January is a great time for citrus, but the My Berkeley Bowl challenge means you won’t find any navel oranges on this blog. Nope, this blog necessitates something extraordinary. And I assure you, you won’t find a citrus fruit more extraordinary than Buddha’s Hand.It’s not hard to guess how this fruit got its name. The long, delicate “fingers” evoke images of a young buddha with his hands in prayer like a blooming lotus. While this is the common interpretation, I think it looks like a radioactive squid, but “squid citrus” doesn’t sound quite as poetic.In addition to it’s weirdly animate shape, Buddha’s Hand has another unique feature: an intoxicating floral aroma. It really doesn’t have any juice or flesh inside — all its value is in its aromatic rind. For this reason, Buddha’s Hand is commonly displayed in homes and temples in Japan and China as a natural air freshener, and because it symbolizes happiness and good fortune. It reminds me of the perfumy scent of azahar (orange-blossom water), which the spanish love to add to baked treats like muffins, breads, and french toast. I guess that’s what got my wheels turning and taste-buds buzzing for this recipe: Buddha’s Hand Scones.Now, I don’t want to get roped into a philosophical debate about scones. There are already plenty of people engaging in passionate arguments about all aspects of scones, including how to pronounce it, if they should be round or triangular, if they should use butter or not, and even if the cream or the jam should be put on first (FYI, 57% say jam first). If you are one of those people and have your stronger-than-oak opinion about how a scone should be, I encourage you to just add the Buddha’s Hand to your recipe so that you’re sure to have the type of scone you like — buttery or dry, fluffy or dense, flaky or crumbly. My recipe is for a slightly crispy scone that is moist on the inside. (I don’t even know where my basic scone recipe came from, as figuring that out would be like figuring out where my chocolate chip cookie recipe came from.)Because one Buddha’s Hand has so much rind, it was really more than I needed for scones. I decided to use the rest of it to make some marmalade, which went quite nicely with the scones. Marmalade is not for everyone, as it does have that slightly bitter “kick.” But I find marmalade to be the perfect way to dress up things like scones, cheese, or other treats that you don’t want to overpower with sweetness.On this atypically rainy afternoon, I pretended like I was in the Cotswolds with my scone, jam, and hot tea. The Buddha’s Hand bits give the scone a hint of floral citrus without being overly sweet (if you do like sweet scones, I imagine you could candy the citrus bits first, but then it wouldn’t be a throw-it-together recipe like this one). Scones aren’t exactly a health food, so I made sure I enjoyed every last crumb to the sound of the rain pattering on my skylight.
Buddha's Hand Scones
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, frozen
- 3/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons cold buttermilk
- 3/4 cup finely chopped Buddha’s Hand
- 1 Tablespoon demerara sugar
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in a large bowl. Grate the frozen butter into the dry ingredients using the large holes of a cheese grater and lightly work the butter into the dry ingredients with a fork or pastry cutter until it resembles a coarse meal.
Add 3/4 cup buttermilk and the chopped Buddha’s Hand to the flour mixture and stir until it is just moistened and can be formed into a ball. Place the dough ball on a lightly floured surface and form it into an 8″ circle using your hands. Use a sharp knife dipped in flour to cut the circle into 10 wedges.
Place the wedges at least 1″ apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush each wedge with the remaining buttermilk and sprinkle with the demerara sugar. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the scones are golden. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly on a wire rack before serving.
Buddha's Hand Marmalade
- 1 Buddha’s Hand, finely chopped
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 cups water
- Juice from 1 lemon
*For instructions on how to sterilize jars and preserve your marmalade for shelf-stable storage, see this recipe by Alton Brown. Otherwise, marmalade will keep covered in the fridge for about a month.
Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer on low for about 1 hour or until the volume has been reduced by half. Then increase heat and bring to a bubbling boil until the temperature on a candy thermometer reaches 220 degrees fahrenheit. Pour into jars and let cool before serving.