Morning Magpie's fig and orange scones

Photo: Gregor Richardson
Photo: Gregor Richardson
Ask a Chef reveals the secrets of those superb dishes you ate in cafes and restaurants and wanted to try yourself.

Makes 10

180g dried figs, sliced into 1cm bits and soaked in the juice of an orange overnight
750g flour
170g white sugar
30g soft brown sugar
a decent dash of flaky sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
5 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
a couple of pinches of freshly grated nutmeg
zest of 2 oranges, finely grated
300g cold butter (leave in fridge until ready to use it)
400g-500g buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla bean paste

The night before, slice up the figs and leave them to soak in the orange juice.

Heat your oven to 240degC.

Put the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and powder, spices and orange zest in a large bowl. Whisk to combine and remove any lumps.

Shave the butter into little strips using the long slicing side of a box grater.

Rub the butter through the dry mixture, breaking the pieces up with your fingers so that there are small discs of butter throughout the mix.

Toss the soaked figs through the butter and dry ingredients.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the first 400g of buttermilk and the vanilla bean paste into the dry ingredients. Continue to add small amounts of buttermilk until a shaggy dough comes together. Don't worry if the dough seems drier and crumblier than you'd expect; at this point it needs to just hold together as the flour will continue to hydrate throughout the next step.

Tip the dough out on to a floured work surface and, using a rolling pin, roll out into a rectangle about 1cm thick. Try to roll in only one direction at a time rather than backwards and forwards, so as not to overwork the dough (it will result in tough, underwhelming scones).

With a dough scraper, cut the dough into four pieces, stack them on top of one another and then roll out into a large thin rectangle again. Repeat this process five times (each time you do it the dough will come together more, and be less dry). This creates lots of layers of fat and flour, which give the scones their characteristic tall, flaky structure.

The last time you roll out the dough, don't flatten it so much - it should be about 5cm thick when you are ready to shape your scones.

Using the dough scraper again, cut it into evenly sized squares. Try to just make one cut each time and avoid touching the sides of the squares once you have done this, as you don't want to seal off the layers which will help the scones to rise.

Lay the scones out on a tray lined with baking paper. Place them in the freezer for 25 minutes before baking to ensure that the layers of butter you created earlier are very cold when they go into the oven.

Bake on the top rack of the hot oven. After 20 minutes the scones should have risen and begun to look crispy and brown. Reduce the temperature to 200degC and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until done.

If you're feeling fancy you can brush some honey on top of them when they come out of the oven.

Recipe provided by Nicola Wood, Morning Magpie. Recipe requested by Bruce Munro.

If you have enjoyed a dish in an Otago cafe or restaurant and would like the recipe, write to Ask a Chef, Features, Otago Daily Times, PO Box 517, Dunedin, or email, including your name, address and a daytime telephone number, and we will request it.

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