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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Blueberry Clementine Scones with Pistachio Dust

These scones elevate the classic blueberry flavor with the fleeting taste of seasonal clementines paired with the taste and texture of pistachio. They are unspeakably good in the morning with a warm cup of white tea. This recipe is a great addition to any baking repertoire, perfect for treating your family or taking to a brunch to impress friends. And the two-bite size makes them much more healthful a treat than most scones.

At 10 A.M. on New Year's morning I was in the kitchen busily cranking out these scones. I was invited to a New Year's morning brunch, and the hostess slyly put in a request for "some of those amazing scones." She first fell in love with my lemon cherry scones, which are still one of my all time favorites. But I decided to put together a little something different to ring in the New Year. I was particularly enticed by the idea of using clementines, with their brief but glorious season, as the perfect harbinger of the New Year. There is something about that too-quick appearance of clementines that seems to be the edible embodiment of living each day to the fullest because you will never get it again. Some people find such a sentiment mournful, but I find it impossibly hopeful and inspiring. So this sort of lofty thinking got me started on my scones.

I have lots of dried fruits and berries stored in my cupboards to help me get through the dreary Chicago winter. With clementines already in mind, I found myself drawn to the dried blueberries. They pack a more sweet and flavorful punch than fresh blueberries. As an added benefit, the moisture in fresh blueberries tends to mess up the consistency of scones, producing a more soggy crumb streaked with greyish blue from burst berries. But using dried blueberries in scones produces picture perfect morsels of bursting flavor nestled in a dense, classic scone crumb. From there is was only the decision to use almond extract (rather than vanilla which is a bit boring to me) and to add a touch of lemon zest to punch up the tartness and offset the concentrated sweetness of the dried blueberries.

I was pleased with the taste picture shaping up in my mind, but I found myself smacking my lips in search of a little something more. After all, I wanted to elevate the classic blueberry scone, give it a new look for a new year. The clementine was getting me part of the way there but it just needed a little something more. Looking at the vibrant blueberries next to the striking orange clementine, I found myself visually drawn to the beautiful green of pistachio. And the rest is recipe.

My husband proclaimed these, through a mouth stuffed with warm scone, the best scones I have ever made. I would have to agree with him, although I still have a soft spot for the lemon cherry scones I made in support of the breast cancer walk.

Blueberry Clementine Scones with Pistachio Dust

by The Skinny Gourmet (E. McDonnell)

Makes 16 bite-sized scones

*I prefer a nice notable citrus flavor to the scone, so I would recommend zest from a lemon that is only slightly smaller than a woman's fist, and an average sized clementine. Additionally, zest varies in its potency. If you scratch the skin, you should get a strong scent of the fruit. If you have a small or less potent fruit, I would recommend increasing the amount of zest used.

1.75 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2.5 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup sugar (add 1-2 Tbsp more if you prefer sweeter scones)
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup milk (skim is ok)
1/4 cup half-and-half
zest from one half lemon (pref organic)*
zest from one clementine
1/2-1 tsp clementine juice (about 1/2 clementine)
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup dried blueberries
2 Tbsp salted shelled pistachios, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl: flour, salt, sugar and zest. Rub in butter (this is a delightful process of really getting your hands dirty and it works just like it sounds. Plunge your hands in there and rub the butter and dry ingredients together with your fingers until well combined). The butter should be well distributed, giving the appearance of sand.

Pour the milk and half-and-half together. Add the extract to the liquid, stirring to combine, and then add the liquid to the bowl along with the clementine juice. Mix to form a sturdy dough that just holds together. If mixing with a spoon it may seem that the dough is too dry, but before you add extra liquid roll up your sleeves and squeeze the dough together by hand. My first impression was that the dough might be too dry, but after squeezing it together I realized it was even a little on the wet or sticky side. Add blueberries, mixing and folding the dough to distribute evenly.

Press into a disc. If you have time, you may wrap in plastic and refrigerate for about 20 minutes, but skipping this step is fine. Press the disc into a rough square and cut to divide into 12 portions (3 cuts across, 4 down).

Roll each portion gently into a ball and then press the top of the ball into the chopped pistachios. Place on a baking stone or parchment lined cookie sheet with the pistachio side up.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Store in an air-tight container for up to five days (but they've never lasted that long in our house, because they are that tasty).

A note on substitutions:

I used regular half-and-half and skim milk, which produced a wonderful final product. You may of course use a higher fat milk with excellent results as well. I have not tried to make this with fat free half-and-half, but that will only save you two calories and half a gram of fat per serving while increasing sugars. Likewise, you can omit the half and half entirely and just use 1/2 cup of skim milk, but that saves less than half a gram of fat and three measly calories per serving. Using only milk is a fine substitution if you do not have half-and-half on hand, but in my opinion it is not a worthy substitution on the grounds of health alone.

Nutritional Information per serving (16 servings)


lisaiscooking said...

This sounds like an amazing scone. The blueberries, clementine, and pistachio combination is fantastic!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

I have at least half a dozen clementines beckoning me to be made into scones!

Specialty Foods said...

those scones look so good. check out more gourmet scones and other specialty foods at

James said...

I made the coffee cake with fresh blueberries, and I planned to make strawberry scones. However, Trader Joe's appears to have stopped carrying dried strawberries, so I used a bag of dried mixed berries (cherries, blueberries, strawberries) for the scones instead. Thanks for the recipe.

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