have we all dug out from underneath piles of torn-up wrapping paper and tissue paper? and perhaps even a bit of snow, if you were lucky (i’m one of about three people who LOVES snow). one thing we definitely haven’t dug ourselves out from over here are the heaps of cookies. and i’m not complaining one bit.
i am, however, trying to bring a little bit of balance into my meals, and that’s where these pear cardamom scones come in. while i would be lying if i went so far as to call them “healthy”, they are at least low in sugar (so that you can indulge in more cookies?? up to you…). but you would never know it to bite into one.
these scones taste sweet and have a melt-in-your-mouth texture. i should also mention, since the word “scone” can strike fear in the hearts of some who don’t care for the (excessively dry) british variety of scones, these are the soft, delicious, and moist (there’s that word again…) american style of scone. aside from the pears, which contribute a lot of flavor and ward off dryness (see what i did there?), these scones also include crème fraîche (and butter…).
i hadn’t ever used crème fraiche before i made these scones but if these are any indication, it may be one of my new favorite ingredients. crème fraiche pops up frequently in the cookbook where i found this recipe, baking with less sugar, by joanne chang, of flour bakery fame.
aside: flour bakery has a few locations around boston and if you’ve ever been, you already know these scones are delicious, even before you’ve tried them. everything i’ve ever tried in the bakeries is super good and every recipe i’ve tried from this cookbook (i’ve flagged nearly every recipe but haven’t tried all of them *quite* yet) has been amazing.
anyway, back to the crème fraiche. chang uses it frequently in the recipes in baking with less sugar to replace some of the moisture that sugar typically provides. depending on your grocery store, it can be tricky to find. i’ve seen it in the fancy cheese case, the dairy case (near butter, cream cheese, etc.), and even the produce section near berries. if you can’t find it, full fat sour cream can be substituted instead. ooooor you can find a recipe online to make it yourself, in which case you’re way ahead of me (though all of the recipes swear that it’s super easy).
in the end though, regardless of what dairy product you’re able to find, i think you’ll find that these pear cardamom scones are a delicious addition to your morning, especially if you’re lucky enough to have some extra time at home this week.
- 75 g. (2/3 cup / 2 5/8 oz.) pecans, coarsely chopped
- 385 g. (2 ¾ - 3 ¼ cups / 13 ½ oz.) all purpose flour, see notes
- 2 teaspoons baking powder (i recommend aluminum free)
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 2 tablespoons sugar (1 tablespoon granulated and 1 tablespoon turbinado/coarse sugar, if you have it, or 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar if you don’t)
- 113 g. (1/2 cup / 1 stick / 4 oz.) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 8 – 10 pieces
- 3 ripe (see notes), medium size bartlett or anjou pears, cored and cut into small dice (i don’t peel them)
- 180 g. (3/4 cup / 6 3/8 oz.) crème fraiche (can substitute full fat sour cream)
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 1 egg yolk
- set a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F. line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- (if your nuts are pretoasted, you can skip this step.) spread the pecans out on one of the lined baking sheets and toast for 8 (up to 10) minutes, until the nuts are fragrant and lightly toasted (they will darken a little bit as they cool). remove them from the baking sheet (so they don’t keep cooking and burn) and set aside to cool. once the baking sheet is cool enough to handle, brush any nut crumbs off so they don’t burn and smell/smoke when you bake the scones.
- you can make these scones in either a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or, better, this scraper blade), a food processor fitted with the metal blade attachment, or by hand. using your chosen method, briefly mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom, and 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar together on low speed, just until combined. add the cold butter pieces and beat/process on low speed, until the butter is beginning to break down, but there are still pieces the size of a grape. this takes about 15 – 30 seconds in a food processor, 30 – 60 seconds in a stand mixer, and likely a few minutes by hand (using two butter knives or a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour). if using a stand mixer, add the pears and pecans and beat on low speed for just a few seconds, until the pears and pecans are mixed in. if you were using a food processor, turn the flour mixture into a bowl and mix in the pears and pecans using a wooden spoon. if you were hand mixing, use a wooden spoon to stir in the pears and pecans.
- in a small bowl, whisk together the crème fraiche, vanilla, egg, and egg yolk. if you’re using a stand mixer, turn it on to low speed and pour the liquid in, then beat for 20 – 30 seconds, just until the dough comes together. if you’re mixing by hand, use the wooden spoon to combine the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and stir until the dough comes together.
- if using a mixer, remove the bowl from the mixer. use your hands to gather and lift the dough so that any stray flour bits at the bottom are incorporated. regardless of your mixing method, the dough will be soft and very sticky.
- use a ½ cup measuring cup to scoop out rounds of dough and set them at least 2” (5 cm) apart on the lined baking sheets. you should end up with 12 – 13 scones. sprinkle the 1 tablespoon of turbinado or granulated sugar across the tops of the scones. put one baking sheet in the refrigerator to keep the dough cool while you put the other sheet in the oven. bake the scones for 35 – 40 minutes, until they are golden brown on the edges and pale golden brown in the centers. let the scones cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack to cool a few more minutes. serve warm.
flour measurement i measure flour in grams. when i give volume equivalents (cups) for flour, i use the king arthur ingredient weight chart. by that chart, 385 g. of flour is 3 ¼ cups. in her cookbook, however, chang gives an equivalent of 2 ¾ cups. if you’re going to measure in cups, start with the lower amount and then add more flour until you have a dough that’s still soft and very sticky, but not incapable of holding shape when you scoop it out into scone shaped heaps.
pears – to check for ripeness, press gently on the fruit next to the stem. the fruit should give only slightly and should feel just a bit softer than a russet potato. pears ripen from the inside out so by the time they are soft on the outside, the inside will be yuck (mealy and mushy).
i try to buy pears a few days in advance so they have time to ripen at room temperature over the course of a few days. if the pears need to ripen quickly, store them at room temperature in a paper bag with a ripe apple or banana, folded over to keep the bag closed. this allows the ethylene gas that the apple or banana is releasing to concentrate and be absorbed by the pear, causing it to ripen faster. stick to paper though, no plastic bags.
once the pears are ripe, take them out of the bag and transfer them to refrigerator, where they will last for a few days. and whether they are on the counter or in the fridge, keep the pears away from foods with a strong scent as the pears will absorb it.
(thank you cook’s illustrated and the kitchn for these pear tips!)
the scones are best enjoyed the day you bake them. if you have leftovers, they keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days. if you want to store them for longer, freeze them in an airtight container (either before or after baking and cooling). if you freeze them before baking them, bake them directly from the freezer and add 5 – 10 minutes to the baking time. if you freeze them after baking, allow them to thaw at room temperature, then heat gently in the toaster oven or the microwave (though they won’t be crispy on top).
adapted from pear-cardamom walnut scones in baking with less sugar: recipes for desserts using natural sweeteners and little-to-no white sugar by joanne chang.
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