Since coming to Thailand, I’ve been diligent about buying local produce. Not only do I really love eating seasonally and supporting all the local farmers, but the imported produce is very expensive. The only problem is now the majority of the people I follow on Instagram are on a completely different seasonal rotation than me and some of those fruits and vegetables I equate with a particular season just aren’t grown here in Thailand. Namely, cherries.
For a week or two now I’ve seen gorgeous cherries and stone fruits popping up on my IG feed and the reminder that summer has begun back home without me just ha me all heartbroken. So I broke down and splurged on a small bin of imported cherries. I could buy about six or seven plates of Pad Thai for what I paid for them, but no regrets, ‘cause— priorities. They were juicy, scrumptious, and just exactly what I needed to feel like I was part of the early summer fruit festivities all the way over here.
Currently the hubs and I have to leave the country every 60 days as per our visa requirement, and just returned from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where I did some minor damage in the imported chocolate section of duty free. When I lived in America, duty free never really got me all that excited. As I begin to realize the more I travel abroad, America is one of the cheapest places to buy anything and with infinite selection: if you can’t find it between Amazon.com or Whole Foods Market, it probably doesn’t exist. I could order Valrhona French feves (a.k.a. the only thing you’ll ever need for chocolate chip cookies again) online and have them delivered to my doorstep in two days.
However, now that I live in an Asian country, I totally get the hype over Duty free. The only decent dark chocolate I can find in Chiang Mai is Lindt, and not only is it more expensive here than it would be in America but it isn’t really my first choice. But Valrhona, my absolute favorite, is pretty much out of the question here. So (literally) with that kid-in-a-candy-store excitement verging on desperation, I greedily scooped up an array of Valrhona dark chocolate bars, and again, much like a child, shot my hubby the “I can’t decide which one I want so I want them all and don’t try to make me choose” look, and he just laughed while I marched on the plane victoriously with my TSA approved & sealed bag of loot. Now i’ve joined the millions of crazies worldwide who freak over duty free. Visa runs for the win.
Now that you have the backstory on these gorgeous fresh cherries and high quality French dark chocolate, just imagine the love poured into these scones. The core is what any scone should be, moist but still crumbly, creamy vanilla notes throughout, with a pop of tart sweetness from the cherry and richness from the bittersweet dark chocolate. I held back on the sugar in the scones so as to prevent the dough itself from being overly sweet, knowing that not only would the fruit and chocolate contribute some sweetness, but also that the cherry-juniper glaze would bring it all home.
You guys. THIS. GLAZE. IS. SO. GOOD. I reserved a few fresh cherries for the icing, but really wanted to elevate it with a spice, herb, or floral component and tried to think about what would compliment these flavors. That’s when juniper berries popped into my head! For those of you unfamiliar: this isn’t a true berry, but actually the small cone produced by Juniper trees that looks to me like a petite blueberry. It is a spice found most commonly in European and Scandinavian cooking, as well as for flavoring Gin. If you have never tried infusing juniper berries into anything you’ve made before, this might be a really easy and small way to give them a try!
I knew juniper pairs well with the richness and earthiness of chocolate, as well as with tart berries (like lingonberries, for example) so I figured I could extend that to cherries. It’s very subtle, but the aromatic addition it adds to this scone situation is perfect. You can usually find dried Juniper berries in the bulk spice section of a well stocked grocery store, and they weigh hardly anything so they are an inexpensive ingredient to experiment with.
Of course, you can always omit it, making the glaze using just the cherries, or add an extract of your choosing in place of the juniper berries. If you decide to skip the glaze all together, I highly recommend brushing the surface of the scones with milk/cream and sprinkling with a raw sugar or another large crystal baking sugar before baking. But my stand is always pro-glaze on this one.
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
FOR THE SCONES
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup (8 Tbs) unsalted butter, very cold and cut into cubes
1 Tbs vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 lbs (roughly 250 grams) ripe red cherries, 3 set aside, the rest pitted and chopped*
1 (70 gram/2.46 oz size) good quality dark chocolate bar, chopped into small pieces
*I cut my cherries in half and then each half into quarters, your chopped cherries should amount to roughly 1 heaping cup when you’re done
FOR THE GLAZE
3 reserved cherries, pitted
10 juniper berries
2 Tbs milk or heavy cream
1 cup powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
WHAT YOU'LL DO
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, sugar) in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the butter with a fork, a few pulses of the food processor, or like I do, just with my fingertips, until the dry ingredients now resemble course meal and the bits of butter remaining are no larger than pea sized. In another small bowl, mix the wet ingredients (egg, vanilla, cream). Pour the wet into the dry and mix once or twice, not completely encorporating. Add in the cherries and chocolate and mix to combine. The dough should be dry but stick together.
Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and shape with floured hands into a circle. Cut the circle into quarters and then again to make 8 wedges and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet, at least 2 inches apart from one another. (In my mini oven I baked only 4 at a time) Bake for 15-16 mins or until golden. Once removed from oven, allow to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool to room temp before you glaze.
While the scones are baking, make your glaze:
In a small food processor or blender, combine the 3 pitted & chopped cherries, juniper berries, and the milk or cream. Blend for two full minutes on high speed, until the mixture is completely smooth and almost frothy.
Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve to catch any undesirable bits, reserving the liquid. If you taste the mixture at this point, the juniper flavor will be very concentrated, but will mellow once incorporated with the powdered sugar, so don’t panic.
Put the powdered sugar in a small bowl, add a small pinch of salt, and gradually mix in the juniper/cherry juice, starting with one tablespoon, but adding in only one teaspoon at a time after that until your desired consistency is achieved.
Drizzle or pour over scones and serve!