Magical Thinking, A Scone Recipe

easy cranberry scone recipeSome rather grandiose dreams spring to life from the enjoyment of a single morsel. At least, that’s how it works in this odd little brain of mine. One really good bite and an aspiring career is launched, imaginary restaurants are born, and desired franchises are launched.

Maybe you experience magical thinking, too?

It starts with a recipe and technique.  You’ve worked on perfecting a particular food item for a long while and then, after much effort, art and science come together and make magic on the plate.

You regard what you created. You feel satisfied and proud. (And maybe a little bit hungry.)  You take a bite. Your senses sparkle with excitement. Your mouth enlivens with activity. Neurons fire with glee.

Then, maybe a few moments later, someone across from you–a loved one or a cherished friend who joins you in this special meal–remarks “wow, this is really good.” Your beloved might continue and say something that stokes the fires of imagination even more with something inflammatory like the words “this is restaurant quality,” or “I’d pay good money for this.”

And then that’s it. Your pride rallies. Your over-active imagination kicks into high gear.

You picture the scenarios: you’ll start your own business, open a little bakery or a restaurant, begin a little catering company, quit your job, and do this thing you love so much for a living. You’ll cook, inspire, and change lives with a perfect scone, a great sandwich, a mouth watering steak, the perfect poached egg or an extraordinary dessert.

In just milliseconds, the story you’ll tell the kids about how our little business started with a simple idea or how we own three successful restaurants, or the yarn about how we had no idea we were going to build an empire when we baked that first great scone starts banging around that mind of yours. Or, if you’ve had a couple cups of coffee already, you might even envision camera crews, Food Network deals, book signings, iPad apps, and bobble heads in your future.

Or, maybe not.  Not everyone is hard-wired for leaps of imagination, like me. (For your sake, I hope you don’t struggle with untethered imagination. Such things are dangerous for the over-eager.)

Perhaps for you, triumphs in the kitchen only inspire a small smile or a tiny victory dance. Maybe you are soothed by great moments in the kitchen. A perfect bite might bring you to a serene place where pride swells and doesn’t threaten to unhinge you for a brief, imaginary moment. Perhaps you taste something truly great and spreadsheets and mathematical equations dance circles around your head. Who knows. I’d love to know what happens for you.

In the meantime, I share with you this updated recipe for a really great cranberry and orange scone. If you’re keeping track, this isn’t the first recipe I’ve put here on this blog. But for the record, this one is the best one yet.

The best part about this updated scone recipe is the baking and cutting technique. Make one really big scone and then cut it up like a pie. You’ll find you’ll have less waste and a much more uniformed presentation.

Magical Thinking Scones (AKA Cranberry and Orange Zest Scones)

makes 8-10 scones

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons organic cane sugar

5 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into chunks

3/4 whipping cream

3/4 milk

1 cup dried cranberries

Zest of one orange

1 tablespoon melted butter

1/4 cup turbinado sugar (for sprinkling)


Combine the dry ingredients–flour, baking powder, salt, and organic cane sugar. Pulse the dry ingredients with the butter in a food processor (do in batches if you have a mini-Cuisinart) until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is pea-shaped. Add this to a large mixing bowl and slowly fold in the liquid, being careful not to overwork the dough. Fold in the dried cranberries and orange zest.

Form a large mound of dough and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Press down the mound to create one big round (3/4 inches or 1” high). Using a pastry brush, cover the round with melted butter. Sprinkle the round with the turbinado sugar.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 17-20 minutes, or until the top has just begun to turn a golden brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a rack, then slice the round into even, triangular slices. Serve immediately.


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Food Woolf Written by:

Brooke Burton is an Los Angeles-based restaurant professional and hospitality expert. She is a freelance food writer, speaker, and co-author of The Food Blog Code of Ethics.


  1. I like your thinking! With these scones…you know…it WOULD be a fantastic story that it started out with this some scones and an article….

  2. May 27

    Even my smallest triumphs in the kitchen encourage me to continue dreaming. Big.
    Loving your baking series. 🙂
    Your words are always a success.

    • Food Woolf
      May 27

      Thanks for coming by Diane and leaving such sweet words. It’s true. All this baking truly is healing. Hip, hip, hooray! hugs,

  3. May 27

    You have put into words what I can only experience. My imagine runs away with me so quickly when I’m in the kitchen. And I do imagine scones changing the world. I can’t wait to make these ones this weekend.

    • Food Woolf
      May 27

      thanks for coming by! I found that the less you work the dough the better. Be gentle when you fold the liquid into the dry ingredients and you’ll have great results!
      Happy baking!

  4. May 27

    Since I usually do most of my baking when my kids are at school, my successes are a solo exercise. The payoff comes when I share my baking successes with my friends and family. Their reactions and praise are so heartwarming; that’s what feeds my soul…yet there is the occasional big dream. But I’ve become fairly accustomed to sleeping until 6:30 every morning.

  5. Karen
    May 27

    I have 3 businesses I run in my fantasy life, so… yeah, I get it!

    • Food Woolf
      May 27

      Thank god you understand. Now to deal with my issues with my two imaginary dogs…

  6. May 27

    I’m hard wired for imagining with grandiosity. Made jam for the first time and suddenly it was: I’m going to make preserves! Everybody needs them, home made is so much better. And I’ll have perfect little rows of perfect little jars filled with perfect preserves…. and on and on.

    • Food Woolf
      May 27

      It’s so good to know I’m not alone in this. Here’s to your imaginary preserve company! I’m an imaginary, regular customer!

  7. May 27

    Wishing you a lifetime of magical thinking filled with scones, tea and big dreams

    • Food Woolf
      May 27

      Thanks Lucy! Right back at you!
      (your hula sister,

  8. Magical thinking in my brain? Why yes, yes yes. If this is the best recipe you’ve posted here, then I MUST try it. xo

  9. Alisa
    May 28

    I love these magical thinking scones, and I hope you continue to share these inspirational and amazing recipes.

  10. May 28

    Welcome to my world. Active imagination and giant leaps of faith based on one taste and one reaction. Love scones and tea and always looking for ways to improve scones, no matter how good I may think they are. And these look great!

  11. These look delicious, but I have to admit that the term “magical thinking” alarmed me a little because I started off reading this post thinking that something terrible had happened; that you baked these scones out of the belief that someone you love who has died and he/she might be hungry for them when they return, much like Joan Didion couldn’t face giving away her husbands shoes because he’d need them when he came back.

    I’m very glad to see they come from a happy place and not from grief-driven temporary insanity, psychosis, depression, or schizotypal personality disorder.

    May you find success with your scones, but never become the object of bobbleheadism.


    • Food Woolf
      May 28

      Yes, thank goodness the magical thinking only sends me on funny leaps of imagination. Not over a cliff of insanity. Yet. 🙂 xoxoxox, Brooke

  12. Funny enough….I turned those dreams of mine into a reality! Well, I’m at the home based business “bakery” stage. It is a TON of work. LONG hours. POOR pay (per effort), but at the end of the day, I love creating. Thanks for this little reminder. Good luck….and keep your imagination running wild.

    • Food Woolf
      May 29

      that makes me happy knowing that the dreaming lead you to your business. It’s exciting when those two things align. When you do what you love, the hard work makes sense because it’s your vocation. Happy baking!

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