Friday, November 29, 2013

Orange-dark chocolate-vanilla bean scones (aka, my first scones)

It's the morning after Thanksgiving!  I hope you had a great one.  We had a relaxing day, filled with plenty of good eats and time sitting around the table chatting and laughing.  It doesn't get much better than that.  I have to tell you that my humble little ice cream pie was a huge hit with the little ones!  Oh my goodness - it made me look like a rock star!  It just goes to show that one should never under-estimate the power of ice cream!  I think the kiddies will expect an ice cream pie every Thanksgiving from now on and that's okay with me.  Now...this morning, I may or may not be joining the crowds for a little Black Friday shopping.  I do not enjoy crowds or shopping (for the most part) but I might not be able to resist hopping into a few places.  So for now, I'll leave you with this little story about some scones I made recently...

It's hard to believe but these are my first scones.  As in first time baking and first time consciously eating them.  This sounds harsh (and admittedly a little ignorant) but I always vaguely thought of scones as dry, hard, biscuit-like lumps that I wouldn't like.  It doesn't help that my husband, who's usually quite laid-back and game for anything, tells me repeatedly that he doesn't like scones.  He's had a few bad experiences - times when he bought them at work - that's scarred him.
Breakfast time!  Orange-chocolate-vanilla bean scones with hot chocolate
Well, I finally made scones.  I've been curious about them for a long time because I have a friend who loves them and that fascinated me.  Someone loves scones!  And now that I've widened my horizons, cooked and tasted more, I know that there's possibility and magic in every food.  Sometimes you just have to find the right recipe for you.

There's a happy ending to this story.  These scones I made turned out truly terrific!  I've even converted my husband, who was surprised by how good they were.  He kept telling me, "you don't understand...I hate scones."  Well, no one hates scones in my house anymore.  The little one was a big fan, too, and we all devoured these with some hot chocolate for a recent Sunday breakfast.
I know my scones are not much to look at.  To be honest, I didn't put a lot of effort into making them neat and pretty since I didn't have very high expectations.  I also made these in a hurry first thing in the morning since I wanted to serve them fresh for breakfast.  I kind of like the rustic look and, even more so, the surprising good taste!

So for my first scones, I clearly played it safe.  It's no secret I love chocolate so I wanted to make scones with chocolate.  I love orange and chocolate together so I searched around and low and behold, the uber-cool Joy the Baker had just what I was looking for.  Better still, her recipe was on a small scale, perfect for my family.  The wonderful thing that got me thinking about scones recently is learning that I can freeze them.  The freezer is a very close friend of mine these days.  I love stocking all kinds of food in there and making life easier later on.  This recipe makes 6 (smallish) scones - we ate three right away and froze the others.  Those were happily devoured a week later and I now have yet another batch stashed in the freezer.  That's how much we like them!

I made a few tweaks to Joy's orange-dark chocolate buttermilk scones recipe.  I used to always follow recipes verbatim but now I take a more relaxed approach to cooking and baking, for the most part.  In this case, I added the vanilla beans.  I think I was thinking about those petite vanilla bean scones I see all the time at Starbucks.  Plus, I happen to have a stash of vanilla beans in my pantry. I substituted some of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour, and I also went ahead and took a little extra buttermilk to brush over the tops of the scones and sprinkled a touch of turbinado sugar over that.  I don't think my tweaks changed things all that much...I'm just happy the end result was so tasty!
Like a flaky, sweet biscuit - full of orange flavor and dark chocolate chips
I realized two things from this baking experience: 1) zest makes everything better, and 2) scones should be eaten fresh from the oven!  The orange zest really makes these - I think it even out-shines the chocolate, although no one's complaining about that.  And I can't help but think that many of us don't like scones when we don't get them fresh.  From the oven - just cooled to about room temperature - they really are like a sweet biscuit, with a great flaky, slightly-crisp-along-the-edges, just-moist-enough, texture.  

It doesn't happen very often but once in a while, I run out in the morning to grab chocolate croissants for a weekend breakfast. These scones are a great alternative to that and with a batch stowed away in the freezer ready to be baked anytime, I don't think I'll feel the urge to go on many more croissant runs.


Turns out, scones are easy to make! Who knew because I think the idea of them (like making pie dough) used to intimidate me.  You can practically make the dough and bake the scones off to order. The best thing is that ingredients needs to be cold so it's perfect for early morning baking when you don't have to worry about bringing ingredients to room temperature!

Like many biscuit recipes, you start with cutting some chunks of butter into the flour.  I got a chance to exercise my infrequently-used pastry cutter!  I started with that, then switched to my fingers to get the pieces incorporated into the dry ingredients.  When zesting, I like to do it right over the bowl so I don't lose any of the natural oils and essence.  I used the zest from a large orange.  I don't pay too close attention to how much zest I use; I don't think you can ever have too much.  (I thought about going further by chopping up a bar of orange-flavored chocolate for these scones.  I'm very partial to this bar by Theo.  I'm glad I saved my chocolate bar for snacking, though, because the zest does the trick and perfumes the scones with plenty of orange flavor.)  Over breakfast, my son told me he was saving his hot chocolate to drink after the scones so it wouldn't take away from the orange flavor.

For the vanilla portion, I scraped the seeds of half a vanilla bean into the buttermilk and egg yolk. Next time, I think I'd be more generous and use a whole pod.  My finished dough was a bit dry but a little bit of kneading pulls it together enough.  I was a little concerned that it wasn't more moist but I talked myself into thinking that biscuit dough tends to be that way (I think...) so I didn't stress over it.

Now, these are buttermilk scones and I'm now curious about cream scones.  If anyone wants to share their thoughts on how the two compare, I'd love to hear it!   
I can now officially say that I'm craving scones!  Now that's something I never thought I'd say!


Recipe:

Orange-Dark Chocolate-Vanilla Bean Scones
Adapted from Joy the Baker's orange-dark chocolate buttermilk scones recipe

- Makes 6 (smallish) scones - 

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or substitute with more all-purpose)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Zest of one orange
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold buttermilk
Seeds from half (or up to one whole) vanilla bean
1/2 cup (3 oz.) dark chocolate chips  
Optional: Additional buttermilk, for brushing tops; 1-2 tablespoons turbinado or coarse sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place an oven rack on the upper third of the oven and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicon mat.

Place flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl.  Zest the orange directly on top.  Whisk together thoroughly.  Cut the cold butter pieces into the dry ingredients using a pastry cutter or your fingers (I started with a pastry cutter then finished with my fingers).  Continue until mixture resembles coarse meal.  

In another bowl or measuring cup, beat egg yolk into the buttermilk.  Add the seeds of the vanilla and mix to combine.  Pour this into the dry ingredients and stir together (using a fork) until it comes together into a soft dough.  Fold in the chocolate chips.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead about 15 times to bring the dough together.  Pat into a round, about 1-inch thick.  Cut into 6 triangles (or you could make 4 larger scones; or cut into square shapes or rounds using a biscuit cutter) and place onto the baking sheet.  If desired, lightly brush the tops with buttermilk and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake scones for 12-15 minutes, until slightly golden brown.  They are best served immediately, fresh from the oven!

To freeze unbaked scones, place individual scones (leave out the glaze) onto a wax or parchment lined baking sheet or plate.  Freeze until solid, then wrap in plastic wrap, foil, and place in a freezer bag or container.  Bake scones straight from the freezer, adding a couple of minutes to the baking time, as necessary.



56 comments:

  1. I tend to think I hate scones also, even though I have made a few that I really loved. I'll have to try these! Love the citrus and chocolate combo.

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    1. Thanks, Joanne. I am glad I now like - possibly, love - scones. : )

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  2. I enjoy scones! Yours looks wonderful, Monica.

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  3. These scones look wonderful Monica! You did a fantastic job :) My hubby really likes scones and I think he would really enjoy this orange and chocolate combo. I'm so glad to hear that you had a wonderful and relaxing Thanksgiving spent with loving family and filled with lots of yummy eats :) Yay for the ice cream pie too, so glad the kids enjoyed it :) Have fun shopping today and hope you enjoy the rest of the weekend :)

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    1. You're so sweet, Kelly! Thanks for stopping by and reading my ramblings! The kids really flipped over that simple little ice cream pie. I got a lot of reward for not very much work. haha. I think I'll make one for them at our Christmas gathering. : )
      I'm so happy I finally tried scones...these are so good with the pop of orange flavor. I might bake some up on Sunday. Have a great weekend! xo

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  4. I've never tried scones before, would you believe?? I used to think they were too plain and boring, but lately, I've been seeing lots of wonderful recipes in my favorite blogs, and now I'm dying to try them! Your version looks lovely, so so flaky! And I'm a big fan of the chocolate/orange combo, so I'd adore to try them!
    I'm so happy to hear you had a great Thanksgivind day! I would have enjoyed that ice-cream pie too haha ;)

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    1. Yes, I can believe it since I'd never eaten one til now either...as far as I know. Sometimes scones can come in all different shapes and variations so it's a little confusing. These are so good for us chocolate lovers. : ) Thanksgiving was lovely...this is such a wonderful weekend to kick off the holidays. I'm baking Christmas cookies and fully in the spirit!

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  5. So glad your first scones were a success! They look and sound so good. And glad that you all had a great Thanksgiving!

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    1. Thanks, Marie. Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, too. This is the best long weekend in my recent memory. :)

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  6. These scones look yummy -- scones look harder than they are to make and the results are always so satisfying!

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    1. I'm glad I finally learned all those things you mentioned!

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  7. First things first...I knew that ice cream pie would rock. It was such a brilliant idea! I've never made or liked scones and it has always made me wonder why so many people like them. Actually they've never looked this good either. With all that you've written, I might give it a try..more so for the flavours you have used. Zest is my handy companion too..all of them...orange,lime, lemon. Kudos to you for such a successful first attempt!

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    1. Thanks so much, Sonali, for having faith in that little ice cream pie. : ) I think my comfort zone is definitely in the simple & easy area...it paid off this time! One day, I'll work more towards making beautiful desserts like yours!

      I think you can tell by my wordiness how much I liked these scones - honestly, I think I was just shocked we liked them and liked them this much. I definitely say give it a try...it won't hurt, I promise. : ) Thanks again.

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  8. A fresh baked scone straight from the oven is one of my favorite things ever. So glad you discovered how wonderful they are and I think yours look gorgeous. I think they should look rustic and not fussed over too much. I can totally understand people thinking they don't like scones though. There ARE some really bad ones out there. Especially at coffee shops.

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    1. I'm so glad I discovered it too. I'll definitely make scones a part of our lives now. Homemade has big rewards most of the time. Thanks for stopping by, Christin!

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  9. I just had a pecan date scone this morning. Your orange dark choc ones look delightful!

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    1. Thanks so much! I'm finally on the scones bandwagon and happy to be! :)

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  10. I think your scones look quite lovely! In fact, I wish I had one beside me now. I don't make them near enough, but whenever I do, I am so happy with their sweet and crumbly texture!

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    1. Thank you, Monet. I'm a fan now too and I also enjoy the sweet & crumbly texture - well put!

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  11. These look fantastic Monica! I think you did a wonderful job for your first scone. I love scones myself and I haven't had a bad experience eating them, except my own. I had a horrible experience making scones for the first time that I ended up buying premix scones to ease myself back into it. Ha! Anyway, thanks for the inspiration. I love this flavor combo you got here. I'm glad to hear your ice cream pie was successful with the kids. Sounds like you had a lovely Thanksgiving. Have a great week, my friend! :)

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    1. haha - I love that story. A similar thing happened to me a couple of years ago when I tried to make pie dough. I tried it by hand and ended up throwing the batch out (what a waste of butter!) Luckily, I switched to a food processor and it came out right! Sometimes, the first crack at something is a complete dud. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. Here's to the Christmas season! xo

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  12. yes please i love to sit beside you.

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    1. It *is* something nice to share with friends and family over a cup of coffee and tea. : )

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  13. Your first scones look absolutely perfect Monica! What a great, classic combination - orange and chocolate and vanilla bean too! Yum.

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    1. You are too kind, Tricia. I'm just glad they didn't turn out like rocks, as I feared. Classic combinations are a safe bet for someone like me who's looking for, well...a safe bet! ; )

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  14. I'd have to disagree, your scones are divine to look at! I'm so happy you ventured into the scone world because this recipe sounds absolutely delicious!

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    1. Awww...thanks so much for the encouragement. I need it! : )

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  15. You did a great job with your scones, they look beautiful and super delicious! I wish I lived next door to enjoy these scones with you. ;)

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    1. Thank you, Pamela. I'd love to be your neighbor and swap scones with you for, say, a few homegrown herbs and vegetables. : )

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  16. haha...here I was thinking I was the only one who didn't like scones :) But I'm sure that's only because I've only had them once and they were pretty bad because they were from the supermarket and they were dry and hard.......I'm tempted to try now that I've seen yours- they look so good!

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    1. I think my husband was the same way - scarred by a bad scone experience or two. But at least you guys were adventurous enough to try it. I finally realize how good they can be. Chocolate does make everything better, I have to say...

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  17. I've made a bunch of scones. I've found that buttermilk makes them a bit fluffier, and cream a bit more crumbly. Chocolate and orange sounds yummy!

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    1. Thank you, thank you for that tidbit, Alyssa!! I am curious about buttermilk vs. cream and what you said makes sense and I'll have to try a cream version one day (though I like the idea of the buttermilk being a bit lighter). Do you prefer one over the other?

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    2. I use buttermilk more for fruit scones (like with blueberries) and cream for chocolate. But, I also found I can use regular milk and the results are similar. It works well if I want to make them a bit healthier, and if I don't have cream handy.

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    3. Thank you for the follow-up. I appreciate the tip about the milk. I try to sub milk for cream when cooking if possible, too, so I can lighten things up a little. Not 21 anymore! : ) But it's the holiday season so my fridge is stocked with cream and butter right now. Thanks again - your scones sound great!

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  18. well, eversince i didn't live in the same roof with my parents, i guess i've never had scones for my brakfast no more......
    i'm too lazy to prepare this for me in the morning......
    your family is so lucky then!

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    1. Too lazy!? You mean you are too busy cooking up ridiculously good restaurant-worthy meals to make scones! : )

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  19. Scones are my absolute favourite. They were the first thing I learned to bake and I have such strong memories tied to eating fresh baked scones (I think a lot of Brits do!) I especially love them baked with buttermilk but I have never tried them with vanilla bean or chocolate. Sounds gorgeous!

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    1. Yes, the Brits definitely know their scones...and I love the sound of clotted cream with them. I think it's the whole tea visual that appeals so much in general! Now I can have scones during a nice afternoon tea at home. : )

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  20. As a Brit, I grew up with proper round scones! It threw me for a loop when I saw wedges here in the US. They do have to be warm, and I am a purist, I like mine plain or with currants. And yes, there are lots of bad scones out there so I don't blame your husband for hating them.
    I am glad you made your own and gave a scone a chance! I love scones, teatime is not teatime without them and some jam and clotted cream. Yours looks wonderful for a first timer!

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    1. I love all the accompaniments and ceremony of an afternoon tea, Nazneen! I bet you make some amazing scones. I thought about cutting mine into rounds but it was on the crumbly side (and with the chocolate chips) that I thought the wedges would be easier. : ) Thanks for stopping by!

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  21. I have never eaten scones before! But I've always wanted to try! And this recipe has convinced me that I should! It looks GORGEOUS!!!! Very very rustic! And to have it with hot chocolate is just brilliant!!! Can't waitttttttt to give these a try! :)

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    1. They are quite good...I think you'd like them, Samina. Thanks!

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  22. I also always thought of scones as dry and tasteless-until I started making them myself! I love having fresh scones in the morning-yours look and sound terrific! I like to freeze the unbaked scones then bake them off as I need them-nothing like fresh baked scones!

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    1. I'm glad we're not the only ones who had to learn that! The freezer is magical, isn't it?! I have a batch in the freezer and the last one we defrosted and baked were perfect. No more deterrents against making scones. Great to have in the freezer. : )

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  23. Hahaha, you know you did a good job if you can convert a hater of that food to a lover :) Orange chocolate is my favorite combo!! So glad you're able to venture outside of your recipe comfort zone by playing around with the ingredients. Your scones came out beautifully, and they look perfectly moist...nothing worse than a dry scone ;)

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    1. True that! ; ) I think we just need to step out of our box/comfort zones more often. I'm amazed by how many things I love that I never thought I would...I have remnants of that picky-eater child within me still. : )

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  24. Beautiful scones Monica! I'm loving the flavour combination. Yes, freezing scones is the way to go. I only learnt this earlier in the year but it is so practical and great for baking a few scones when you have impromptu visitors! :-)

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    1. I thought about making scones for years...well, maybe not "years" but a long time and saw all these recipes that make a huge amount and I knew we'd never finish them in one sitting...then I read about freezing them and that opened up all these possibilities. So many things are so freezer-friendly. I love it! Thanks, Jo!

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  25. so happy you had a lovely, relaxed Thanksgiving! I won't say mine was relaxed, but it was nice to have everyone here to watch as i made way too much food. :) these scones are wonderful: i actually think the same thing of scones (most ARE dry lumps of nothing to me), but chocolate/orange together seems like it would make for an excellent pairing. i think once you find a scone recipe that's this good, you stick with it; i think they look gorgeous, by the way. scones are just scones; no need to be all fancy to be good, right?

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    1. Too much food sounds like the perfect Thanksgiving to me! Growing up, my mother's mantra was always have too much instead of too little! : ) I agree about sticking to a scone recipe...it'll take me a while to venture out...I'm really happy just with these. No need to be "fancy" at all. : )

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  26. No kidding! First scone?! It's hard to believe after seeing so many great baked goods. :D I love scones and I made a few times. But I tell you I haven't made a cupcake before! Not a single one! I didn't grow up with it (I don't see cupcakes in Japan...) so I'm missing the whole cupcake thing! I love to eat scones - and you got the great flavor for your first scone. :)

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    1. Yup - so many things I've never had. I was a very picky eater...still some of that left in me but I'm far more adventurous now. And it's easy to be adventurous when there's chocolate involved. No kidding on cupcakes?! But you know what? It's just cake in small form. Everything is mostly some variation of another. : )

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