A warm scone is comforting when the temperature dips and the sky is more gray than not. It gets even better when the scone has fresh cranberries and chocolate. During cranberry season, I sub the fresh version for the dried or jellied kind in my recipes because nothing can compare to the bright, tart berries.
Close relatives of blueberries, lingonberries and cowberries, cranberries can be tested for firmness by their bounce, which explains why they are also referred to as "bounceberries." So get them while they're bouncing.
Scones originate with the culinary fare of Scotland, Ireland and England and are linked to the Welsh tradition of cooking small yeast cakes on bake stones and griddles. Originally, scones were made with oats, shaped into a large round that was cut into wedges. These days, classic scones are made with flour and currants or raisins, and are eaten plain or smeared with clotted cream or preserves. And they certainly are lovely with a cup of tea or coffee any time of day.
This recipe for fresh cranberry chocolate scones is a departure from traditional scones, but one that's sure to please. The red speckled scone is a favorite during the holidays, especially for brunch. It's gorgeous but also a perfect combo of chocolate chunks and tart cranberries — a combo I adore. Eat them plain — no cream, preserves or butter necessary.
One other fact I must mention: Scones are best when freshly baked. The recipe below makes a dozen or 16 wedges. If you want to freeze some to bake later, see the instructions about flash-freezing below.
Fresh Cranberry Chocolate Scones
Fresh cranberries make these scones stand out, although they are also delicious using dried berries. Coarsely chop cranberries — do not over chop by hand or by food processor. It's a nice surprise to the palate to get a chunk of fruit.
Placing the wedges on the baking sheet will yield different results in the scone texture — put them closer together for softer ones or farther apart if you prefer them crustier.
Ingredients and method:
1 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped (or use ½ cup dried and omit the brown sugar)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (or ½ cup dark bittersweet chocolate chips)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 egg, beaten
½ cup heavy cream
1 egg white
Flour for dusting surface
1 tablespoon sugar, for sprinkling
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Coarsely chop the cranberries by hand or use a food processor. In a small bowl, add the cranberries and brown sugar; stir to coat and set them aside. Coarsely chop the chocolate (unless you're using chips) and set it aside.
In a large bowl (or in a food processor), whisk or pulse the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives, until the largest pieces of butter are the size of small peas and the mixture resembles coarse meal. (Transfer to a large bowl if you're using a processor.) Add the cranberries and chocolate.
In a separate small bowl, whisk the egg and mix in the heavy cream. With a fork, add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir them until just combined — barely starting to form a ball. Dump this onto a lightly floured surface and with flour-dusted hands divide it into 2 balls. Lightly pat each into rounds about 1 inch thick, 6 inches in diameter. (Avoid adding extra flour and overworking the dough and your scones will be lighter).
Cut each round into 6 or 8 wedges. Brush them with egg white and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Using a large spatula, carefully transfer the wedges to a baking sheet. For softer sided scones, leave the wedges in a round shape and separate them by ¼ inch (the sides will not be as golden when cooked). For crustier scones, separate the wedges on the baking sheet by 1 ½ inches.
Bake for about 15 to 18 minutes, until the tops of the scones turn lightly golden. Watch carefully to make sure the bottoms do not overcook. Serve fresh from the oven and store in an airtight container.
Freezing unbaked scones: Place cut wedges uncovered on a cookie sheet in the freezer for about 2 hours. Once they are firm, put them in a freezer bag and return them to the freezer. When you're ready to bake, let the frozen scones sit on the kitchen counter uncovered while the oven heats. Place the scones onto a fresh sheet of parchment paper and bake, adding an additional 3 to 5 minutes — watch closely the final few minutes.
Andrea Juarez has additional recipes on her food anthropology blog ForkFingersChopsticks.com.