It feels like I’ve been around scones forever, but for years I only read about them, in lacy novels and high-tea books, and did not actually taste one until I was twenty-two. That’s when I went to work for a very gourmet food shop. I was answering phones and typing menus, but I did it two steps from a busy kitchen door, and when that door swung open toward my desk, I caught the scent of another world. When I was not confirming the luncheon for trophy wives, I began to sneak small bites: salty prosciutto and runny brie, streaky pancetta and crisp French green beans, currant butter and fresh-baked scones - melting sugar that was never too sweet, glorious buttery bread that oh my god was not bread at all.
I stopped going out for subs and started lunching at my desk, making crumbly sandwiches from currant scones, prosciutto and cheese, munching them on napkins between sips of Orangina. Scones were a very old idea that to me, felt gloriously new. I was hooked.
Now scones are an everyday thing – more exotic than a biscuit, more homey than cake, and always utterly delicious. We did not invent them, but there they are in our coffee shops, our groceries, our airports and home kitchens. Are they ours? The British would hmph and the Scots would say they are not even scones, but what of it? If you are pulling a fragrant tray of them from the oven, arguments disappear (and the scones do too).
I should tell you that the gourmet shop fired me – there’s a story behind that story – and I had never been fired before, or since, and when that swinging door kicked me it broke my hungry heart. But it also pushed me into the kitchen for good, and eventually I would spin that first taste into a business called Scone on the Range.
Eh, now I’m all worked up. Let’s make some scones.
Scones aren’t a perfect science, so don’t fret about all the steps – after a few rounds of mixing, cutting and eating, it’s like riding a bike. A warm, buttered bike.
We’re making Orange Chocolate Chip Scones, and to get them truly orang-ey, we need orange zest.
You can finely chop thin strips of orange peel, or use a fine-holed cheese grater, or spend an hour struggling with a traditional zester. But if you really love orange (and lemon, and lime) zest, I urge you to invest in a Microplaner. It is a most heavenly and efficient tool.
Whisk together the eggs, heavy cream and vanilla.
Mm. I’m thinking eggnog.
Put the dry ingredients (except the sugar) in a mixer bowl, and add the cubed butter. Yes, you can make perfectly good scones without a stand mixer – but this leaves me one hand to push Cleo off the counter.
Cutting in Butter Like biscuits, you want the butter to disappear into the flour. Here, we do it by running the mixer on low – and I mean low, or it’s hello, white volcano - until the butter is reduced to large floury crumbs.
Grab those lovely whisked eggs. With the mixer on low, slowly pour in the liquid…
…turning the mixer on and off, on and off, like the ‘pulsing’ of a food processor.
Before the dough comes together, add the sugar, chocolate chips, and orange zest.
Keep mixing on low, on and off, until it just comes together…
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Using floured hands or a bench scraper – a metal pancake turner works, too – turn it over a few times, pressing lightly but not kneading, until it just comes together, soft, thick, and smooth.
Beware of lurking labs. They are a scone’s natural predator.
Pat dough 1/2″ to 1″ thick (thicker = higher, but fewer scones) and cut as desired. You can cut wedges or use a floured cookie cutter to stamp out rounds. Below, I’ve cut fluted triangles…
…because tall wavy edges make me happy. Can you spot the lucky butter chunk?
For a ‘browner’ scone, brush lightly with cream or milk. Then sprinkle the remaining sugar in a thick layer over the tops. See that imperfect scone in the corner? That’s for Josie. She can spot an earmarked leftover blob a mile away.
It’s the homeliest, the tastiest, and the first one gone.
Scone on the Range Scones, Orange Chocolate Chip
(click here for a printable recipe)
makes about 1 dozen large scones
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
6 oz. cold butter, cubed (12 tablespoons)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
finely grated zest of one orange
extra sugar for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt in large mixing bowl or stand mixer bowl.
Cut in butter. You can do this one of two ways:
Electric stand mixer With the flour mixture in the stand mixer bowl and the paddle blade attached, turn on the slowest speed and slowly add butter chunks, mixing to a coarse meal texture, with only a few remaining large flour-butter crumbs.
By hand Using a sharp-bladed pastry cutter tool, or two knives, “cut” the butter pieces into the flour mixture until you have a coarse meal texture.
In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, and vanilla.
Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients by hand or with stand mixer on low, using “on-off” mixing. Stop just long enough to add sugar, chocolate chips, and orange zest, then continue mixing briefly to form a soft and sticky dough. Scrape dough onto lightly floured surface and turn over a few times to combine, adding flour if necessary.
Form scones You can divide dough in half, form each piece to a 1″ thick round, and cut into equal wedges, or you can pat to 1″ thick and use floured cutters for rounds or triangles.
Transfer scones to cookie sheet pan, preferably lined with parchment paper.
If desired, brush the top of each scone with a small amount of milk or cream. Sprinkle the extra white sugar thickly over tops. Bake 15-18 minutes, or until set and tops are golden brown. Cool on baking sheet a few minutes, then transfer to racks, and serve.