Among the chocolate, cinnamon, ginger, maple, peppermint, and other wintery flavors around this time of year, I was surprised that Baked Sunday Mornings was making these Sour Lemon Scones from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking this week. To be honest, I was slightly annoyed at first because I am all up in the holiday flavors and I’m not the least bit tired of them; I was all, “Lemon? Right now? Really? What’s up with that??” The citrusy disruption seemed a little jarring, but as I was chopping candied lemon peel, I realized that these scones belong everywhere, at any time of year.
The scones are flaky, light, and tender, with the perfect amount of butter and lemon brightness from both zest and that candied lemon peel. I didn’t have the time or inclination to make my own candied lemon peel this particular week, but luckily I found some at Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco, though it was like the texture of crystallized ginger rather than fresh candied citrus, but it worked great nonetheless. The box contained what looked like about ¼ cup of large pieces, but once I chopped them up, the volume was much greater, so I didn’t even use all of it, since I figured the flavor would be more concentrated than fresh candied lemon peel. (I also left out all the sugar dust that remained after chopping in case this would mess with the chemistry of the dough.) At first I was wondering why they are called sour lemon scones, as there’s nothing particularly sour about them; and then I realized that it probably refers to the use of buttermilk rather than regular heavy cream.
The scones are made traditionally, which is to say, by working cold butter into the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, ground ginger, salt), then adding in a mixture of wet ingredients (egg, buttermilk, lemon zest), and finally the candied lemon peel. You do all of this with your hands, though I used a wooden spoon to initially mix in the wet ingredients. As with most doughs, you’ll want to handle the scone dough with care and not overmix; it is easy to work with and shape into disks.
After brushing the tops with more buttermilk and sprinkling on Demerara sugar, plus a little more chopped candied lemon peel, I popped the first tray in the fridge for 15 minutes because the dough had softened quite a bit by that time. I was going to freeze the second half of the dough, but to my dismay, the first batch started to flop over in the oven– the 15 minutes wasn’t nearly enough to firm up the dough. They were still delicious, but not exactly bakery-lookin’ scones. The other batch had already been in the freezer for 30 minutes, by which time the dough was thoroughly chilled, but not frozen solid, so I quickly did the toppings and popped them in the oven. The chilling time paid off, as these were much prettier– none of them fell over onto themselves. (Although they didn’t get quite as golden as the first batch.) The recipe intro did say that these are large scones, and they weren’t kidding! I was amazed at how big they grew in the oven. I would make smaller ones next time, probably square-shaped.
I think the only other thing I’d change here is to add the step of chilling the dough before baking the scones. Incidentally, they would be lovely with candied ginger if you like it, and probably an orange version (with orange zest and candied orange peel) would be great too. They are described in the book as “elegant”, which I would agree with in reference to the flavor– lightly lemony, but not overwhelmingly so; as far as texture, they were quite nubbly and rustic-looking on the outside, but the insides were indeed fluffy and tender.
The scones are outstanding right out of the oven (okay fine, wait, like, 90 seconds to let them cool a little), and they were good on the second day and would likely benefit from a visit to the toaster. When you’re ready to get your citrus on, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings for the recipe for Sour Lemon Scones, and take a look at the other bakers’ pretty scones too!
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2017.