These Easy Dried Cranberry Oat Scones are the happy product of misreading a recipe and the rabbit hole that scone-making can become.
Scones come from the British Isles. While it is not clear where they originated within what is known as the British Isles – in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, or England itself – the first known reference in print is from the 16th Century Scottish poet, Gavin Douglas’ translation of Virgil’s Aeneid. And although they began as yeast cakes, scones have evolved into quick breads, similar to American biscuits.
Shape a scone any way you like. They can be cut from a large circle, into wedges, or made round, with a biscuit cutter. A few versions, like my “Real Irish Scones” are square. I’ve even seen diamond-shaped scones and ones that look like hearts.
While they generally contain at least one or more “add-ins”, currants, other dried fruit, nuts or fresh fruit, there are plain versions. And while most versions are sweet, there are savory scones, with herbs and sometimes cheese.
So, how did I come to these Easy Dried Cranberry Oat Scones?
My go-to source for baking advice is generally King Arthur’s helpful website. There, I found a post on cream vs. butter scones. But it turns out that the butter-based scones King Arthur refers to have a liquid component that is also dairy. For example, King Arthur’s basic butter-based scone recipe contains either half-and-half or milk.
It turns out that King Arthur’s dichotomy between cream and butter scones isn’t the be-all-and-end -all when it comes to scone ingredients. For example, Sally’s Baking Addiction “master” scone recipe, uses both butter and heavy cream (or buttermilk) for scones of all types. Also, plenty of scone recipes use yogurt instead of cream or milk, including my own Real Irish Scones.
But until this go round, I hadn’t come upon sour cream in scones. So this recipe for Oatmeal Cinnamon Raisin Scones intrigued me. After misreading oatmeal as oats and taking a few liberties, I came up with this recipe.
As I researched scone history, I discovered that by adding oats back in, I was going back to a more traditional scone, at least partly. It turns out that the base for scones originally was oats, not (wheat) flour. These scones are not too sweet, with craggy, crumbly edges. I like them plain, re-heated just to warm, but you’re welcome to add butter and/or jam and to heat them up more.
Scones are best within a day or so of baking, but you can freeze them before baking or afterwards. If you freeze them before baking, add a few minutes to the baking time.
Tips for Making Scones (Easy Dried Cranberry Oat Scones or Any Variation on the Theme)
- Cold butter. It’s best to use frozen butter. If your butter is refrigerated, not frozen, make sure it’s as cold as possible. While grating the butter with the large holes of a box grater is the best way to incorporate the cold butter into the dough,my quick method of small bits added with a food processor or mixing by hand, works fine.
- Mixing the scones. Don’t overmix them. To get the crumb and flakiness that characterizes scones, avoid the temptation to overmix.
- Add-ins. I used dried cranberries with hints of orange and ginger. You can use other ingredients. A single orange (using both rind and juice) added immeasurably to the final result, without overwhelming the other flavors. Be creative. Just remember that solids (e.g. nuts and/or chocolate), do not need to soak in the liquid.
- Keep the dough cool. If your dough becomes too warm to handle easily, refrigerate it for a few minutes before patting and cutting the individual scones.
- Forming the scones. I like to use a bench scraper. However, a butter knife or even the side of a metal spatula will work.
- Adding crunch. I sprinkle demerara (natural) sugar on top for extra crunch. If you prefer, just brush the scones with a bit of milk or egg before baking to give them a shiny top.
Why This Recipe and These Scones?
- It’s easy. The directions do not require any special ingredients or equipment. Although a food processor makes it a snap, you can make this recipe with just a bowl and a fork instead. The wedge shape requires only an implement to cut the dough, not a biscuit cutter.
- Their taste and texture. The scones are not too sweet and they have a lovely, crumbly texture. The oats add texture and make the scones substantial without making them heavy. If you want a sweeter scone, add some jam. Want a cakier treat? Warm them up, slice, and add butter. You get the point. They are great on their own, but these scones can also be a canvas that allows you to take a different direction depending on your taste.
- The recipe is variable. Prefer apple juice and cinnamon to orange juice and ginger? That’s fine. So are chocolate chunks or chopped nuts instead of dried fruit.
Easy Dried Cranberry Oat Scones
These not-too-sweet scones are perfect for breakfast, brunch or snack. Add in another dried fruit or chocolate chunks
- 1 teaspoon orange rind from a navel orange See note
- 1/4 cup fresh orange juice from the same orange 60 ml/2 fl oz
- heaping 1/2 cup dried cranberries 80 g/2.75 oz. See note
- 2 cups all-purpose flour 240 g/8.5 oz
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar 66 g/2.25 oz
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger See note
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature See note
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 8 tablespoons butter, preferably frozen or at least very cold, cut into 16 half tablespoon pieces 113 g/4 oz
- 1 cup old fashioned oats 89 g/3.125 oz
- 2 tablespoons milk Alternatively, use a lightly beaten egg
- 1-2 tablespoons demerara sugar (optional)
With the oven rack in the middle position, pre-heat oven to 400° F/204° C. Set aside a parchment-lined quarter sheet pan.
Zest the navel orange, then cut it in half and press out the juice. It should be about 2 fl. oz/60 ml. Heat the juice (in a microwave or on the stove) until quite warm but not boiling, then add the dried cranberries to the juice and set aside. The dried cranberries will soak up some of the juice as the juice cools.
Whisk or put the dry ingredients except for the oats (flour, ginger, baking powder, salt and baking soda) in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine.
Add the butter pieces and combine just until butter is dispersed in pea sized pieces, either combining by hand (with a fork or two knives or a pastry blender) or in a food processor with about 12 quick pulses.
Drain the orange juice into a small bowl, add the egg and sour cream and combine. Add that to the butter and flour mixture and combine just until incorporated. Then add the oats and cranberries and gently mix into the batter or pulse with a food processor a few times.
Dump the batter onto a lightly floured mat or other counter and gently pat the batter into a circle about 7-8-inches, roughly 3/4-1" thick. Cut the circle in half, then cut each half into halves and half again, so that there are eight wedges.
Gently lift the wedges onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush milk (or beaten egg) onto the tops of each wedge and sprinkle demerara sugar if desired. Bake for about 16-18 minutes, until golden on top, turning the baking sheet around once during that time, so the front and back scones bake evenly. Let fully baked scones cool on baking sheet for 5-10 minutes before serving or storing at room temperature in a tightly closed container.
Orange - The rind and juice should come from 1 navel orange.
Alternatives to orange/ginger - You can use cinnamon instead of the orange rind and/or the ground ginger. If using cinnamon, up the amount to 1 teaspoon. Even if you use cinnamon, you need liquid, as with add-ins, for the texture of the scones. It can be apple juice or cider or another juice.
Alternatives to dried cranberries - You can substitute any dried fruit for the cranberries - e.g. raisins, currants, or apricots. If you use a larger fruit such as apricots, just cut the fruit into cranberry/raisin-sized pieces.
Alternative to sour cream - Yes, you can substitute yogurt. However, if you do, try to mimic the consistency and fat level of full fat sour cream. Nonfat or Greek -style yogurt will change the result. If you want to use Greek-style yogurt, mix it with a bit of milk to loosen the consistency slightly.