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Orange-Scented Currant Scones

As far as my family and friends are concerned, this recipe produces scones that are unsurpassed. The biscuit mix has been specifically designed to make scones that are lighter than most with a very tender, slightly cake-like crumb. If you use my timing strategy at the end of this recipe, you’ll see that making scones is truly a snap!

Any time I’ve suggested a tool, a piece of equipment, or a culinary term that’s unfamiliar to you, you can go to Kitchen Management for more information.

For the pre-baking glaze:

  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the scones:

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice (or thawed frozen orange juice concentrate)
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons minced orange zest (the colored part only)
  • 2 cups prepared Baking Powder Biscuit Mix (or see below for single recipe)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small dice
  • 1/2 rounded cup dried (but supple) currants
  • Unbleached all-purpose flour, as needed, for dusting
  • Powdered sugar for dusting or for making a post-baking glaze, optional

1. To set-up: Prepare the glaze: Using a fork, combine the egg, cream, sugar and vanilla. Pour this through a medium-mesh sieve into another bowl and set it aside. Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a flat (not cushioned) cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2. To assemble the scones: Combine the cream, orange juice, egg, vanilla and zest in a 1-cup liquid measuring cup. Whirl the biscuit mix and sugar in the work-bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, to combine well. Add the currants and pulse to distribute evenly. Drop the cold diced butter into the work-bowl and use the pulsing button to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it looks like coarse meal.

Uncover the bowl and pour in most of the liquid ingredients (reserving only about 2 tablespoons) and, after attaching the cover, pulse just until the batter seems cohesive (don’t overwork it). If the mixture seems at all dry, add the remaining liquid and pulse it in. (Scone dough should be moist, but not overly wet. If your dough is uncomfortably wet, just use a bit more flour on your hands and work surface.)

Turn the mass of dough out onto a lightly floured surface and, with lightly floured hands, knead the dough gently, about 8 or 9 times. Use a scraper, when necessary, to help lift the dough off the work surface, if wet in certain areas.

Pat the dough into a 1-inch thick round and transfer it to the prepared baking sheet.

Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut the dough into 6 or 8 wedges. Wipe off the knife, after each cut, and sprinkle the blade with some flour. Repeat this cutting procedure, going into the original lines and, when the blade reaches the bottom, rock the blade (by its handle) back and forth to widen the space in between each wedge. Do this several times, if necessary, until there’s between 1/8 and 1/4-inch between the wide part of each wedge. Of course, this space will be much narrower at the center.

Use a pastry brush to remove any excess flour on the dough, then brush the tops with the prepared glaze. Sprinkle the tops with sugar and bake for 20 minutes.

Then remove the sheet from the oven and, using a clean, sharp chef’s knife, cut in between each wedge, wiping off the blade after each cut. If necessary, go over your cuts until sure that all the wedges are completely separate. One by one, place a narrow metal spatula underneath each wedge and pull it away from the rest, giving them all total exposure to heat.

Place the sheet back into the oven and reduce the temperature to 375°F. Bake for 5 minutes more. Cool the wedges completely, on a rack.

3. To garnish and store scones: Before serving, if desired, give the tops of the scones a light dusting of powdered sugar. Or, to make a glaze, place 2 ½ cups sifted powdered sugar in a bowl and whisk in a couple of tablespoons of water—just enough to make a very thick mixture that falls back on itself in a ribbon, when the whisk is lifted from the bowl. If too thin, add more sugar and if too thick, add a few droplets more of water. Using the whisk, drizzle the glaze whimsically over the tops of the fully cooled scones. Allow the glaze to set for 1 to 3 hours, uncovered. After that, when no longer sticky, the scones can be individually wrapped. Store scones at room temperature, in an airtight container or individually wrapped with plastic wrap.

4. If you don’t have the pre-assembled Baking Powder Biscuit Mix:

For each batch of scones:

  • Mix 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour with
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Whisk well and follow the rest of the recipe

5. Timing is Everything

For fresh-baked scones first thing in the morning:

The night before: Line your baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the biscuit mix and sugar in the bowl of your food processor and leave it there, with the lid on. Place the currants in a bowl, on the counter. Cut the butter into dice and leave it in the refrigerator, covered. Mix the cream, orange juice, zest, egg and the vanilla together and leave it in the refrigerator, covered. Assemble your egg glaze and refrigerate it, covered. Place a few tablespoons of sugar in a little bowl, for sprinkling, and leave it on your counter.

In the morning: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the butter into the dry mixture, mix in the currants, add the wet ingredients, and follow the remaining instructions.

SHOPPING LIST

At-a-Glance Reminder of Ingredients

For the mix:

  • 14 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
For the pre-baking glaze:
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the scones:
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice (or thawed frozen orange juice concentrate)
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons minced orange zest (the colored part only)
  • 2 cups prepared homemade Baking Powder Biscuit Mix (or see ingredients list above)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small dice
  • 1/2 rounded cup dried (but supple) currants
  • Unbleached all-purpose flour, as needed, for dusting
  • Powdered sugar for dusting or for making a post-baking glaze, optional

From the supermarket shelf:

  • 1 10-pound bag, plus 1 5-pound bag unbleached, all purpose flour
  • Granulated sugar
  • Fine table salt
  • Baking powder
  • Vanilla extract
  • Dried currants
  • Powdered sugar

From the refrigerated section:

  • Extra-large eggs
  • Orange juice (only if not using frozen orange juice concentrate)

From the frozen food section:

  • Frozen orange juice concentrate (I prefer this to using orange juice)

From the dairy case:

  • Heavy cream
  • Unsalted butter

From the produce section:

  • Navel orange
Comments (7)

7 Comments »

  1. I really don’t like the taste of orange in my scones and, prefer blueberries over all scone varieties. Could you give workable substitutions for blueberry scones that produce high scones with a good buttery, not dry taste? Would you use fresh blueberries over frozen and, when using fresh, how you keep them from bleeding, sinking or getting squashed in the dough?

    Comment by Cheryl S. — June 4, 2010 @ 12:29 am

  2. Hi, Cheryl. Personally, I would not use fresh blueberries in scones since their delicate texture would suffer when assembling the dough. Dried blueberries, however, would be perfect. You could double the amount of blueberries (to the currants in my scone recipe)then plump half of them in some hot water (or better, heated blueberry juice!) and, after allowing them to become supple (10 minutes), drain and add them to the cream. Add the rest of the dried blueberries as you would when adding the currants. Instead of the orange juice concentrate, whirl some fresh or frozen blueberries in your food processor until smooth, and use this in exchange. I would suggest adding a bit of minced lemon zest–instead of orange, to the cream perk up the taste (lemon and blueberry is a good combination). Hope this helps! Let me know. LG

    Comment by Lauren — June 4, 2010 @ 3:57 pm

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