‘Tis the season….Holiday Scones

The holidays are upon us and, with them, the cold chill of winter’s breath. It is time for sweaters, wool socks, a fire in the fireplace and, of course, warm weekend breakfasts, the kind that fill the house with welcome aromas and warm comfort.

Maybe it’s a sweet potato hash with candied bacon and caramelized shallots, or warm maple syrup poured over butter-soaked pancakes. No matter what it is, I bet you can picture the aroma-induced anticipation that takes the senses and creates a craving for the very first bite. For me, that comfort comes in the form of a flakey buttery triangle of layered, softly sweet lusciousness called a scone.

I first discovered my deep love for the scone’s sweet bounty when I lived and worked in Skagway, Alaska. It was the summer of 1996, and having worked as a chef for several years already, I had decided that I wanted to spend that summer honing my baking skills. I took a job working at Mable’s Coffee Shop, baking morning pastries, scones, muffins and cookies along with loaves of hardy bread. I was baker by morning, tour guide by day, and chef in the evening.

With the extra-long days of Alaska summers, the object was to work often, work hard, and finish the season with plenty of money in the bank. That summer the goal was also to learn to bake great quick breads and treats. And in my quest to learn to bake, the scone became one of my greatest joys.

I loved that with a single recipe I could make an endless amount of deliciously diverse products. Today blueberries,  tomorrow currents, maybe even a bacon egg and cheese scone for a savory twist. That love still rests in my soul waiting for the first chill to wake my bones, and with the first donning of a sweater for me comes the urge to bake.

Baking is by no means an activity that should be dependent on a season for its practice, but for me it is my winter comfort. The recipe I have put together here is the same recipe I have used since that chilly Alaskan summer so many years ago. – Steve Sommers, Executive Chef of the Culinary Adventure Cooking School.

HOLIDAY SCONES

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup very cold unsalted butter (I like to place my butter in the freezer 15 minutes before beginning to ensure it is cold.)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup Fischer & Wieser’s Bourbon Cranberry Preserves
Additional heavy cream for brushing over scones optional
Additional sugar for sprinkling over scones optional

Preheat your oven to 375F (190C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the basin of a food processor and pulse to combine.

Cut butter into tablespoon-sized pieces and scatter over flour mixture, pulsing until butter is cut up into the flour mixture and butter pieces are no longer visible. Combine the heavy cream, vanilla extract and preserves in a measuring cup and pour over flour mixture.

Pulse until dough begins to clump together. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and (handling lightly, as you don’t want to over-work this dough) add any add-ins (dried fruit) at this point, gently working them into the dough.  Fold the dough in half over itself and use your hands to gently flatten layers together. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and fold in half again, repeating this step 5 times and taking care to not overwork the dough.

Form the dough into a smooth disk about 1″ thick by 6″ round. Cut the disk into 8 wedges, pressing the knife straight down with each cut. Transfer wedges to prepared baking sheet and place about 2″ apart. Brush lightly with heavy cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake on 375F (190C) for 14-16 minutes or until edges are just beginning to turn golden brown. Don’t over-bake your scones or they will be dry and tough. Allow scones to cool on baking sheet before serving and enjoying!


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