We made up these little scone bites for the volunteers (ourselves included) at our Monday night walk. We wanted something that would tie in with the Thanksgiving holiday, but slightly different from the standard type treats: pumpkin/sweet potato pies, so we thought that we’d make up a scone with the flavors of cranberry relish. It seemed like a straightforward thing to do.
We based this mainly on our favorite scone recipe, Cheddar Scones, sort of from Bouchon Bakery, by Thomas Keller and Sebastian Rouxel, with modifications coming from the Chocolate Cherry Scones, also in the same book. Like the Chocolate Cherry Scones, this does have to be done over several days, so you’ll need to plan ahead. The basic schedule is one day for steeping, the next for mixing and shaping, then the following day for baking and eating. With that in mind, you have just enough time to get these ready for a Thanksgiving morning treat, so let’s get scratchin’.
Don’t let the long list of ingredients and specific measurements prevent you from making these scones. If you have a scale, it’ll be easy. If you use measuring cups, it’ll be a bit harder, but still doable, so go for it. If you don’t have candied orange peel, just omit. No crème fraîche? Well, until we learned how easy it is to make, we wouldn’t have had any, either. In that case, just replace with more heavy cream.
Procedure in detail:
For the cranberries:
Combine cranberries and peel. In a small heat-proof and non-reactive bowl, mix together cranberries and orange peel pieces.
Make simple syrup. Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the sugar mixture. Add the vanilla bean, too. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then remove from heat. If you can, remove the large pieces of vanilla beans (then you’ll just have to add the cranberries and orange peel); otherwise, strain them out, pouring the liquid over the cranberries and orange peel.
Bring to a simmer. Place the cranberry mixture back into the saucepan and bring back to a simmer. Remove from heat.
Cover and steep. Transfer the cranberries, orange peel, and syrup back to your bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
Drain. The next day, strain off about 1/4 cup of syrup and reserve for making the glaze. Drain the cranberry mixture thoroughly, about an hour.
For the scones:
Sift dry ingredients. Okay, we know you don’t want to break out the sifter; it always seems like just one more thing to do. And we agree, but we break out the sifter for cake flour. It’s lumpy. Just place your sifter in the bowl of a stand mixer, measure the ingredients right into the sifter, and crank away.
Add salt and mix. Toss the teaspoon of kosher salt onto the flour mixture — kosher salt crystals are too large to fit through the sifter screen — onto the flour and attach the bowl to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer on low and mix for about 15 to 20 seconds to incorporate the salt.
Add butter and mix. Turn off the mixer, add the butter pieces, and pulse the mixer to get everything started without flinging flour all over the place. Once it’s started, let the mixer run on low, gradually cutting in the flour, until the mixture looks like a coarse cornmeal, about 3 minutes. If there are any lumps of butter left, break them apart with your fingers.
Add cream and mix. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the heavy cream and crème fraîche. As part of our prep work, we just mix these two together in a small measuring cup. Keep mixing until the dough comes together and forms around the paddle, about a minute.
Add cranberries and mix. Scrape the cranberries and orange peels onto the dough, then pulse the mixture a good 15 to 20 times, or enough times to mix them in fairly uniformly. Don’t mix so long as to break up the cranberries, though.
Shape dough. Turn the dough onto a work surface, and, using your hands and a dough scraper, form the dough into a block about 7×9 inches. The dough might be a bit sticky at this point, but don’t be tempted to add more flour.
Chill dough. Use your dough scraper to lift up the dough and place it on a piece of plastic. Wrap tightly, then place the dough in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. The chilling will make it less sticky, and easier to work.
Cut into scones. If you’re making large scones, cut the dough block in half lengthwise, then cut each rectangle into 6 pieces, making 12 long rectangles. If you want bite-sized pieces, cut each of the rectangles in half, making 24 scones. Place everything on a baking sheet, again wrapping the scones in plastic.
Freeze. Set the scones in the freezer for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight. The next day you can transfer them to a freezer bag for up to a month.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or baking parchment.
Bake. Place the frozen scones on the baking sheets, leaving an inch of space between them. Bake for about 33 to 36 minutes for the large scones, slightly less for the bite-sized scones, or until golden brown.
For the glaze:
Mix. While the scones are baking, whisk together the powdered sugar and 45 g (2 1/2 Tbs) of the reserved syrup. While whisking, slowly add cream. If needed, add more syrup to keep a glaze-like consistency.
Glaze. As soon as the scones are removed from the oven, apply glaze with a pastry brush and let cool completely before serving.
Naturally, we had to test these little scones — well, not so little, actually — before bringing them down to the other volunteers on Monday. We just like to do a quality control check; it never hurts. In this case, we were pretty sure that these would be good; we’d tried all the components in the past. They were light and flaky, the glaze was just sweet enough, not so thin that it stuck to the fingers, and the tartness of the cranberries was a nice complement to the sweetness of the glaze. Worthy of five stars.