. There’s been a bit of a turning point in my life recently. I’ve had a revelation regarding scones.

See, before I made these scones for my sister’s surprise garden party, I hadn’t really been interested in scones. From the pictures I’d seen, they just looked like dry, boring biscuits. Sometimes they almost appeared to have a biscotti-like texture — and I’m not a biscotti fan. Why bake all the moisture out of something? Some of you are scone enthusiasts, and you’re feeling smug right now, because you know exactly what I discovered when I took my first bite of a Buttermilk Cranberry Lemon Scone:

SCONES ROCK.

How have I missed out on these for so long?! Blog after blog tried to tell me that scones were actually amazing, but I didn’t believe them! Turns out, scones are not dry — they’re fluffy and soft. Scones are not boring — they’re flaky and heavenly. Scones are not flavorless — they’re bright and buttery! It’s like someone crossed a feather-light biscuit with a freakin’ pie crust, and set it on a plate in front of me with some clotted cream! I know I’m using too many exclamation points! I just can’t! help! it! SCONES!

Let me make this clear. (You’re probably thinking, “The 85th exclamation point clarified enough, thanks,” but humor me.) I had buttery, homemade croissants on my plate next to a Buttermilk Cranberry Scone. Those croissants are one of the best things I’ve ever tasted, but . . . I had a hard time deciding if I preferred them . . . or the scone.

The subtle lemon with that buttery, flaky scone texture made each piping hot biscuit a ball of sunshine. Cranberries provided a slightly tart complement, and a nice variation in texture. I tore into a hot scone, slathered it with mascarpone cheese, and devoured. Eat them with butter, orange marmalade, strawberry jam, or nothing at all. Especially if you’ve been skeptical about scones, you just have to give it a shot!

You can make these scones ahead of time, shape them, and freeze them for quick breakfasts throughout the week. They bake straight from the freezer and are lovely every time. Once I tasted one, I regretted not doubling the recipe, so keep that in mind!

How about you? Are you a smug scone lover that knew all along how amazing they are? Or have you been reluctant to try scones as well?

Buttermilk Cranberry Scones



Recipe by: Adapted slightly from Pinch My Salt
Yields: 8 scones

Ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1/3 cup sweetened dried cranberries
2 teaspoons lemon extract
heavy cream (optional, for brushing tops of scones)

Lemon Glaze Ingredients: (optional)
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk or sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt. Add butter chunks and toss lightly with flour; place bowl in fridge.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk, and lemon extract; place bowl in fridge.
4. Get organized: measure out the cranberries; set aside. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat; set aside. Lightly dust a counter top with flour. Pour a little bit of heavy cream in a bowl and have a pastry brush handy.
5. Remove bowls of flour and buttermilk from fridge. Cut butter into flour with a pastry blender or rub together with your fingertips until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add cranberries and stir to combine.
6. Add buttermilk mixture all at once to flour mixture and stir until the mixture clumps together. Dump mixture out onto floured counter top and, with floured hands, gather into a ball and knead once or twice to combine everything. Pat into a circle about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into 8 slices, like a pie, or cut with biscuit or cookie cutters into whatever shape you prefer. Put scones on lined baking sheet and brush lightly with heavy cream (optional). NOTE: At this point, you can refrigerate the scones for up to a week before baking as directed straight from the fridge. Alternatively, you can freeze the scones on a lined baking sheet until solid and then transfer them to a ziplock bag to store in freezer. Do not thaw, but bake as directed straight from the freezer.
7. Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 13-15 minutes until lightly browned. Remove to cooling rack.
8. Once scones are mostly cool, mix ingredients for the glaze. Adjust proportions of sugar and lemon juice for thickness and taste, and then drizzle lightly over each scone.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Joanne July 19, 2010 at 7:46 pm

I was a scone skeptic as well until I tried pumpkin scones from this place called Alice’s Tea Cup here in NYC….and yeah. They were one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. I think scones are just usually done really badly which is why we have these aversions to them. Yours look fabulous.

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MrsDragon July 19, 2010 at 9:35 pm

I agree with Joanne–I think they are usually done poorly. I like scones…done right…but I’ve never baked my own. I’ll have to add them to my list. : )

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Maranda July 19, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Oh I’m totally one of the smug scone lovers! I remember when I was younger and living in Washington State. We would go to the Puyallup fair and I would get the BEST scone with raspberry jam! I think I need to feature that recipe soon. ;-) Great job….these look and sound fantastic. And I’ve never thought of using mascarpone cheese. I’m not a cream cheese person…

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ovenhaven July 20, 2010 at 1:05 am

I may not be smug, but I sure am a huge scones fan! Love baking them as much as eating them :) Though it’s typically for tea, I think I could have them all day round. And yay, another biscotti non-fan!

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Natalie (The Sweets Life) July 20, 2010 at 11:03 am

I’m a huge scone fans, but like you, am a recent convert! We’ve never made ours with buttermilk, I’ll have to try that!

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Hunter July 20, 2010 at 11:26 am

I just found your website and LOVE it. I was looking for Cheese Bread to make for chicken salad sandwiches (made with Parmesan cheese, not grapes). Do you think I could make this bread in loaf pans rather than round? Would they be dense enough to use for tea sandwiches?
I am not only a scone junkie, but jump at every opportunity to have a tea party. I inherited my mother’s tea accoutrements and continue her love of beautiful as well as delicious food.
Keep up the encouraging words!!

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Julie July 20, 2010 at 11:33 am

Hi Hunter! Thanks so much :)

When you ask about the cheese bread, do you mean you’d like to make these scones into savory scones with cheese? They actually hold their own shape like biscuits, and I think baking them in a loaf pan would result in a burned bottom and an unbaked middle. They’re also a bit crumbly for sandwiches.

OR maybe I’m misunderstanding your question entirely and you mean this cheese bread (http://willowbirdbaking.wordpress.com/2009/11/15/fresh-cheese-bread/). It would be lovely for sandwiches, and the author recommends baking it as instructed, cutting it in half horizontally to fill it, and then slicing off thin vertical slices of sandwich. I hope that helps! Your tea party sounds like it will be lovely!!

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Hunter July 20, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Thanks for your reply. I’ve read more of your and it just gets better and better.
Actually, I was referring to the Fresh Cheese Bread and wanted to make it in a loaf pan. Would that work?

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Julie July 20, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Gotcha. I’m actually not sure — the book recommends making sandwiches out of it as described above, and the cheese on top might get stringy and “foxy,” to use the author’s words, before the bread is done. Perhaps if you do that, add the cheese on top later on in the baking time. Let me know if you try it — I’m interested to hear how it works.

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Jenni July 20, 2010 at 11:48 am

Oh, welcome to scone-ville!! Careful, though, not all scones are created equally. All too often I have been excited about a scone I have seen in a bakery window only to find myself pushing a hard crumbly brick around my plate. But when they are good, oh man, they are GOOD! :) I will definitely have to give this recipe a try!

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mary beth July 20, 2010 at 11:11 pm

A ha! It makes total sense you don’t get why people dig biscotti–as far as I can tell it’s purposely a bit stale-seeming on its own, so once soaked in coffee it softens up but doesn’t disintegrate. That is the secret!

I love reading about your personal preferences. I wish more people were willing to put it on the line, their quirks all out there about food. Sometimes it seems like everyone’s a little nervous about not agreeing with everything and everybody in the food world, you know? But I like hearing about the individual differences between one person’s palate and another. (:

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mary beth July 20, 2010 at 11:12 pm

And I can’t agree enough with the other commentators re: scones varying greatly in quality. A bad scone, often found in coffeeshops or groceries, is one of the most “why the heck am I bothering to eat this?!” things ever. So sad!

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Kare July 21, 2010 at 11:55 am

Oh, yum. I bet the lemon glaze sends ‘em over the top.

I’m a scone freak, myself (as in, I love ‘em).

I also love the Swiffer commercials! :)

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Monica H July 24, 2010 at 11:37 pm

Mmm scones. The cranberry and buttermilk in these sound delicious. Top them with a little salted butter and I’m IN!

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Natalie July 30, 2010 at 1:33 pm

I love scones! I am eating one now, in fact.

I saw Mr. P’s scone post shortly after I saw yours and thought you might be interested. http://deliciousdeliciousdelicious.blogspot.com/2010/07/english-scones-and-other-musings.html

I haven’t had traditional English scones, but they look tasty, if not at all like American scones.

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Julie July 30, 2010 at 1:47 pm

He seems to have the opinion I had before I tried this recipe re: “American” scones — wonder if he’s simply never had a good one? :)

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LizzieBee August 3, 2010 at 8:28 am

Not a scone skeptic, but a scone fanatic since I was a kid. Might be because I’m Australian ;-) Mum can whip up a batch of scones in about 5 minutes and have arvo tea on the table in 20, complete with piping hot scones, jam & whipped cream.

BUT! These are English scones. I’ve never made an American scone, and think it weird that there are so many ingredients in them. Like sugar. What the… seriously. There’s no need for sugar in scones! You take the SR flour, add a bit of salt, rub butter in, and cut milk through. TADA – scones. Also, an egg?

Hmmm. Not sure I’m in on how US people make their scones. I like my plain British scones. (And they are plain so you can add things! Like cheese & chives, or spinach (see my blog), or sultanas (which is so popular, but I fail to see the attraction) or dates (which might be nice, and I should check out).

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Julie August 3, 2010 at 10:48 am

All I can say is, I was skeptical too ;)

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Linda Roe October 3, 2010 at 3:39 pm

I just finished devouring TWO of these. They are phenomenal!! I doubled the amount of cranberries called for in the recipe.

Have you had success experimenting with cocoa and chocolate chips??? That’ll be my next baking project : ) after the cheese bread : )

Thanks for posting!!!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking October 3, 2010 at 3:43 pm

SO glad you made them and loved them, Linda!! This is seriously one of my favorite recipes – so delicious!! I haven’t experimented with chocolate chips, but please let me know what you think if you do!

Oh and yes, do make the cheese bread too ;) YUM! Thanks so much for your comment.

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Linda Roe October 3, 2010 at 3:45 pm

AND……Have you Biscotti non-lovers ever taken a Chocolate Espresso Biscotti dunked in a nice Red Wine? Talk about heaven on a tastebud!!!!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking October 3, 2010 at 4:34 pm

I think you’re onto something — I’m not a coffee or wine drinker, so I don’t dip my biscotti. No wonder I don’t love it, right? ;)

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Linda December 25, 2010 at 8:59 pm

Julie – Thanks again for this awesome recipe!

I made these scones again for Christmas morning breakfast…..added a little Chambord to the lemon glaze. Slathered them in mascarpone cheese too. They were so good I think I actually hurt myself ;->

Merry Christmas!!!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking December 25, 2010 at 9:02 pm

SO happy to hear it, Linda!!! How gratifying to know that I could be a part of your family’s Christmas morning :)

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Debra April 5, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Another smug scone lover here! My recipe is almost the same. Instead of buttermilk, I use a low fat cream and I use 1 Tb baking powder, but no baking soda.

I cut up my butter into small cubes and keep it in the freezer just for scone making. To speed things up when making them, I put about half the dry mixture into a food processor with the butter and whirl it just a couple seconds until it looks like course crumbs. Much faster than using a pastry blender.

Nothing like a nice hot scone slathered with butter fresh from the oven. Mmm, my mouth is watering at the thought.

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking April 5, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Smart move with the frozen butter! Love it.

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Gina August 9, 2012 at 3:08 am

Delicious! Thank you~

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April March 23, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Scones are one of my 2 favorite baked things in the whole world!! (Muffins are the other) My ginger chocolate chip ones are my favorite, and I’m adding yours to my list :)
~April

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