sweater weather: baby vanilla almond scones with apple butter and clotted cream

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The romanticism of fall is so wonderfully sensory—crunchy leaves in velvety fall colors carpeting the sidewalks, lots of cozy sweaters, that cool crispness in the rain-scented air that leaves your cheeks flushed and reminds you of tromping through the neighborhood to go trick-or-treating as a kid. I’m thrilled that we’re starting to have actual fall weather this year, and in celebration, I plan on starting my annual winter hibernation now. And that means weekends spent snuggling under a blanket watching Netflix, surrounded by burning candles, in fuzzy socks and a face mask. It’s the perfect preparation for my actual favorite season, which is Christmas.

I stumbled across a lovely little word a couple of months ago—"procrastibaking," which is exactly what it sounds like. I used to do this a decent amount in college, which resulted in a lot of 1 am attempts at French macarons, but now I'm an adult with a tiny New York-sized kitchen, so I rarely bake except when I’m feeling extremely competitive about an office cookie bake-off (this cookie won me second place!). The point is, I’m intentional about it—I bake when I have a recipe that I just can’t get out of my head, and I feel this impulsive need to try it. That’s how I ended up with a bottle of rosewater in my kitchen that I still have not used up.

So when Mel and I went to high tea a couple of weekends ago, I was immediately inspired. I hadn’t had tea since London and she hadn’t had it ever, so we decided to try this charming little place called King’s Carriage House, a tiny New England inn tucked away on the Upper East Side, with kitschy decor, antique china sets adorning the tables, and the scent of scones in the air. We adored it. The tea was flavorful, the scones were buttery and fragrant, and we loved the tiny little desserts. We’re thinking of making it a weekly roommate outing.

So now in full fall mode and enamored by the English tradition of high tea, we decided to do vanilla almond scones, because scones are the best part of high tea, and pair it with some warm apple butter (the one I had at Cajun Kitchen truly changed my life, and I wanted to honor it). And of course clotted cream. We used this recipe from the BBC with Melissa’s modifications for the scones, this all-day apple butter recipe, and purchased clotted cream from (where else?) Whole Foods.

baby vanilla almond scones with apple butter and clotted cream

Yields: Two trays of scones
Prep: 45 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes

all-day apple butter

  • 4 large Granny Smith apples

  • 1 cup granulated sugar (we used two cups, but I prefer things with apple less sweet and more tart, so I would recommend one)

  • 2 tsp cinnamon

Peel, core, finely chop the apples, and pop them into the slow cooker.

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In a medium bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon. Pour the mixture over the apples in the flow cooker and mix well.

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Cover and cook on high for one hour.

Reduce heat to low and cook nine to 11 hours (it’s good to make this the night before you plan to use it, so it’s freshly made the next morning), stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened and dark brown.

Uncover and continue cooking on low for one hour. Stir with a whisk, if desired, to increase smoothness.

Spoon the mixture into a jar, cover, and refrigerate. Freeze if desired.

scones

  • 3 cups flour (or you can use self-rising flour and forgot the baking powder)

  • 5 tsp baking powder

  • 1 pinch salt

  • ¼ cup granulated sugar

  • 1¾ stick very cold butter

  • ¾ cup milk

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • ½ tsp almond extract

  • 1 egg (for glazing)

Heat the oven to 425°F and lightly grease a baking sheet.

Sift together flour, baking powder (if applicable), and salt. Cube the butter and add to the dry ingredients. For the fluffiest scones, don’t pull the butter out of the freezer until right before you cube it. I actually didn’t know the reason for this until I read Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings, but it’s so that the cold hard butter leaves holes in the dough. When the butter melts, voilà! Little buttery pockets = fluffy scones.

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Stir in the sugar and the milk until you have a soft and non-sticky dough. Turn out dough onto a floured work surface and knead lightly.

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Pat out to about 2 cm thick and use a small cookie cutter to stamp out rounds and place on a baking sheet (we used a measuring cup).

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Brush the tops of the scones with the beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for ten minutes until risen and golden.

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Serve with apple butter, clotted cream, and a nice Earl Grey or this.

These were amazing. I’m glad we settled on using a bit of almond at the last minute, because the flavor was so good. I think it could’ve used more vanilla though; Mel and I originally wanted to use actual vanilla beans, but as Quartz explained, vanilla is worth more than silver nowadays. But if you’ve got some expensive, good-quality vanilla (say, $8/ounce Williams-Sonoma Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract that we bought you for your birthday years ago and you still haven’t used, Mom), now is the time to use it.

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But regardless, these scones are perfect for a cold fall night around a fireplace, and they also make for a very indulgent breakfast, which, as we all know, is the only good kind of breakfast.

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