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Mandarin Orange Scones

For Christmas morning this year, I’m making fluffy, buttery Mandarin orange scones, which I’ll be slathering with (even more) butter and strawberry jam. Why scones, you might be wondering, and why now?

Well, I say, why not?

Scones are merely the snooty British cousins to our beloved buttermilk biscuit (which is what I usually have on Christmas morning), and instead of gravy, you add heaps of clotted cream (or more butter) and some sort of jam. They take way less time than biscuits to make because there’s no rolling – you just press the dough into a fat disc with your hands, cut it into eight pie-like wedges, and put them on a cookie sheet.

They’re so easy, you can have a pan of scones in the oven in less than 10 minutes from start to finish, and put them together while you’re waiting for the coffee in your French press to steep (Potentially useless factoid: my mom insists that coffee must steep for 10 minutes exactly, in a French press, and I believe her. We both use annoying digital timers to insure a proper brew.). Honestly, these scones are so zip, zip, it is done, as my dad would say, I don’t know why I don’t make these more often.

I’m making these for Christmas because not only are they quick to put together, as I’ve mentioned already eighteen times, they’re gonna be great road snacks (albeit sans the jam, cream, and all that jazz). Because of Rosedog’s paw injury (and endless trips to two different vets), X and I are getting a late start on our planned trip to Biarritz, which is about eight hours of straight driving. I’ve got a feeling that the road food along the A10 on Christmas day is going to be scarce to nonexistent, so I figure a sack of big biscuit triangles can’t be a bad thing to have on hand — well, ever.

This is my basic scone recipe, with the zest of Mandarin oranges added as a bit of zippedy do – and yes, Austin people, I got the idea for these from the orange scones at Jo’s Coffee, Lou Lambert’s place on Congress next to his sister Liz’s Hotel San Jose. Last time I was in Austin, I sat outside at the tables at Jo’s one morning and because it was already a boiling hot 80-something degrees, had a jumbo iced coffee – perhaps one of the best iced coffees ever, I might add.

One more thing. I know that it’s become trendy to glaze scones with a Royal icing of some sort, and you may certainly do this if you must, but I’m not a fan of anything sticky on top of my scones, because it just makes them messy to eat. I can’t remember if the Jo’s scones had any sort of glaze on them or not.

As I write this, the snow is coming down yet again, in a powdered sugar mist. I don’t know if we’re going to have a white Christmas this year or not, but it’s certainly been a white December around here, and a frigid one at that.

To all of you, I send you the warmest of wishes for the holidays, and big ol’ Texas hugs.

Thank you for your enthusiastic support, your comments, and all of your encouragement. I couldn’t do it without y’all, and I’m truly so grateful.

Joyeux Noel, everyone!

Mandarin Orange Scones

zest of 2 Mandarin oranges
cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 large eggs
cup cream
2 tablespoons large-grain decorating sugar, for top (optional)
Preheat the oven to 425 F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.


1. In a small bowl, rub the Mandarin orange zest with the sugar with your fingers — this way, the oils will perfume all of the sugar.

2. Combine the sugar and zest with the flour, baking powder and salt in the food processor and pulse a time or two.

3. Add the pats of very cold butter (I often freeze the cut cubes in advance) to the mixture, and pulse three or four times, or until large and small pebble-like pieces throughout.

4. With the motor running, add the eggs one at a time, then the cream.

5. Turn dough out on a floured board, smashing it down with your hands so it’s a large, flat disc, about 1-inch thick. Cut into 8 pie-like wedges and place on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until the scones begin to brown.

Serve immediately with whatever tickles your fancy –salty butter, whipped cream, jam — or, if you’re like me, all three.

Cowgirl Tip: These scones are wonderful the day they’re made, but like biscuits, they’re also terrific as leftovers — simply slice in half and pop into the toaster. Then, add butter, jam, as usual.