This recipe, adapted from Joanne Chang's Flour (Chronicle 2010), is a fairly standard formula. But I like it because the buttermilk and creme fraiche keep the scones moist, and Chang (no relation, by the way) takes the trouble to advise you to pre-score the dough — saving great headaches later. Chang says you might use sanding sugar or pearl sugar, if you have access to them, but granulated works just fine.
Makes 8 very large scones
2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup fresh or dried cranberries
Grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 to 10 pieces
1/2 cup cold nonfat buttermilk
1/2 cup cold creme fraiche
1 cold large egg
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees .
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a hand-held mixer), mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, granulated sugar and cranberries on low speed for 10 to 15 seconds, or until combined. Scatter the butter over the top and beat on low speed for about 30 seconds, or until the butter is somewhat broken down and grape-size pieces are still visible.
In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, creme fraiche and whole egg until thoroughly mixed. On low speed, pour the buttermilk mixture into the flour-butter mixture and beat for 20 to 30 seconds, or just until the dough comes together. There will still be a little loose flour mixture at the bottom of the bowl.
Remove the bowl from the mixer stand. Gather and lift the dough with your hands and turn it over in the bowl, so that it starts to pick up the loose flour at the bottom. Turn over the dough several times until all of the loose flour is mixed in.
Dump the dough onto a baking sheet and pat it into an 8-inch circle about 1 inch thick. Brush the egg yolk evenly over the entire top of the dough circle. Sprinkle the sanding sugar evenly over the top, then cut the circle into 8 wedges, as if cutting a pizza. (At this point, the unbaked scones can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 1 week. Proceed as directed, baking directly from the freezer and adding 5 to 10 minutes to the baking time.)
Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the entire circle is golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes, then cut into the prescored wedges (the cuts will be visible but will have baked together) and serve.
The scones taste best on the day they are baked, but they can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. If you keep them for longer than 1 day, refresh them in a 300-degree oven for 4 to 5 minutes. Or, you can freeze them, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for up to 1 week. Reheat, directly from the freezer, in a 300-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.