Scone of the Month: Cheering almonds, cherries and sour cream

I went on a wander when getting ready to make my next monthly scone. What I had in mind was a scone with plump, tart-sweet dried cherries, of the kind one would make a pie (in their fresh form). Building from that, I wanted a scone made rich and moist with sour cream as its wet ingredient (I had made scones successfully with both heavy cream and yogurt). 

I considered that I’d add some almond extract and maybe toasted sliced almonds to the mix (I had both), and then got to thinking how almond always paired well with cherry, a nice supporting ingredient. Here, as I noodled around on the Internet, I stumbled (perhaps late to the table) down a rabbit hole where I found out that almonds and cherries were in fact related! What?!? And that almonds were actually a fruit. Really?!? AND, I also read that almond extract is in fact made, not from almonds, but from the pits of cherries (!) or from other “drupes” or fruits that contain a single pit, such as apricots. 

OK, my mind was reeling after this, after all these years on the planet and growing up with cherry trees and eating countless almonds and dribbling “almond” extract regularly into my baking (that often included cherries). How could I not have know this? As I looked at the ingredient list on my bottle of almond extract, I saw “oil of bitter almond,” and I thought, who’s fooling who? What is true?

What was true was that I did believe almonds and cherries could be related. And I did believe that anything with cherries was made extra tasty by the complement of  bit of almond extract, no matter if it was made from almonds or almond relatives. The proof was in the pudding or would be, in this case, in the scones.

I worked from a simple scone recipe I found on the allrecipes.com website. I liked the butter method for this recipe, which has you freezing the butter and grating it into the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt), which results in a light even distribution. Following this step, I added the toasted, sliced almonds and dried cherries and tossed all to mix.

Iwhisked a large egg and a half-teaspoon of almond (at least that’s what it says it is) extract into a half-cup of rich (but light) sour cream), then poured all into the center of the dry ingredients and butter. I gathered it all together with a fork at first, then did the final mixing with my hands to form a sticky dough.

I flattened the dough into an eight-inch circle and sprinkled with some sparkly finishing sugar.

I cut the circle into eight wedges and placed these evenly on a large baking sheet that had been lined with parchment paper.

The golden, cherry-studded scones emerged 15 minutes later. They held their shape nicely.

The scones had a perfect crunchy, slightly crumbly crust, and while not uber thick, they still formed nice layers, light and tender, due to those flaky strands of grated butter. A perfect scone, with bursts of chewy tart cherries and hint of…something else.,, 

Sour Cream Sour Cherry Scones

Adapted from https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/79470/simple-scones/

Makes 8 scones

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup sliced, toasted almonds
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • Sprinkling or sanding sugar for topping (optional)

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Grate butter into flour mixture on the large holes of a box grater; use your fingers to work in butter (mixture should resemble coarse meal), then add cherries and almonds and toss to mix.

In a small bowl, whisk sour cream, egg and almond extract until smooth. Using a fork, stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture until large dough clumps form. Use your hands to press the dough against the bowl into a ball. (The dough will be sticky in places, and there may not seem to be enough liquid at first, but as you press, the dough will come together.)

Place on a lightly floured surface and pat into a 7- to 8-inch circle about 3/4-inch thick. Sprinkle with sparkling sugar. Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 triangles; place on a cookie sheet (preferably lined with parchment paper), about 1 inch apart.

Bake until golden, about 15 to 17 minutes.

Cool for 5 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.

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