A Return to the Kitchen: Cranberry Orange Scones

I can scarcely believe I haven't cooked a thing in almost 2 weeks.With finals almost done, I was itching to get back in the kitchen and give my neglected little stove some love.
We received a huge bag of fresh Illinois cranberries in this week's CSA box, and while the gorgeous little jewels are lovely to look at, I was at a bit of a loss on how to use them. The only thing I'd ever done with cranberries usually involved cooking them in sauces and relishes. So when I came across a recipe for these scones, I jumped for joy, being the scone-lover that I am.

These scones are light and fluffy, and not too sweet. The tart cranberries are a natural in them, since unlike other fruits(notably berries), they aren't so juicy that they will create a big, sticky mess while they bake up. You can also use lemon zest, if you prefer; I imagine the scones would be great with it.

1 3/4 cups fresh cranberries
1/2-3/4 cup light brown or white sugar(depending on how sweet you like your scones)
Zest of 1 orange
2 1/4 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
Extra flour, for shaping
Granulated white sugar, for topping

Begin by pre-heating the oven to 350 F. Grease 2 baking pans lightly with butter, or use sheets of parchment paper(my preferred method . . . no mess, and no need to grease!)

Roughly chop rinsed cranberries, or use food processor on the low setting to chop. Zest your orange. Put chopped cranberries in a bowl with zested orange rind, and toss with the sugar. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl. Cut the chilled butter into very small pieces, and add to the flour mix, stirred until the whole is fine and crumbly. If there are big chunks of butter, make sure to cut them up and distribute them . . . this step is the important one in ensuring your scones will be flaky. You don't want big chunks! If you like to use the food processor, spin the flour mix with the chopped butter until it meet the 'fine and crumbly description'. Add the sugar, orange and cranberries and stir in the beaten egg and milk. Make sure not to over-mix; you want the mass to be loose and chunky, as this will yield the flakiest scones.

Sprinkle your counter or a clean board with flour, and dump the dough out on it. It will be wet and sticky. Shape it lightly by rolling out with a pin, or flatten with your hands. If you have a biscuit cutter, use it to cut the dough, rolling up the bits in between the circles and spreading again to cut out the rest. I used a round water glass, and it worked like a charm! Place your rounds on the prepared baking sheets. You should have 12-20, depending on how big and thick you cut the rounds. Sprinkle the tops with sugar.

Bake for about 25 minutes or until just beginning to golden. Serve warm with luxurious pats of butter, and more butter. These are so great with tea, where the delicate flavor is complemented.

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