Hot cross scones

Hot cross scones. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Hot cross scones. Photo: Peter McIntosh

Hot cross scones

These simple scones have been dressed up for Easter with the addition of rum-soaked fruits combined with a mix of heady spices. Glazed and embellished with a marzipan cross, they look festive and enticing. I find them quite addictive. Tender, rich and flaky, they are quick to make.

The entire preparation time for assembling, mixing, forming and baking the scones is 45 minutes or less. The crosses take a few minutes longer.

When patting out the scone dough, keep it about 2.5cm high to achieve the best shape. Scones require a hot oven to puff up to their full height.

Do not overcook. Once out of the oven, scones continue to cook as they cool. Overbaking makes them dry, which is a disaster.

When making scones, standard flour is usually the one to choose. These Easter scones however, are heavily fruited and using high-grade flour (which is usually recommended for bread-making or rich fruitcakes) seems to produce a slightly higher scone. However, if you have standard flour in your pantry, go ahead and use it and the scones will be perfect.

Ingredients - (Makes 9 scones)

100g dried cranberries
100g sultanas
2 Tbsp  dark rum or orange juice
zest 1 orange
30g dark cane sugar
280g standard flour, or high-grade flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/4  tsp baking soda
1/2  tsp each ground cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger
60g cold butter, cubed
1 large egg, size 7, beaten
2/3 cup plain unsweetened yoghurt
1-4 Tbsp orange juice to mix
Glaze
2 Tbsp caster sugar
2 Tbsp boiling water

Method
Preheat the oven to 220degC.

Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Place the cranberries and sultanas in a microwave proof bowl. Sprinkle the rum or orange juice over the fruit, cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for about a minute.

Stir in the orange zest and dark cane sugar, set aside. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger into a large mixing bowl.
Add the butter. Cut or rub it into the flour using a pastry blender or your finger tips until the mixture resembles big coarse crumbs.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Combine the egg and yoghurt and tip into the well. Add the fruit mixture to the well. Using a cutting rather than stirring action with a blunt knife, mix to a soft dough, using some or all of the orange juice if required.

Turn out on to a lightly floured surface and knead briefly and lightly for 20-30 seconds. Gently pat the dough into a square about 2.5cm thick and cut into rounds using a floured 6cm biscuit cutter. Press the trimmings together to make more scones. Or using a sharp knife simply cut the dough to form 9 square scones.

Arrange the scones on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them slightly apart. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden.

While the scones are cooking, make the glaze.

Mix the sugar and boiling water together and stir to dissolve the sugar. When the scones come out of the oven brush the top of each one to give it a bit of a gloss. Set aside to cool.

Mixing scones — using a food processor

Cutting the butter into the flour is the most time-consuming part of scone making. Using the food processor speeds this up considerably and eliminates the need to sift the dry ingredients.

Once the butter is blended with the dry ingredients, tip into a large bowl, make a well in the centre and proceed as above.

And now to the crosses on top. I’m not very enthusiastic about the flour and water dough crosses which adorn most Easter buns. I think for these hot cross scones, a lemon icing piped on to the top is delicious. Inexpensive piping bags and nozzles are available from most supermarkets. Make up a fairly thick lemon icing and pipe a cross on top of each cooled scone.

But my absolute favourite is a cross shaped from marzipan. I buy the marzipan ready made from the supermarket, roll it out with an icing sugar-dusted rolling pin and with the help of a well-washed ruler, cut the marzipan into strips about 1cm wide. Brush the top of the strips with the sugar and water glaze and place two strips sticky-side down on the top of each cooled scone to form a cross.

Scones are best eaten on the day they are made but they freeze superbly. Apply the icing or marzipan crosses once out of the freezer and thawed.

Despite my suggestion that you buy marzipan from the supermarket, it is extremely easy to make your own. So, if you have time over the Easter break, here is the recipe. It is from my Southern Woman’s Kitchen cookbook.

Marzipan or almond paste

This amount of paste will decorate quite a number of hot cross scones. It is also sufficient to cover the top of a 20cm square cake or a 22cm round one. If you are just making crosses for the scones, halving the recipe may be a good idea although the marzipan will keep, tightly wrapped in cling film in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

180g grounds almonds
180g icing sugar
1 egg white, size 6
2-3 tsp lemon juice

Method
Place the ground almonds, icing sugar and egg white in a food processor. Add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice and process for about 40 seconds until the almond paste forms a ball around the blade. Add a little more lemon juice, if necessary.

Roll out the paste on a bench lightly dusted with icing sugar or roll the paste between two pieces of cling film. This stops the paste from sticking to the rolling pin or the bench. Brush the hot sugar and water glaze evenly over the top of the cake.

Lift the paste and place it over the top of the cake and gently press on with a rolling pin. Leave to dry for 24 hours before covering with Royal Icing.

If decorating the scones, cut the rolled out marzipan into strips about 1cm wide, brush with the sugar and water glaze and place sticky-side down on each scone to form a cross.

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