Recipe: Zuni Café Scones

Bring a buttery bit of San Francisco scrumptiousness to your breakfast table with these simple step-by-step instructions.

Orange-currant scones from San Francisco's Zuni Café, image

Warm your breakfast with orange-currant scones from Zuni Café in San Francisco.


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Orange-Currant Scones
Zuni Café, San Francisco

Scanning the Sunday lunch menu at San Francisco’s landmark Zuni Café (1658 Market St., 415-552-2522,, you’ll be tempted by everything from a hefty grass-fed burger on rosemary focaccia to occasional specialties such as eggs fried in breadcrumbs with long-cooked kale. But you’ll likely find your eyes coming to rest at a pastry on the list: orange-currant scones.

Who needs to order anything more with scones as sweet and tender as these? That’s what patrons tell executive chef Judy Rodgers, the James Beard Award winner who is co-owner of this always busy establishment. For 10 years after Rodgers took over in 1987, Zuni offered weekday breakfast to a small cadre of regulars who would amble in bleary-eyed for a much needed pick-me-up. But no matter what the pastry department turned out—sticky buns, fruit turnovers, lemon coffee cake, pain au chocolat—the scones always sold best. Rodgers ended the cafe’s weekday breakfasts long ago, but the scones remain on the menu.

If you don’t want to deal with Zuni’s crowds or live too far away to make the trek, you’ll be glad to know that the scones are a cinch to make at home. The simple dough gets its richness from whole milk and plenty of butter; the classic flavors come from fresh orange zest and dried currants (technically zante currants, a special variety of small, sweet grapes available in dry form at most groceries). As with any scone recipe, the key is to be gentle with the dough, mixing it just enough. “It’s really simple ingredients, combined without a lot of manipulation, so you end up with pure flavors,” Rodgers says. “Their updated small format makes them more fun to eat because you get the crunchy crust in every bite.” For a true San Francisco treat, enjoy the scones while they’re still a little warm from the oven. —Carolyn Jung

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Orange-Currant Scones
Makes 16 small scones
Adapted from Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers, 2002, with permission of W.W. Norton & Company.

Preparation 15 minutes. Cooking 30 minutes.

3 cups (13 ½ ounces) all-purpose flour
7 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ pound (2 sticks) cold salted butter
½ cup dried currants
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
1 large egg
½ cup cold whole milk

1. Preheat oven to 350°F (or 325°F if it's a convection oven). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and mix well. Using a pastry cutter (manual dough blender) or two kitchen knives, cut in the butter until it is the size of small peas. Scatter the currants and orange zest over the dry ingredients and toss well.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and milk. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients; mix and fold gently until a dough forms and the flour is moistened. Don’t worry if the dough is a little streaky and bits of butter are still intact.

4. Divide the dough in half and shape each portion into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, pat each ball into a 6- to 7-inch disk. With a rolling pin, roll the disks into ¾-inch-thick rounds—the perimeter will be ragged—then cut each round into 8 wedges (like pie slices). On the lined baking sheets, arrange the wedges without crowding.

5. Bake until golden brown and firm to the touch, about 25 minutes (or 20 minutes convection). Serve warm.

Photograph reprinted from Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers, 2002, with permission of W.W. Norton & Company.

This article was first published in February 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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