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Spice up some apple scones for a brunch treat

Recipe: Different mix-ins change the personality of the scone

These scones are full of grated apple and fall spices. The one at left includes cinnamon imperials and the other has dried cranberries.

These scones are full of grated apple and fall spices. The one at left includes cinnamon imperials and the other has dried cranberries.

Kathy Morrison

Baking with apples never gets boring. The fruit is flavorful but not so bold that it dominates a dish. Apples play well with other ingredients.

Apple and ingredients
One big apple is plenty for this recipe.

Here in November, with cozier days ahead and holidays looming, I thought I'd try a few variations on apple-cinnamon scones. They wound up with completely different personalities, proving that scones can be tailored to the occasion.

I recommend using a sweet-tart apple for this recipe, something like a Honeycrisp, a Fuji or one of the newer boutique apples such as a SweeTango. (The latter is what I used.) I grated the apple rather than chopping it, skin still on, but if you have a thick-skinned apple I'd peel it first.

Dried cranberries were my first choice for mix-ins, but while digging them out of the cupboard, I found a jar of cinnamon imperials (aka Red Hots) and decided to do half the batch with those, just to see how they'd work. You don't need many to get that fun pop of spice. 

The cranberry scones as baked were classic, perfect for a Thanksgiving weekend brunch, say, while the Red Hots scones looked ready for a Christmas party. Cut smaller they could even sneak into a cookie exchange.

Other potential mix-ins are dried cherries or blueberries, or candied ginger, either chopped or already in sweetened baking-ready bits. And of course most chopped nuts -- especially if toasted first -- play well with apples, too.

My dough was a little soft -- too much liquid, which I've corrected in the recipe here -- so I put the scones, pan and all, into the freezer for about 20 minutes. Skip this step if time is an issue, or your dough is plenty firm, but the freezer visit does allow the glutens to relax.

I don't generally glaze my scones, but these will work with glaze, too. Just skip the sprinkle of sugar on top before baking, then glaze when the scones are baked and cooled for a few minutes.

Apple scones with spices and mix-ins

Makes 12 scones


2 cups unbleached all-pupose flour

1/3 cup granulated sugar

Grate rather than chop the apple.

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon each nutmeg and allspice, OR 1-1/2 teaspoons pie spice

1 sweet-tart large apple, washed (cored if you have a corer); peeled if the skin is very thick

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, well-chilled and cut into small pieces

1/2 cup plain yogurt

2 to 3 tablespoons milk or half and half, more optional for brushing on top of scones

1/2 cup mix-ins such as dried fruit, toasted and chopped nuts, or chopped candied ginger, or 1/4 cup cinnamon imperials

Coarse sugar for sprinkling, optional


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. (You can wait on this if you plan to chill the scones in the freezer before baking.)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and soda, salt, and the 1-1/2 teaspoons total of spices. Set aside.

Using the large holes on a grater, grate the apple, turning it often, until you're just about to reach the core (if you haven't already cored it). You should have about 1 cup of shreds. Set aside.

Cut the butter chunks into the flour mixture with a pastry blender, two knives, or your hands. The mixture should look like meal, though some larger bits of butter can remain.

Now mix the yogurt and the apple shreds into the flour-butter mixture, using a flexible spatula to turn the mixture over gently. Sprinkle on 2 tablespoons of the milk and the chosen mix-in if the entire batch will be the same type. Continue blending until you have a rough, floury ball of dough. Add another tablespoons of milk if it's really dry, but the dough should not be smooth or too wet.

 Turn the dough out on a flour-covered surface, such as a cutting noard or pastry cloth. Knead the dough together gently a few turns, then divide it in half and pat into two rounds about 1 inch thick. If you want two mix-ins like I did, halve the dough and add each one (half of the amounts listed for a whole mix-in) to its dough before they're patted into rounds.

Baked until golden brown.

Transfer the rounds to a parchment-covered flat baking pan. Score the top of each round where you plan to cut it later, OR cut all the way through and gently separate the triangles. The latter will give the scones slightly crunchier edges.

At this point you can put the whole pan in the freezer, then preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Freezer-chill for 20 to 30 minutes while the oven is heating. Then proceed as described below.

If planning to bake imediately, brush the dough rounds with milk and sprinkle on some sugar. Then bake in the already heated oven.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the tops are brown and the dough is fully baked. (Cut into the rounds to check if they're still in circles.)

Cool and glaze if desired. Scones can be reheated in the oven or microwave.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Nov. 26:

Concentrate on helping your garden stay comfortable during these frosty nights – and clean up all those leaves!

* Irrigate frost-tender plants such as citrus in the late afternoon. That extra soil moisture increases temperatures around the plant a few degrees, just enough to prevent frost damage. The exception are succulents; too much water before frost can cause them to freeze.

* Cover sensitive plants before the sun goes down. Use cloth sheets or frost cloths, not plastic sheeting, to hold in warmth. Make sure to remove covers in the morning.

* Use fall leaves as mulch around shrubs and vegetables. Mulch acts as a blanket and keeps roots warmer.

* Stop dead-heading; let rose hips form on bushes to prompt dormancy.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location – and definitely indoors overnight. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they’ll bloom again next December.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Plant spring bulbs. Don’t forget the tulips chilling in the refrigerator. Daffodils can be planted without pre-chilling.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers and plant such spring bloomers as sweet peas, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Plant trees and shrubs. They’ll benefit from fall and winter rains while establishing their roots.

* Set out cool-weather annuals such as pansies and snapdragons.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Bare-root season begins now. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb.

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