Well, to say that I'm late on this post is a bit of an understatement. I share a photo of these ridiculous apple cheddar scones on Sunday, and I don't publish the photos and recipe until FRIDAY? Jeez, what is wrong with me. I'll be honest and say that this week I've been suffering from a bit of writer's block, some heavy congestion, and an extra heavy case of the sleepies, so just bear with me a bit if this post isn't quite up to my normal standards. My writing may be falling a bit on the flat end today, but these scones sure are anything but flat (corny line #1). It's true though. These scones are perhaps my new favorite recipe, and while I'm a few days late in posting it, I'm just in time for you to add these amazing scones to your list of weekend baking endeavors. Seriously, these scones are just begging to be made ASAP.
I remember that there used to be a time during which I didn't really know what a scone was. I mean, I sort of knew what they were, and I knew that things called "scones" existed, but aside from that, I was clueless. I wasn't sure if they were a type of bread or a biscuit, and it didn't help that scones often came in different shapes, so it was tough to assume which was a "real" scone. Is a round scone less sconey than a trianglular, wedge shaped scone? I'd like to think not. But in any case, while I don't remember what kind of scone I had as my first "real"/"official" scone, I do know that since then, scones have easily become one of my most favorite treats to enjoy. The fact that making scones from scratch is so simple only adds to their awesomeness. If you've never made a batch of scones yourself, what are you waiting for?! You've been missing out if you haven't attempted to make scones yet. Trust me.
Scones are fantastic because they're so simple to prepare. Really, I promise you. While their incredible flakiness may be a little deceiving, achieving that perfect flakiness is really quite simple. They key to a perfectly flaky scone is to ensure that your butter is maintained as cold as possible until the scones are ready to be baked in the oven. This can be achieved by keeping your butter in the fridge as long as possible and by working quickly. I accomplish this by first cutting up the butter into cubes, before I do anything else, and then I return the butter to the fridge as I continue to prep the remaining ingredients. I leave the butter in the fridge until literally the second before I need to add it to the other ingredients. The other key step to great scones is to work quickly. The quicker you work, the less time the butter has to spend outside of the fridge before being baked in the scones. Just as important is to remember not to over-mix the scones. It's perfectly ok, even preferred, if you can see visible chunks of butter in the scone dough. These big chunks of butter are what will ensure that you get some really delicious flaky layers, so don't feel compelled to beat the dough until you have no streaks of butter left. Visible buttery chunks are what you're aiming for!
Now that the general scone lesson has been issued, let's focus on these scones in particular. Apple Cheddar Scones. Oh man. Apple-cheddar is a flavor combination that I've been meaning to work with for a long time now, and at first, I had been pretty much set on using it to create a really amazing pie. Thick chunks of warm, gently spiced apples contained beneath a cheesey, flaky, buttery crust...what's not to love there, right? After some careful thinking, however, I realized that there were actually some other pies I had been looking forward to making as well (start getting excited, people!), and that this flavor combination could be just as delicious in something other than pie. The other mystery pies (soon to come!) beat out the apple cheddar pie, but I didn't want to completely abandon the idea. Scones seemed like a great direction to rework the flavor profile, and I was excited to finally get to try it out.
These scones can be mixed up really quickly. The longest part is roasting the apples for a bit so that they soften, and then the actual baking time for the scones. Aside from that, I'd say that you pretty much only need ten minutes, or less, to mix up the scones. They're really that simple. As long as you work quickly with cold butter, theses scones will be hard to mess up. If at any point you feel that your butter is getting a bit too soft to work with, simply stick the dough back in the fridge for about 15 minutes or so. This recipe produced a really fantastic scone that was buttery, flaky, and perfectly rich. My only criticism is that the cheese flavor got a little lost. Next time, I would add a bit more cheese into the dough itself, or at least sprinkle some grated cheddar over the tops of the scones. I think that would definitely help to balance out the apple and cheddar flavors. Regardless, these scones were absolutely delicious. If you leave the recipe as is, you'll have a wonderful apple flavored scone that is accented with salty bits of cheese here and there, which is just fine too. These scones are best enjoyed warm from the oven, or at least on the first day. They don't really hold up very well past the first day, so either eat them all right away as they're still warm (not a hard thing to do once you taste them), or only bake the scones you know you are going to eat and freeze the rest before you bake them.
Apple Cheddar Scones
recipe from Smitten Kitchen
2 Granny Smith apples
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and diced
2.5 ounces white cheddar cheese, shredded (I recommend using more!)
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
Begin by positioning a rack in the middle of the oven and preheating it to 375 degrees F. Peel and core the apples, and then cut them into chunks (the original recipe says 16 chunks per apple, but I don't think you need to be this precise. I followed that direction anyway). Arrange the apple chunks in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with wax paper, and bake the apples until they feel dry to the touch, about 20 minutes. Let the apples cool completely, and leave the oven on.
In a bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to combine, and set aside. In the bowl of a standard electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the chilled butter, cooled apple chunks, cheddar cheese, heavy cream, and egg. Sprinkle the flour mixture on top, and mix everything on low speed until a dough just begins to come together, making sure not to overmix.
Turn the dough out onto a generously floured work surface, and sprinkle the top with flour. Quickly shape the dough into an even six-inch circle. With a sharp knife, cut the circle into 8 wedges. Transfer the wedges to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone liner, spacing them apart about 2 inches. In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg with a pinch of salt, and brush the egg wash over the top of each scone. Sprinkle a little sugar (or more cheese!) over the top of each scone.
Bake the scones until the tops are firm and rich golden brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer the scones to a wire rack to cool for a few minutes. Enjoy the scones warm or at temperature.
Makes 8 scones