I thought I wrote this recipe up a long time ago, because I’ve been making it a lot every Fall the last few years. I mostly wait until a very special apple becomes available, the Mountain Rose, which has bright pink flesh and is only grown in the Mount Hood region (from what I’ve read). But you could bake these with any crisp and lightly tart apple; the color just won’t be as striking. I’m also partial to using very sharp white cheddar for the best flavor.
I adapted this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, who in turn adapted it from Bill Yosses’ cookbook The Perfect Finish. I’ve increased the amount of liquid required to bring the dough together, and changed the mixing method. They recommend using a stand mixer which seems like a great way to make a mess of things.
Anyway, I’m finally writing this up because I recently served them with tea for my favorite book club friends, and one person asked for the recipe, and another said, “those might’ve been the best scones I’ve ever eaten… and I’ve eaten a lot of scones!” Indeed, these are in my top 2 or 3 favorite scone recipes. So, clearly you need to put them into your own rotation.
Ingredients: (makes 6 medium or 8 smaller scones)
1 pound firm tart apples
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar, plus 1 1/2 tablespoons for sprinkling
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus additional for egg wash
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup sharp white cheddar, shredded
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs, one for the batter and one for brushing the tops of the scones
Note: I actually forgot the sugar in the dough one time, and they still came out great; just a bit more savory. So there’s that option too.
Shortcuts: You can mix the dry ingredients and the chunks of cold butter in a food processor and avoid the work of using a pastry cutter. It’s easy, fast, and effective. Just pulse a few times until you see small bits of butter (pea size is perfect). And, if you feel like the egg wash is too fussy or a waste of an egg, as I occasionally do, instead you can lightly brush a little cream on the tops of the scones and then sprinkle sugar on top.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or a silicone pad.
- Peel and core apples, then cut them into chunks, something like one-sixteenths. Place them in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake them until they take on a little color and feel dry to the touch, about 20 minutes. They will be about half-baked. Let them cool completely. (I often do this step the night before, and leave the sheet with the apples in the oven after I’ve turned it off.)
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together. (If I’m really on the ball, I’ll do everything up to this point the night before.) Now add the cold butter pieces to the flour, and cut in with a pastry cutter or two butter knives. Then, add cooled apple chunks and cheddar cheese, and toss gently with flour mixture.
- In a separate bowl, whisk cream and one egg. Pour the wet mixture over the top of the flour mixture, and mix with a rubber spatula until the dough just comes together. Do not over mix.
- Sprinkle flour on your lined baking sheet, and empty the scone dough on top of it. Sprinkle top of dough with a little more flour. Now, use your floured hands to pat the dough into a 1 1/4-inch thick circle. Cut circle into 6 or 8 wedges. Leave at least 2 inches between each scone on the baking sheet. (It’s also possible to stop here and freeze the unbaked scones or freeze some of them for baking at a later date.)
- Beat remaining egg in a small bowl with a pinch of salt. Brush the scones with the egg wash and sprinkle them with remaining tablespoon of sugar.
- Bake until firm and golden, about 25 – 30 minutes. With a spatula, lift them to a wire rack to cool for 5 – 10 minutes.