I took a couple of days off from work and hunkered down in my tiny apartment kitchen to bake my annual holiday basket. This is my seventh year baking this basket and as can be imagined, the basket has evolved and grown (some may say, it has grown into a crazy endeavor.)
This year, I made sixteen treats over the course of four days. Even though it was well thought out with spreadsheets and I knew I would be excited to send off the goodies to my family and friends; halfway through, I was feeling the craziness of it all! But the beat goes on and so did my baking.
For my sixth treat for my annual holiday basket was a cranberry pistachio shortbread lightly scented with orange.
Okay, I have an admission. Starting this blog tripped the cooking trigger, admittedly that was a hair trigger to begin with. I just have so much to share with you guys, it’s like trying to make a “best of” mix tape. Only my best ofs seem to include cheese and cream and butter. Now it seems we are treading in some dangerous territory here and we need to reign it back in.
My husband came to me the other day and said, “Please make some healthier meals,” as he looked down at his stomach protruding slightly over his waistband. Then I looked at mine. Okay, I’m new at blogging and I love falling head first into things, guns a blazin’. I’ve learned my lesson, I need to do this in moderation, so let’s move on to normalizing our eating habits around here.
On a “normal” morning, my husband and I fix oatmeal. I grew up eating grits and by default that is my porridge of choice. However, grits, made properly, are full of fat and calories. I really didn’t like oatmeal until about 6 months ago when we were in the middle of yet another move. We threw the dogs in the car and left with a few bags of clothes. Driving out of our driveway, we said goodbye to our first home, a 100 year old Victorian that we had spent 4 years of our life renovating. It was sad, but we knew she wasn’t ours anymore. Another family had bought her after only a week on the market. Really, quite a blessing in the housing market today.
Now, our new mission was headed to the West coast! It took us 5 days to drive to our new home and then it was another two weeks before our moving trucks arrived with our stuff, that includes anything kitchen related. The hardest part was honestly not having a coffee maker. Believe me, after sleeping on a blow up mattress in an empty apartment for that long, your body begs for caffeine. Luckily, we have a Starbucks within walking distance.
Those first few weeks, every morning we would get up and go get our coffee. One morning, I decided to try their oatmeal after my husband had raved about it. It was different than any oatmeal that I’ve had before. It was creamy but had a chewiness to the oats that were wonderful. In my research, I found that they use steel cut oats. Let me tell you, if you haven’t tried steel cut oats, it really does make a huge difference in texture.
Ah, a scone, like a biscuit, but sweeter. To tell you the truth, I am biased. I am from the southern United States and I can’t think of too many things I cherish more than a homemade buttermilk biscuit.
I have to be honest, my first tasting experience with a scone left much to be desired. I was in a high school home economics class at the time (do they even still have those?) For those of you, who never took one of these classes, you learned various ways to take care of a home and a family in a budget conscious way.
One portion of the class was dedicated to cooking and this dry little hockey puck of a thing emerged from the oven. The small amount of sugar included in the dough was not saving it. I haven’t had a scone since then, thinking that I just was not a fan.
I didn’t think about it again, until the other day when my husband brought home a blue can of Heinz beanz. I know you are thinking, what do beans have to do with it. Believe me, I was too.
Smiling, he said, “I thought you would like these,” as if a can of beans were a prize. Me staring blankly. He said, “it’s for breakfast. You put it on toast…” It crept in, I had remembered watching a documentary on the Heinz corporation (yes, I am that nerdy) and seeing this English breakfast item.
I have to admit, beans in the morning does not seem that appealing and in an attempt to stall for “research” time, it quickly jogged my memory of the neglected little scone that I gave up on so many years ago. However, in my research of the scone, I found that scones seemed to be eaten more as a snack than a breakfast item, but to me the scone seems more breakfast-y, so this morning, I am trying again at scones (and saving the beans for another day.)
I had some dried cranberries left over from holiday baking and of course, with it being citrus season around here, I have plenty of oranges laying around, so I added these components to the dough. They came out light and airy, having a beautiful crumb to them. Of course, I smeared them with lemon curd. Yum!
Orange Cranberry Scones
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen
1 tsp orange zest, heaping
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2- 3/4 cup sour cream
1 large egg
extra sugar to sprinkle on top
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut butter into flour using a fork or pastry blender (mixture should resemble coarse meal), then stir in zest and cranberries.
In a small bowl, whisk sour cream and egg until smooth.
Using a fork, stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture until large dough clumps form. Use your hands to press the dough against the bowl into a ball. (The dough will be sticky in places, and there may not seem to be enough liquid at first, but as you press, the dough will come together.)
Place on a lightly floured surface and pat into a 6- to 7-inch circle about 1 1/2-inches thick. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tsp. of sugar. Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 triangles; place on a cookie sheet (preferably lined with parchment paper), about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden, about 15 to 17 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature. These can be frozen unbaked individually and would be a great quick snack for when you have pop over guests. Just increase the baking time to 20-25 minutes.