Monday, 26 January 2015 | 24 comments

Buttermilk tangelo scones

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.

You’ll need

  1. 4 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (substitute up to 50% whole wheat flour if you like)
  2. 1 tablespoon baking powder
  3. 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  4. 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  5. 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  6. 8 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
  7. 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  8. 1 tablespoon finely grated tangelo or other citrus zest
  9. 6 tangelos (or other medium-sized citrus fruit of choice), peeled, segmented, seeded, and roughly chopped
  10. Heavy cream, for brushing


  1. Mix first five dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

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§ 24 responses to Buttermilk tangelo scones

  • Totally crushing on the flavour of these scones. They look lovely too!!

  • Patricia

    What better way to deal with life on a cold, gray, blah January day than with a warm scone, a hot cup of tea and a good book. I’ve been thinking about orange cranberry scones. This recipe will be a good start. Thanks for the recipe. I enjoy your blog.

  • These photos are tops. I, too, relish the gift of citrus this time of year, though I tend to eat mine straight or squeeze them into tequila. (My strategy for the winter blues.). I’ll have to get my hands on some tangelos for that purpose. Meantime, I admire your using them in this virtuous way.

  • Your post gave my heart wings. Love you, Miss Sarah.

  • Kelly

    yes, the bittersweet feeling when winter citrus arrives. Thank you. I am not alone.

  • lovely, as always. sorry for all of that falling, though!

    we have been having a bumper citrus crop down here in South Texas & have been generously gifted grapefruits, tangerines, oranges, Meyer lemons, etc. from friends’ trees. I’ve been juicing most, curding some, but never thought to do scones with the segments–thank you for the inspiration.

  • Lovely!

    There is the crazy-east-coast storm up here and I have a head cold, so the idea of citrus is fabulous. We walked by the grocery store on Saturday night after it was closed but with the lights still on I could see their “citrus in season” display and I just stopped and stared wide-eyed for a few minutes. Tonight I may bake a lemon cake and if I was being ambitious, I’d go buy some meyer lemon to zest in. We’ll see if I can stomach leaving the house. There is some possibility I will be living in a citrus land this time next year… which is surreal. Thanks, as always, for sharing. And tough though wonderful that your stepfather keeps the tradition alive. Definitely something to wonder at. Reminds me of the Cheryl Strayed story about buying a dress with her mom for a kid she didn’t yet have. It’s the last one here, “Big Fan” –

  • D

    The winter citrus “bright beacon amidst darkness” thing is very real. I’ve been eating oranges in winter-y salads all month, but might have to try your citrus olive oil cake from 2012. These scones also look lovely.

  • These are lovely! I’ve been indulging in all the amazing winter citrus over here too.

  • I lovvvveeee scones!! These look wonderful — can’t wait to try!

  • Are tangelos the same as minneolas (or are there different varieties of tangelos)? I purchased a batch of these from the supermarket but they were super sour/watery this year and much larger than the ones pictured here.

    Lovely scones, by the way. :) That dough looks just right. You sound like you have a pretty cool stepfather.

    • I think Minneolas are a kind of tangelo (the ones here are not). Sorry yours weren’t so great :-/ I’ve never actually bought them in stores; only had them shipped to me (lucky!) –S

  • Hi Sarah, first I just want to say thank you for the links to your previous January citrus recipes. I stumbled on the grapefruit and olive oil cake a few months ago (loved that post…it hooked me to your blog) and I am really excited to try this recipe out as well. I completely agree with the sentiment of needing bright colors and citrus to brighten the winter doldrums of this time of year. And being in DC now yet a native Floridian, I am constantly trying to bridge the two spectrums. Anywho – thank you for another great recipe and post.

  • I totally didn’t realize that tangelos were a mix of grapefruit & tangerine. Hah! Kinda embarrassed ;)
    I wonder if doubling up on the baking sheets would help minimize the browning on the bottom of the scones. Just a thought…

  • P.s. I mean doubling up from the beginning of the bake time, instead of part way through

    • You are probably right–good idea! I am admittedly much more of a cook than a baker. The flavor and texture of these scones is so good, but the darkening is troubling. I welcome more tips, and will probably test again at some point. —S

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