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Scones can be wonderful or terrible. Many years ago, I had oat scones at a friend's family home outside Dublin. I can still taste and smell the warm little pillows, the cold Irish butter, and the homemade jam. Those were the ideal scones. But I've had so many stale, heavy, bad ones (many of them made by me) that until recently I had kind of given up on them. While I love baking, the perfect scone has always eluded me. I think it's because though we sometimes treat them like cakes, scones are actually pastry and the Cutting in of the Butter is the key to success. I have always had more luck with recipes that don't require things to be precisely, well, precisely anything. A cake or cookie batter is more forgiving than a pie crust or scones, where the exact temperature of the butter can be the difference between success and failure. I've made some bad scones in my life, heavy, sodden ones more like hockey pucks than airy clouds of butter and flour. Recently, I decided to conquer scones once and for all. I think I've done it.

I love Irish scones and I've had good results with both Darina Allen's White Scones and this recipe from Irish-born chef Gemma Stafford. Both of these recipes make delicious scones that are excellent canvases for whatever jam or curd you want to put on them.

But the recipe that I come back to again and again is this one, from . . . The Dairy Farmers of Canada. These scones have fresh, chopped cranberries and a delicious hint of citrus. I replace the lemon juice with orange juice and add orange zest because cranberry and orange are just meant to go together. Keep a bag of cranberries in your freezer and you'll be ready to make these any time you need a plate of warm, flaky deliciousness to serve guests or keep for yourself.


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