Tag Archives: Christmas

A Holiday Surprise: Scones Handmade on the Front Range

As the Christmas holiday approaches, those of us who exchange gifts come closer and closer to putting this question behind us: What shall I get them this year that they don’t already have?

Now our thoughts turn to the next question if we’re expecting guests: What shall I serve them that they haven’t already eaten numerous times this season?

Scones handmade on the Front Range make a great holiday treat.

Scones handmade on the Front Range make a great holiday treat.

If you’re planning a tea or a brunch, how about handmade homemade scones?

Handmade beside the Range

Food is something I don’t normally write about, even though it can indeed be art. Consider this my holiday gift to you: how to make scones that are lighter and more tender than you probably thought scones could be. If I had a dollar for every person who tasted mine and told me “This is the best scone I ever ate,” I could fund one more Christmas dinner for a needy family.

Some ingredients for scones

Some ingredients for scones: nutmeg, sour cream, golden raisins, butter, and egg

I have an advantage over the best of bakeries. Everyone who eats my scones does so within four hours of when they come from the oven. After four hours, the quality slowly declines. Even freezing within the first four hours doesn’t save all of the initial lightness and tenderness, although the scones can still be enjoyable after a gentle warming.

The good news is that it takes less than 15 minutes to prepare them, and about 15 to bake them. A holiday breakfast that will have your guests sighing with pleasure is within reach.

The ingredients? They’re standard in my kitchen. You might want to check your own supplies to make sure you have all of those pictured at left above: nutmeg, sour cream, a full stick of salted butter (more on that later), an egg, and golden raisins. The full recipe with measurements follows shortly, but first let’s look at the process.

The “How-to” of It

Measuring and mixing the dry ingredients comes first. If I’m going to make scones for breakfast, I do that the night before. Every step done ahead helps. It helps, too, to get out all the equipment needed: a small bowl, a pastry blender, a whisk, a cutting board, and a sharp knife.

Ingredients for scones

Cold butter cut into dry ingredients makes scones tender. (Wheel-thrown bowl by T.S. Berger of Fort Collins)

Getting out the butter, on the other hand, is a last-minute step. It’s got to be cold to give the scones the right texture. Yes, butter is hard right from the refrigerator. But if you cut it into pieces no thicker than a half inch, you will be able to use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour without too much difficulty.

Never used a pastry blender? Press straight down through the butter and into the flour. When you pull up the pastry blender from the bowl the first few times, butter will cling to it. Holding the blender over the bowl, run a scraper or a table knife along the inside and outside of the metal curve to clear off the butter. Rotate the blender several degrees and press down again so the blender will cut through the butter in a slightly different direction.

Sample of butter and flour mixture

Scones in the making — Butter and flour mixture look like this. (Cutting board created by Mike Wilkinson of Fort Collins)

Keep rotating and cutting until the mixture in your bowl looks like the sample in the spoon at left. Notice that the mixture looks crumbly and uneven, not fine like the flour and sugar by themselves.

Use another bowl to whisk the egg and then the egg with the sour cream. Pour this new mixture all at once into the center of your bowl of butter and flour.

For scones with the best texture, gently mix everything together with a table fork. Instead of stirring as you would with a spoon, toss the ingredients gently — almost as you would a salad. Add golden raisins when the dough starts looking lumpy. If the dough becomes dry and you can’t get all the flour incorporated into it, use your hand to press the dough gently against the bowl until there’s no loose flour.

Now grab a cutting board and dust it lightly with flour. If you’re used to making biscuits, you’re expecting to knead the dough next. No, just divide the dough in half and make a circle 1” thick with each half. Sprinkle the two circles lightly with granulated sugar and cut them into sixths. Your scones are ready for the oven!

Scones ready for the oven

Scones are ready for the oven after being shaped into circles, cut into wedges, and sprinkled with sugar. (Cutting board by Mike Wilkinson of Fort Collins)

Hard as it will be to wait, let them cool for at least five minutes after baking. These super-tender wedges crumble if you try to handle them hot from the oven.

Before I move on to the recipe, I’d like to thank T.S. Berger and Mike Wilkinson for loaning me their handmade items for this post. T.S. threw the mixing bowl on a wheel, and Mike created the cutting board from cherry, walnut, and maple. Both of these artisans have similar items for sale at Trimble Court Artisans in Fort Collins.

And Now the Recipe . . .

Butter and orange fig jam are great toppings for fresh scones.

Butter and orange fig jam are great toppings for fresh scones.

My recipe assumes that your scones will be baked at 5,000 feet above sea level. If you’re not that high up, try adding an extra ¼ teaspoon of baking powder. If that doesn’t work let me know; there are other tricks to try, too.

Nutmeg is my unique twist to this classic. Some of your guests may not realize it’s there – it’s just enough to give the scones subtle but exceptional flavor. By the way, I add a pinch of nutmeg to pancake batter, too, for the same reason.

One more word about butter . . . Scone recipes usually call for unsalted butter. Purists would insist on it. However, salted butter affects taste, not texture, and unsalted butter doesn’t keep as long unless you freeze it. It’s more important to me to have the ingredients always on hand and ready to use. So I use salted butter in all my recipes and adjust the salt content of each recipe as needed.

Enjoy! And let me know the results! If you have questions, send me an email at Sally@FrontRangeHandmade.com.

Scones Handmade on the Front Range

2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ cup chilled salted butter
½ cup sour cream
1 egg
1/3 cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 400⁰.  In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt, and nutmeg. Cut in butter with a pastry blender.

Whisk together egg and sour cream. Add all at once to the flour mixture. Stir gently with a table fork. When partially combined, add golden raisins. Continuing stirring until the dough forms a ball. If mixture seems too dry, press the dough gently against the side of the bowl by hand to incorporate all the flour.

Divide dough in half. On a lightly floured cutting board, shape the dough into two circles 1” high. Sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar. Cut each circle into six wedges. Place separated wedges on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.

Bake 14 minutes or until very lightly browned. Cool at least five minutes to prevent crumbling. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Wool Warms the Heart at Fran Bowen’s Studio

Bears of felted wool by Fran Bowen of Fort Collins

Fran Bowen of Fort Collins creates bears for all occasions by felting wool. The polar bear, center, is a work in progress and will soon be dressed for the season.

Fran Bowen’s felted wool animals would bring a smile to my face any time of year. Right now, however, they’re especially fun as Fran decks them for the holiday season. Some of the bears and mice have been growing fluffy white beards, donning hats with white tassels, or trying on colorful scarves. Meanwhile, the deer are wearing Christmas ornaments around their necks, and the newest birds are looking slightly sparkly. Angels and Santa Clauses of felted wool have joined them for the season.

No matter what special occasion Fran’s bears might be celebrating throughout the year, one thing remains the same: They’re wool through and through, and so are their accessories. Continue reading


Words of Thanksgiving, Pictures of Christmas

Christmas ornaments by Becky Margenau

The Japanese craft of temari inspired these ornaments by Becky Margenau. This photo was taken in October at Trimble Court Artisans in Fort Collins.

It’s the day before Thanksgiving Day in the United States. Across the country millions of people are either making preparations for tomorrow or traveling.

Especially at this busy time, I want to thank you for being a loyal reader. No announcement by an artisan or gallery led you here today. Thank you for being an essential part of this blog . . . for letting me share with you the fascinating world of artisans on the Front Range.

Some of you don’t live in the United States, let alone Colorado, and I’m honored indeed. I hope you’ll leave a comment (click “leave a reply” below today’s title) about where you’re from and what drew you here.

Ceramic cottages by Christina Hellyer

Light glows through windows in ceramic cottages by Christina Hellyer. Her work has been featured at Trimble Court Artisans this month.

If you also happen to be one of the artisans featured on the blog, please accept an extra thank you for trusting me. It took a leap of faith, I think, to let me photograph your work and tell your story – particularly if we met in summer, when you didn’t have previous posts to view.

I’m grateful for the idea of writing this blog. The idea seemed to come from . . . I’ll let you finish the sentence. Whatever you put there I accept; very likely it is true at least in part.

Handblown glass ornament at The Evergreen Gallery

This handblown glass ornament by Paul Lockwood  was on display at The Evergreen Gallery earlier this month.

I’m grateful for my older daughter, an English teacher whom I playfully call my editor. She has given me some creative titles and subtitles for posts, and my conversations with her have catalyzed my own creativity for many others. The posts are better because of the many paragraphs I’ve polished while reading them to her.

I’m grateful for my younger daughter, a web developer who led me to the idea of writing a blog when I was looking for what to do next with my life. She helped me launch this website and has refined its appearance and functionality. Not only has she graciously supported me through technical difficulties, but she has also led me to workshops and meetings where I could learn to help myself.

Long-horned sheep of felted wool by Fran Bowen

Long-horned sheep made of felted wool looked ready for the holiday season in October at Trimble Court Artisans. Their creator Fran Bowen will be featured here in next week’s post.

Finally, I’m grateful for my husband, the father of my two children, who encourages me to do whatever makes me happy. The more I follow my own vision, the more he admires me, it seems. What a blessing!

I hope your list of blessings is a long one. And I hope you enjoy the signs of the season in today’s photos.

Have a lovely Thanksgiving.