These cranberry orange scones are super buttery, flaky, and the best combo of sweet and tart. The secret ingredient is a bit of candied ginger which adds a lovely spiced note to the pastries. I love serving these scones with tea or coffee for a light weekend breakfast or afternoon snack.
I now own a baking tape measure. It’s bright purple and it’s a bit rickety and to be honest, I have no idea where it even came from. It just appeared in our house one day shortly after moving in. Anyways, the point is that I have reached a level of domestication where I 1. own a baking tape measure in the first place, and 2. use it to accurately determine that my scone dough is exactly one inch tall to ensure that each pastry is the same height of flaky, buttery goodness.
This is where we’re at in life now.
Anyways, this level of commitment to my craft has led me down a path where I have learned all the secrets to just absolutely nail the scone. I know scones can seem super blah, but when made well, they totally rock. Especially when they’re mixed with some kind of really delicious combo like cranberry, orange, and ginger. And now that we’re nearing the holidays, you’ll 100% need these for all of your upcoming get-togethers, Christmas mornings, and brunch situations.
Why you’ll love these
In case you missed it, the cranberry-orange combo is kind of a big deal on the internet. Most notably in sauce form at Thanksgiving, but also when carried into the winter months in cookies/muffins/cocktails/what have yous. This time, we’re bringing things into the scone world because pretty much anything can be baked up into a scone.
Plus, I just really want to make sure that you are completely set for all of your upcoming holiday breakfast/brunch situations. I think we can all agree that we have the cookies under control, but aside from the classic French toast casseroles that go crazy on Pinterest every year, holiday brunches sometimes get forgotten. Therefore, I would like to make my case on why ginger cranberry orange scones are the ultimate holiday breakfast/snack.
- They are easy and make ahead-able.
- No reheating. Everyone can just grab a pastry when they’re hungry.
- They are also snackable, in case you actually do have a whole breakfast situation planned out. (I’m proud of you!)
- There are cranberries involved. Cranberries are fresh fruit, so they’re basically…healthy?
- Scones are the best accompaniment to hot coffee and black tea.
- These scones are buttery, flaky, salty, sweet, tart, spiced, citrus-y, and have a bit of crunch thanks to a good sprinkle of Demerara sugar. They are the best. Case closed.
The ingredient list
Oh, and in case you actually needed yet another reason to make these, the ingredient list is very basic! To make this recipe, you will need:
- Cranberries – you can do fresh, frozen, or dried. More on this later.
- Orange zest – I like to add quite a bit to get a nice citrus-y flavor.
- Crystallized ginger – also known as candied ginger. You can usually find it in the dried fruit or bulk aisle of the grocery store. Around the holidays, it can also typically be found near all of the “fruitcake” fruits and seasonal baking items.
- Cold unsalted butter – I would highly recommend opting for a good quality butter. It’s one of the main ingredients that will add a ton of flavor to the scones.
- Heavy cream – because of the higher fat percentage, this will add a lot of richness and extra flakiness without drying the pastries out.
- Baking powder – this is what will give us the classic “rise” on the cranberry orange scones. Just don’t confuse this with baking soda!
- Baking basics – Kosher salt, all-purpose flour, white sugar, and an egg.
How to make these scones
- First, mix up your dry ingredients – the sugar, baking powder, salt, orange zest, and flour – to the bowl of a food processor. Give it a couple of pulses to combine, and then toss in your very cold butter.
- Pulse the butter into the flour mixture until you have pea-sized pieces. Pour this mixture into a large mixing bowl and stir in the cranberries and crystallized ginger.
- Whisk the heavy cream and egg in a liquid measuring cup until combined. Pour this over the flour mixture, and use a rubber spatula to quickly mix everything together until you have a thick dough.
- Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll the dough until it is about 1 inch thick. Use a 3 inch cookie cutter to cut out 10 scones, re-rolling as necessary. Alternatively, pat the dough into a 1 inch thick disc and use a sharp knife to cut the disc into 1/8ths.
- Place the scones on sheet pans lined with parchment paper about 2 inches apart. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes while your oven heats to 400°F.
- Next, brush the scones with either heavy cream or egg wash and sprinkle liberally with Demerara sugar. Bake for 14-15 minutes, turning the pan halfway through, until the scones are golden brown and dry to the touch.
- Serve warm with hot coffee or black tea.
Watch the video!
The secret to great scones
Ultimately, the deciding factor on whether or not you’ll have great scones is…the temperature of your butter. Or all of the ingredients for that matter. You want everything to be cold AF. That’s because when we bake up the cranberry orange scones, the little pockets of butter in the dough will melt in the oven and create those classic layers.
However, it’s also about making sure that the butter stays cold throughout the entire process! You’ll want to keep all of your perishable ingredients, like eggs, heavy cream, and even cranberries, in the fridge right up until you need them so they don’t warm up the butter. Also, do your best to handle the dough with your hands in the least amount possible. The heat from your hands will melt the butter, so it’s better to use tools as much as you can!
To keep the butter super cold, I like to do one of two things. First, you can cut the butter into 1-inch chunks and then stick them in the freezer while you prepare the rest of your ingredients. Then, let your food processor do the hard part of pulsing the butter into the flour. Or, you can grate your butter and then freeze it and use your hands, a pastry cutter, or the tines of a fork to very quickly cut the butter into the flour. With frozen butter, even if it does start to heat up, it’ll melt very slowly!
Fresh vs. dried cranberries
I have tested this recipe with both fresh and dried cranberries, and the conclusion I have come to is that it totally depends on personal tastes! My husband preferred the fresh berries and I actually liked the dried a bit better. So really, it’s all about what you’re into! Either way, they’re absolutely incredible.
Something to keep in mind is that fresh cranberries are super tart. If you’re into a very tart berry with a juicy bite, use fresh or frozen cranberries. However, if you prefer a sweeter berry with more of a chewy texture, go with dried cranberries. One caveat is that you’ll want to look for dried cranberries that are plump and still have a bit of moisture in them. If they’re too dried out, they won’t have any flavor. I usually buy mine in the bulk section of the grocery store!
A make-ahead situation (freezer instructions)
If you want to make these scones in advance, it’s actually super easy! The dough is rich enough that freezing it has little effect on the flavor of the scones. All you have to do is make the dough, cut the scones out, and set them on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Place the sheet pan in the freezer and let the scones freeze until they’re solid. This will take a few hours.
After, pop the frozen scones in an airtight container or freezer bag and keep them for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to bake, just let them sit on the counter while your oven heats up to take the chill off. Then, brush with egg wash, sprinkle with Demerara sugar, and bake as directed. Just add 2-3 minutes of baking time!
To properly store the scones, first wait until they are completely cooled. (Any heat will cause condensation that can make the ginger cranberry orange scones mushy). Then, just place them in an airtight container and leave them on the counter for up to 2 days. Any longer and they will start to dry out.
I would not recommend storing the leftovers in a zipper bag, because the scones will lose their flaky, crisp texture. Opt for an airtight container whenever possible!
A few helpful tools
These are just a few tools I like to have on hand when making scones:
- Food processor – this makes cutting the butter into the flour so much easier.
- A pastry cutter – if you don’t want to go with a food processor, a pastry cutter is the next best thing.
- Rubber spatula – this is what I use to mix the dough together so that I don’t have to use my hands, which warms up the butter.
- Rolling pin – another way to shape the dough without touching it.
- 2-3 inch round cookie cutter – if you want round scones! You can also use the top of a mason jar lid.
Tips & tricks
- If the butter starts to melt during any part of the process, just pop your dough back into the fridge or freezer. Remember, using cold ingredients is key.
- If you’re using fresh cranberries, pop them in the freezer which will help keep the butter cold!
- Place the ginger cranberry orange scones in the fridge while you heat up the oven. This will just firm up the butter one last time before baking.
- You don’t want to overmix the dough or the scones will come out tough. A few dry spots and lumps are ok!
- Place your tools in the fridge or freezer (mixing bowl and pastry cutter/food processor blade) before starting to ensure everything stays cold.
- If you’re using a biscuit cutter, don’t twist while you’re cutting the dough! This will seal the edges and prevent flakiness.
- Don’t overbake the scones. You don’t want them to try out! They should be lightly golden-brown and dry to the touch.
- Scones are best warm from the oven. Try baking them right before you’re ready to serve. (See my freezer instructions for more info)!
More holiday breads
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Cranberry Orange Scones with Candied Ginger
- 3/4 c heavy cream
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
- 1/3 c sugar
- 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 1 Tbs orange zest (about 2 oranges)
- 1/2 c very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 c cranberries*, fresh, frozen, or dried
- 3 Tbs crystallized ginger, finely chopped
- Heavy cream or egg wash**, for brushing
- Demerara or sanding sugar, for sprinkling
- Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the heavy cream and egg until smooth. Place the cream mixture in the fridge.
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and orange zest. Pulse a few times to combine. Toss in the cold butter chunks, and pulse until you have pea-sized pieces.*** Tip the butter-flour mixture into a large mixing bowl.
- Next, stir in the cranberries and candied ginger until they're coated with flour. Add the cream mixture to the butter-flour mixture, and stir with a rubber spatula until the dough starts to come together. Use your hands if necessary, but work quickly and do not overmix! A few dry spots are ok.
- Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and roll until it's about 1-inch thick. Use a 3-inch biscuit cutter or mason jar lid to cut the dough into about 10 scones, re-rolling the dough as necessary.**** Place the scones on the parchment-lined cookie sheets about 2'' apart from each other.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the scones in the fridge or freezer for about 10-15 minutes while the oven is heating.
- Brush the tops and sides of the scones with either egg wash or heavy cream. Sprinkle each scone with about 1/2 teaspoon of Demerara or sanding sugar.
- Bake the scones for 14-15 minutes, turning the pan halfway through, until the bottoms are a light golden brown and the tops are dry. Let the scones cool on the pan for about 5 minutes, and then transfer the scones to a wire rack. Serve warm with coffee or black tea.
*If using fresh cranberries, I would recommend cutting them in half and freezing them for 20-30 minutes. If you’re using dried cranberries, look for some that are still a bit plump and juicy. How to make egg wash:
**Whisk 1 egg with 1 Tablespoon of water. Alternatively, you can use heavy cream. To make the scones by hand:
***Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and orange zest in a large mixing bowl. Then, use a pastry cutter or the tines of a fork to cut the butter into pea-sized pieces into the flour mixture. Cutting the dough:
****For an easier option, cut the scones into 8 triangles. To do so, quickly press the dough into a large 1” thick circle and cut the dough into 1/8ths with a sharp knife.
xo Sara Lynn
*Song of the day: Meet Me in the Woods by Lord Huron