Hot, Humid, and Hazardous to Baked Goods: Sour Cherry Scones

After the disappointing results with yesterday's sour cherry crumb cake, I was hoping for a better result with my next sour cherry baking project. I decided to try a recipe for sour cherry scones from The Craft of Baking.

The recipe starts out with instructions to put flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and chilled butter in a mixing bowl, put the bowl in the freezer for 5 minutes, and then beat the mixture on low speed until the butter is broken up into pebble-sized pieces. From my experience with other scone recipes, I decided to take a slightly different approach. I cut the butter into small pieces and froze it first. Then I combined all of the dry ingredients and the frozen butter in a food processor, and ran the processor until the butter was completely incorporated. I really like this method for making scones. You end up with butter so well incorporated into the flour that it's invisible -- the end result just looks like slightly yellow flour. I've found that scones made this way end up with a wonderfully tender, crumbly texture.

After I incorporated the butter, I followed the rest of the recipe as it was written. I mixed in the cherries, followed by heavy cream, and then briefly kneaded the dough until it came together. I shaped the dough into disks, cut the disks into wedges, and then froze the scones for about 30 minutes (a step that was part of the recipe; this helps scones keep their triangular shape during baking). After coming out of the freezer, I brushed the scones with cream, sprinkled on coarse sanding sugar, and popped them in the oven.

Tom and I shared a scone shortly after it came out of the oven, and it was delicious. My only complaint -- and it was an exceedingly minor one -- was that the scone dough might have benefited from a bit of lemon zest to brighten the flavor. But the scone was very tender, lightly sweet, and had a beautiful golden crust with a light crunch from the sugar. The tart cherries were delicious.

Unfortunately, today happened to be one of the most miserable days of the year, at least with regard to the weather. With the temperature hitting triple digits and humidity at unbearably high levels, it was a bad day to be a scone. My scones became soft during the 12 hours between taking them out of the oven last night and getting them to the office this morning. They completely lost the firm texture of the outer crust. A few minutes in the oven probably would have restored the crust and remedied the problem, but alas, we don't have a toaster oven at work. So even though I thought the flavor of the scones was still very good, the overly soft texture was disappointing.

Nonetheless, I would happily make these scones again, so long as the weather isn't humid, or at least if I could serve them right after baking. Unfortunately, with sour cherry season falling in late June and early July, the chance of having low humidity and fresh sour cherries at the same time isn't great around these parts!

Recipe: "Sour Cherry Scones" from The Craft of Baking: Cakes, Cookies & Other Sweets with Ideas for Inventing Your Own, by Karen DeMasco and Mindy Fox.