Oat Scones with Dried Cherries and Walnuts Oat Scones with Dried Cherries and Walnuts

Oat Scones with Dried Cherries and Walnuts

Julie O'Hara for NPR
Oat Scones with Dried Cherries and Walnuts
Julie O'Hara for NPR

Commercially made scones often contain more butter than is necessary and end up greasy. These scones get their moist, tender texture from buttermilk and a judicious amount of butter gently worked into the dough by hand. The quick-cooking oats provide a subtle nutty flavor and create a dense scone without the grainy texture of rolled oats. Toasting the walnuts (spread on a baking sheet and roast at 350 degrees for 8 to 11 minutes) is essential to bring out their flavor. White whole-wheat flour is used for its nutrients and mild flavor, but unbleached all-purpose may be substituted. Have all ingredients measured and ready. Once the butter comes out of the refrigerator, it is important to get the scones in the oven as quickly as possible.

Makes 8

1 3/4 cups white whole-wheat flour

1/3 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 large egg

1/2 cup buttermilk plus up to 1 tablespoon, if needed

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

7 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/3-inch cubes

3/4 cup quick-cooking oats (not instant)

1/3 cup roughly chopped dried cherries

1/3 cup walnut halves, toasted (see note above) and chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, 1/2 cup buttermilk and vanilla.

Add the cold butter cubes to the flour mixture and use your hands to work them into the flour, breaking up and flattening some of the chunks as you go, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until you have some shaggy pieces and some small chunks of butter remaining (you can also do this with a pastry blender). You will still have plenty of loose flour, not a cohesive dough.

Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir for a few seconds to barely moisten the flour. Add the oats, cherries and walnuts, and stir gently just until ingredients are combined. The dough will be thick and will not come together into a ball. If you still have some dry oats or bits of flour at the bottom of the bowl, add up to 1 tablespoon of buttermilk, a few drops at a time, so that all of the ingredients are just moistened. You don't need a wet dough in order to pat it together in the next step.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat it together into a ball with floured hands, kneading once or twice. Flatten the ball into a thick disk and roll it into a circle, about 8 inches in diameter and 3/4-inch thick. Lightly dust the dough and work surface with flour as needed to prevent sticking. Cut the dough into 8 wedges with a large, floured knife and transfer the cut scones to the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 1 inch of space between the scones.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, or until bottoms are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

To freeze, cool completely and transfer to a zip-top freezer bag. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator or for 1 to 2 hours at room temperature.