Friday 9 December 2011

Orange and Currant Scones

When I have house guests, Christmas breakfast is always something of a conundrum for me:  I want to feed my guests something nice but I also know that we’re going to be eating all day long.  Whatever I offer mu guests shouldn’t be too heavy and it shouldn’t pull them (or me) away from visiting for too long a time.

Over the years I’ve found that the best Christmas breakfasts are those that offer a variety of choices, both sweet and savoury, can be mostly prepared ahead of time, and can be served buffet style.  My guests like to serve themselves, and to have a  number of dishes from which to choose.  With that in mind, I often offer a sweet scone served with a choice of jam or honey, a savoury biscuit served with pepper jam, scrambled eggs or a frittata, fruit salad, and yogurt. 

This menu works for me because, with the exception of the eggs, it can all be prepared ahead of time.  Scones can be baked weeks in advance and then frozen.  If I take them out of the freezer before going to bed on Christmas Eve, all I have to do is pop them in the oven for a few minutes to warm them.

One of my favourite sweet scones is flavoured with orange zest and juice, and studded with currants.  It’s an easy recipe to make and oranges are quite affordable at this time of year.

To make Orange and Currant Scones, you’ll need:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup cold butter, cut into Tablespoon sized pieces
  • 3/4 cup currants
  • The zest of one orange
  • The juice of one orange, squeezed into a measuring cup (Squeeze it above a strainer if the orange is not seedless.)
  • Approximately 1 cup milk
  • Sugar for dusting the top of the scones 

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour , sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add the currants and orange zest.  Stir to mix them through the flour.

Add the butter to the flour mixture.  Rub the butter between your thumb and fingers to break it down into cornflake-sized pieces. Using your fingers, toss the flour mixture lightly to distribute the butter throughout.

Add the orange zest and currants to the dry mixture and toss again, ensuring that they're distributed throughout and that the currants are lightly coated with flour.

Add enough milk to the orange juice to make 1 cup of liquid in total.  The milk will curdle.  That’s fine. 

Form a well in the center of the flour and add the milk mixture all at once.  Stir the mixture with a fork until the liquid is completely incorporated into the dough.  You may need to work it a bit with your hands to get it to hold together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and roll or pat it out to about an inch thick,  Use a cookie cutter or a glass to cut out individual scones and transfer them to parchment lined baking sheets.  You can gather the scraps and re-roll them but don’t do this more than once.  Overworking the dough will break down the butter too much, resulting in tough, heavy scones. 

I form the dough scraps into a free form scone that I bake with the others.  I have this roughly shaped scone for my lunch.  I call it my "baker's bonus."

Once the scones are on baking sheets, brush the tops with a little milk and sprinkle them quite liberally with sugar.  The sugar will form a sweet, slightly crunchy crust as the scones bake.

I decided this time that I would make cute little scones, going for a "small but tall" look. As you can see, that didn't work out so well for me.  Some of the scones rose unexpectedly high and toppled right over.  Others took on a definite lean.  Next time I'll use my 3-inch biscuit cutter.  I've had good results with it in the past.

Bake the scones at 400˚F for about 12 minutes, until the tops are light brown.  If you are not serving them immediately, store them in an airtight container.  To reheat them, put them in a single layer on a baking sheet and cover them with foil.  Place in a 350˚F oven for 5 to 10 minutes.

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