It’s that time of year again: bleak January, where I end up with my hands on some citrus and start feeling poetic about its life-giving brightness amidst the snow and the stupid ice that makes me slip and nearly fall on the way to the car every morning. (Truly, this happens every year (the citrus thing, not the slipping and almost falling): 2011. 2012. 2013. 2014.).
I don’t mind winter very much. But when a box of sunshine shows up at your doorstep, indicating that somewhere, just down the coast, there’s a place where oranges actually, currently grow on trees, it puts Zone 7A January in harsh perspective. Virginia, the desert, and exotic Florida, some crazy, distant Hanging Garden of Babylon. I’ve written before about how my mother always sent boxes of Florida citrus as gifts, a tradition my stepfather has kept alive. Receiving those boxes annually is strangely sad and ritually comforting at the same time. I end up sitting on the floor with my head in the box and inhaling orange peel, transported. I get a little weepy, but still generally feel okay about the world. Which, I guess, is progress. So.
Tangelos! They’re a hybrid of a tangerine and a grapefruit (or pomelo). Sweet “honeybells”, the ones that I always request, are at their peak in January and have a pretty short season. I dole them out stingily, only sharing with people I know will appreciate them. I brought a small basket over to my friend who just had a baby, and then accidentally left my cell phone behind. When we drove back to pick it up, the phone and her fingers smelled like citrus zest, so I knew she had peeled one open as soon as we were out the door. She deserved them.
Buttermilk tangelo scones
Adapted very slightly from Martha Stewart
These aren’t the easiest scones to make, but they’re rewarding. The chopped fruit in the dough needs a gentle hand when mixing so that the juice doesn’t get totally expressed from the citrus segments. They also need to be chilled for a long time because of the liquid content of the fruit as well. When baking, they have a tendency to get too dark too quickly on the bottom—you’ll need to keep an eye out.
- 4 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (substitute up to 50% whole wheat flour if you like)
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 8 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
- 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon finely grated tangelo or other citrus zest
- 6 tangelos (or other medium-sized citrus fruit of choice), peeled, segmented, seeded, and roughly chopped
- Heavy cream, for brushing
- Mix first five dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
- Add the butter cubes to the bowl and, using your fingers, squash and break the butter up into smaller pieces, from lima bean-sized to pea-sized. When the butter is broken up and distributed into the flour, it should look crumbly and pebbly.
- Add the buttermilk, zest, and chopped fruit. Mix together, gently, until just combined. In this step try to make sure that you don’t express too much juice from the tangelo pieces. You should still be able to see clumps of butter and fruit in the mixture when finished.
- On a well-floured surface, turn out the dough. Gently pat it into a long, 1-inch thick rectangle. Cut the dough into about 20 triangles. Carefully transfer the triangles to sturdy baking sheets lined with parchment, leaving about 1 inch between them. Refrigerate the shaped scones for at least two hours and up to overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the scones for 20-25 minutes, keeping a close eye on how quickly the bottoms of the scones darken. If they are getting dark too quickly, slide another baking sheet under the one upon which they’re baking.
- Allow scones to cool for a few minutes after taking them out of the oven, and then serve. After cooling, scones can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.