There was a dusting of fresh snow on the ground this morning and warm pumpkin scones on the kitchen counter.
I’ve been on a pumpkin kick lately. Cold weather seems to call out for the sunny color and mellow flavors of winter squash. Besides, nothing goes better with festive spices, fresh cranberries and walnuts.
These scones began with my efforts to use up the pumpkin puree left over from my Thanksgiving dinner rolls. As I cast about for ideas, I stumbled upon this recipe in “The Cheese Board Collective Works,” a compendium of great baked goods from the members of Berkeley’s Cheese Board Collective (Ten Speed Press, 2003). I substituted yogurt for the heavy cream and added fresh cranberries and walnuts.
In contrast to most biscuit-like scones, these are soft and cakey with a crackling cinnamon sugar crust. The pumpkin gives them a velvety texture and rich flavor that pairs well with the wintry spices of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Whole fresh cranberries add zing and walnuts contribute crunch.
They’re great with a morning cup of tea but I’m thinking of serving these at a holiday brunch. I’ve stashed a batch in the freezer just in case I get my act together to pull off a last-minute party.
The Cheese Board recipe calls for mixing the dough in a stand mixer, but the results are much better if you work the butter in by hand. If you want to try it, check out this earlier post for some tips on technique.
Just avoid the food processor unless yours is extremely large and powerful. I nearly killed my 11-cup Cuisinart when I tried it to use it for one batch of the heavy, sticky dough. The blade stopped whirling in the middle of the job and refused to budge.
I’ve added a little more flour to the recipe to make it less sticky, but I’m still not going to risk the food processor again.
Scones as good as these are worth the extra effort of mixing them by hand.
- ½ cup Greek yogurt or heavy cream
- ¾ cup buttermilk
- 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
- 3¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¾ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter cut into ½-inch cubes
- ¼ cup sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking sheets.
- Stir yogurt, buttermilk and pumpkin puree together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Stir topping ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.
- Into a large mixing bowl or the work bowl of a stand mixer, sift together the flour, soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and sugar.
- To mix by hand, stir salt into the sifted ingredients. Sprinkle butter cubes over the flour and work in with your hands or cut in with pastry blender until the butter is the size of small peas. Make a well in the center of the flour and butter mixture and pour in the pumpkin mixture. Stir with a large silicone spatula or wooden spoon just until the dough comes together. It will be a little shaggy still and some flour will be left in the bottom of the bowl.
- To prepare in a stand mixer, stir salt into flour mixture on low speed for a few seconds. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is well-distributed and the size of small peas, about 4 minutes. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, add the pumpkin mixture and mix briefly on low speed, just until the dough begins to come together. It will be a little shaggy still and some flour will be left in the bottom of the bowl.
- For both methods, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured bread board or clean counter and knead gently by hand a couple of times to blend in all the excess flour. If the dough is too sticky to manage easily, use a bench scraper (pictured above) if you have one. Working quickly and with a light touch, divide the dough into two pieces and shape each one into a disk about 1-inch thick. Cut each disk into 8 pie-shaped pieces.
- Place the triangles, well-spaced, on a baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with the sugar and cinnamon mixture.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm if possible. Scones are best the day they’re baked.
- Note: The scones may be mixed and shaped ahead of time. Place in a single layer on baking sheet and freeze, uncovered, until solid. Store in a container or zippered storage bag until ready to bake. Before serving, place still-frozen scones on prepared baking sheet and bake in preheated oven until golden brown and slightly firm to the touch. You may need to cover with aluminum foil briefly to keep them from getting too dark but they won’t take much longer to bake than thawed dough.