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Cardamom, carrot, dried apricot and vanilla scones.

Lina Caschetto/The Globe and Mail

I have been in the south of France for a couple weeks now and the rain won’t seem to let up. Cats and dogs, pouring endlessly from the sky, the sun utterly unable to burst through and shine. The local Provençal people have taken to joking about how nobody should ever say it doesn’t rain in the south, which I guess also sort of means “get used to it.” All I want to do is cozy up with a good book in front of the fireplace in hopes of forgetting the chaotic climatic conditions outside.

In weather like this, there is no better time to start up the oven and get baking. I find the act of getting your mind and your hands into some dough helps a dreary day pass much more quickly. The tasty results warm the soul and the delicious smell fills your home with comfort, which is sunshine in its own right, n’est-ce pas?

These scones are the comforting fall recipe I didn’t know I needed but now can’t seem to live without. They are easy to make and incredibly customizable. However, I think the flavour combination I’ve dreamed up here is a clear winner.

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When making scones, be mindful not to over-mix. They key is to not aggressively knead the ingredients together, but to fold the dough over and into itself until everything is just combined and holding together.

If for some reason the dough really seems too dry, it is okay to add a little more buttermilk. It probably won’t take much. I would suggest adding it one teaspoon at a time just to be safe.

These scones are amazing just on their own, but could readily be served with a traditional side of clotted cream, a heaping spoon of your favourite jam or marmalade, or even a good schmeer of butter and a slice of sharp cheddar cheese.

The cardamom and vanilla sugar recipe makes more than you need for dusting the top of the scones, but it can be stored in an airtight jar until you get around to using the rest of it.

Cardamom, Carrot, Dried Apricot and Vanilla Scones

Ingredients (makes 8 scones)

Cardamom and Vanilla Sugar

  • 20 pods cardamom
  • 2 vanilla beans with their seeds removed (to be used in the scone recipe)
  • 1 cup sugar

Crack cardamom pods and remove the seeds. Discard husks. Grind the seeds with 2-3 tablespoons of the sugar in a mortar and pestle until a fine, even texture is achieved. Combine this mixture with the remaining sugar and add 2 vanilla bean pods that have had their seeds removed. Store in an airtight jar at roll temperature.

Scones

  • 2 cups, plus 6 tablespoons flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 vanilla beans, seeds only
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 lemon, zest only
  • ½ cup plus 1½ teaspoons cold, unsalted butter, cubed
  • ¾ cup grated carrot
  • ½ cup dried apricots, diced
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sugar topping

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Cardamom and vanilla sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

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Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt, vanilla seeds, cardamom and lemon zest in a large bowl and whisk together.

Add the cubed butter and, using either a pastry cutter or your hands, cut the cold butter into the dry ingredients until it is evenly dispersed. The butter pieces should be about pea-sized.

Add the carrots and the apricots and stir to combine.

Add the buttermilk and vanilla and fold everything together using your hands until you have a relatively uniform, yet somewhat shaggy looking, dough.

Dust a clean surface with a little bit of flour and turn the dough out onto the flour. Pat the disc of dough into a rough circle, about 1 to 2 inches high. Using a round cutter of the size of your choice, punch out individual scones. Gather any remaining scraps together into a new circle of roughly the same height and finish portioning.

If you prefer triangle-shaped scones, use a knife to cut into the shaped circle of dough like you would a pie in order to portion it into 8 pieces.

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Brush the top of each scone with melted butter and sprinkle liberally with the cardamom and vanilla sugar.

Place the scones on the parchment lined tray and bake in the oven for approximately 18-25 minutes. The scones should be cooked through and lightly browned on the top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

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