Maple syrup is one of my favorite sweeteners because it can add a deep, rich flavor to baked goods, in addition to making them sweet. Good quality maple syrup is not inexpensive, and that is one of the reasons that people shy away from using it in their baking. A good quality maple syrup is well worth the investment when it is used in a recipe where it is the star, since its flavor cannot be reproduced by using a less expensive ingredient, such as maple extract. That extract is an easy way to add a bit of extra flavor to a cake recipe that already has other ingredients working in it, but it won’t give you the same effect as the real thing in these Sweet and Spicy Maple Pecan Scones.
The scones are sweetened primarily with maple syrup and you can taste that maple flavor in every bite. I added a little bit of sugar to the scone dough to enhance the maple flavor without needing to drown the scones in syrup. The spicy element of these scones comes from the addition of chopped Sweet and Spicy Pecans, addictive sweet and savory candied nuts that I make a lot around the holidays. They’re seasoned with a blend of spices, including cinnamon, cloves and cayenne pepper, and they contrast both in flavor and texture with the rest of the scones. I highly recommend making up a batch of the nuts, however you can buy similar spiced pecans that can be used in these scones, as well. I added a bit of cinnamon and cayenne to the scone dough to compliment the nuts.
The finished scones are tender, with a moist interior and a distinct – but not too sweet – maple flavor. They can be eaten as-is, or spread with a little bit of butter. It might be tempting, but don’t use pancake syrup in place of the maple syrup in this recipe. I like to use Grade B maple syrups, or dark amber syrups, rather than the lighter “fancy” maple syrups because they have a stronger, more intense maple flavor that really comes through in the finished product.
Sweet and Spicy Maple Pecan Scones
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup milk (any kind)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup sweet and spicy pecans, homemade or storebought, chopped
Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, spices, salt and sugar. Add in the butter and toss to coat. Rub butter in with your fingertips or a pastry blender until butter is in pieces no larger than a pea.
In a small bowl, stir together maple syrup, milk and vanilla extract. Pour into flour mixture, along with the pecans, and stir until dough comes together in a coarse, not-too-sticky ball. If mixture is too dry, add in a teaspoon or two of milk. If mixture is too wet, add in a few teaspoons of flour.
Transfer ball of dough to a lightly floured surface, divide in half and shape each half into a disc. Cut each disc into quarters and place them on your prepared baking sheet, allowing room for the triangles to spread slightly.
Bake for 14-16 minutes, until golden and set.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool before serving.