Glazes and icings are always beautiful, but most taste too cloyingly sweet to me. My problem with royal icing: it’s made with egg white and powdered sugar, which results in a lovely texture, but has very little acidity. Many recipes get around this by instead using buttermilk, cream cheese, or lemon juice, which are a wonderful alternative (and which I use often in my own recipes).
But when you want to make something like a magenta blackberry icing, there’s little opportunity to introduce any acidic liquids. This recipe’s blackberry icing gets its moisture, flavor, and color from five measly berries and nothing else, so there’s no wiggle room (though—don’t worry—there are plenty more blackberries in the scones themselves).
If you add a squeeze of lemon juice to give it a little more zing, it’ll end up super runny and you’ll water down the blackberry flavor and color. But if you don’t add any acidity at all, it’ll taste like blackberry-flavored royal icing—not a tragedy (especially if you’re not as obsessed with sweet/tart flavors as I am), but not the most exciting thing in the world.
Sumac is the hero of this whole situation, and you don’t need very much of it to do the job. It adds acidity without adding any extra liquid, so you get as much flavor and texture out of those five blackberries as you possibly can. Moreover, sumac goes wonderfully with just about any berry, though you’ve got to be a little more careful using it with raspberries, which are already quite acidic on their own.
If you don’t have sumac at home, you can absolutely still make this recipe. A little pinch of citric acid will work just as well. And if you don’t have citric acid around, you can always just leave the sumac out entirely. It will still be bright pink and beautiful, and while it won’t have that characteristic sweet/tart flavor, it’ll still be delicious. This recipe also has the added benefit of lots and lots of cream cheese in the scones themselves (think rugelach meets biscuit dough), so you’re already a step ahead on the acidity front.
These scones are super easy to throw together, but there is a special trick to incorporating the blackberries into the dough without squishing them. As long as you follow the recipe closely, it’ll turn out just fine, but just be sure not to start compressing the dough together before sprinkling on the blackberries. And careful not to let the food processor overwork the dough to begin with.
Dump the loose crumbs onto the counter, sprinkle on the blackberries, bring the dough together while making sure the berries are evenly distributed, and then start to compress once they’re all in place inside the shaggy mound of dough. It’s really hard to squish them once they’ve got even pressure from the dough that’s surrounding them, and even if you do manage to slightly squish one or two of them, it’s not a big deal once they’re already situated in the dough. Try not to use your fingertips, and only apply as much pressure as you need to bring it all together into a cohesive mound. And don’t worry if a few of them peek through the top or sides—they’ll turn out really pretty that way.Print
blackberry sumac scones
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 8 scones
For the blackberry sumac icing:
35g blackberries (5 blackberries)
125g icing sugar (1 cup)
6g sumac (2 teaspoons)
For the blackberry cream cheese scones:
260g all purpose flour (2 cups)
50g sugar (¼ cup) + more for sprinkling
12g baking powder (1 tablespoon)
6g salt (1 teaspoon)
55g cold unsalted butter (3 tablespoons)
115g cold cream cheese (½ of an 8oz brick)
2 large eggs (100g)
165g blackberries (1½ cups)
Egg wash: 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water
Decoration: blackberry sumac icing (above), extra sumac, and extra blackberries
- For the icing: Place the blackberries, icing sugar, and sumac in a food processor. Blend until completely smooth, then move to a small bowl and set aside for an hour or two until you’re ready to use. It should be very thick and should slowly run off of a spoon.*
- Give the food processor a quick wipe or rinse to use again for the scones. No need to wash it fully, but just get rid of any big icing blobs or thick streaks, and dry it out if you rinsed it.**
- For the scones: Preheat the oven to 400°F [205°C].
- Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor. Pulse 2 or 3 times to blend. Cut the butter and cream cheese into approximately 1 tablespoon blobs as you add them to the food processor. Pulse about 10 times until only small lumps remain. Add the eggs and pulse about 6 more times, just until the eggs blend in and the dough starts forming little clumps.
- Dump the clumpy crumbs out onto a parchment-lined sheet pan. Don’t compress the dough yet and spread it out into a loosely even layer. Sprinkle on the blackberries evenly. Very gently shape the dough into a loose mound, taking care to keep the blackberries evenly distributed in the dough as you work, and being careful not to squish them. Some of the blackberries will peek out and some will be hidden inside the dough.
- Once the dough looks like a shaggy mound, start to gently compress it into an approximately 7 inch [18cm] diameter circle (the blackberries will squish slightly, but once they’re in the mound of dough, it’s less likely you’re going to totally smash one, because the pressure on them is now very even).
- Cut the circle into 8 wedges, and space the wedges out evenly. Brush each wedge generously with egg wash, and sprinkle with a little extra sugar.
- Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. Let them cool either on the sheet pan or a cooling rack, and then drizzle with icing. Decorate with extra blackberries and a little more sumac before the icing hardens.
* If you’re not weighing your ingredients precisely, you’ll probably have to adjust a bit. If your icing turns out too thick (like a spreadable paste that doesn’t run at all), blend in one additional small blackberry at a time until it reaches your desired consistency. If it turns out too thin, blend in a tablespoon more of powdered sugar at a time until it’s very thick but still pourable.
** If you make this recipe scones-first/icing-second, then you should wash the food processor fully in between because of the raw egg and flour.