Prior to making these, the last scones I had were this past March. Those scones weren’t my favorite but they were part of an even bigger overall experience – my first afternoon high tea, my first trip to London and my first time ever traveling alone.
I got to London early on a Thursday morning and after napping off my jetlag, afternoon tea at the Brown’s hotel was my first scheduled activity. I was excited but incredibly paranoid. I couldn’t shake the feeling that other guests were wondering why the heck I was sitting there by myself sipping on champagne while waiting for tea. (Oh yes, traditional afternoon tea was not enough, I had to go all the way and add the bubbles.)
Because I could only page through my London guide book but for so long, I wanted to chat with those sitting around me. However, I was still unsure as to how I was going to answer the inevitable “are you here alone” question. Was my travel buddy sick? Or was my husband at stuck at work or at a conference? Or was I waiting for friends? (I’ll save you some of my other crazier explanations.)
Yet all it took was a smile and hello to those at the table next to me – which turned out to be a mother and son from China who were seeing each other for the first time since the son left China 15 years ago – and the rest was history. What proceeded was tons of chatter, laughter and a good dose of nodding (to mom that is because she only spoke Chinese). We asked each other questions, he spoke about London, I spoke about New York and all of my “fears” were forgotten for a while. He gave me his phone number and offered to take me around London to see the sites. The rest of my stay was quite busy so I never got around to calling him. But I thank him and his kind mother for helping me come out of my shell and keeping me company during the first part of what turned out to be one of the most amazing trips I have ever taken.
I thought of the scones I enjoyed that afternoon while I made these. And while the one’s at Brown’s will always hold a special place in my heart, these maple pecan scones taste a zillion times better. They have great a spicy maple flavor that make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Awesome crunch from pecans. And the secret ingredient – orange zest – which brightens them up and makes you say, “Hmmm – what is that?”
These are perfect enough for me to recreate Brown’s Hotel high afternoon tea in my own home. Minus the paranoia.
And don’t forget that tomorrow (Thursday) is the last day to enter my cookbook giveaway.
Maple Pecan Scones
3/4 cup buttermilk, plus more for brushing
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a pinch
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
1/2 cup pecan pieces, toasted
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the buttermilk and vanilla in a small bowl and set aside.
Combine the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, orange zest, nutmeg, cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it looks like fine meal.
Add the pecans and combine with a wooden spoon. Add the buttermilk mixture and continue to mix until the mixture is just moistened. (Do not overmix or the scones will be tough.)
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead until it to form a rectangle. Using a sharp knife cut the dough into small squares. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and brush with buttermilk. Bake until golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool 2 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Mix the confectioners' sugar, maple syrup and a pinch of salt in a small bowl until smooth and drizzle over each scone.