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What Is a Scone?
Scones are a biscuit-like quick bread, usually made of wheat or oatmeal flour and baking powder for leavening. The dough is rolled into a disc, from which wedges are cut and baked until golden brown with a flaky, soft interior. Scones can be sweet or savory and are often eaten for breakfast, but are also served with afternoon tea.
What's the Difference Between English and American Scones?
While Americans got their scones from the English, the English scone is more similar to what Americans call a biscuit: round in shape but less flakey and more dense. They're perfect for slicing open and slathering with clotted cream and jam. American scones are baked in wedges and often much sweeter and mixed with various add-ins like blueberries, cranberries, oats, nuts, and cherries.
4 Tips for Making the Best Scones
- Use heavy cream or buttermilk: High-fat dairy makes a more tender, flavorful scone. For a non-dairy version, try using coconut milk.
- Frozen Butter: Cold butter yields flaky, delicious layers, so it's best to chill butter in the freezer before incorporating into the dough. Cold butter creates steam as the water content evaporates in the oven, which helps trap air and create layers.
- Don’t overmix the dough: Mix the scone dough until it just comes together to avoid a tough finished product. You want to see lumps in the dough.
- Refrigerate the dough: Keeping the dough cold is the key to great scones. Once the scones are shaped, place them in the fridge for 15 minutes to keep them from over-spreading in oven while baking.
8 of the Best Scone Toppings
- Lemon Curd: Tender scones and deliciously tangy lemon curd go together perfectly with a steaming cup of English tea. Make your own lemon curd at home or purchase it at the grocery store in the jam section.
- Clotted Cream: An essential part of cream tea, clotted cream, also known as Devon cream, Devonshire cream, or Cornish cream is often spread on scones along with jam. Spread jam first and top with cream for a Cornish-style cream tea, or first layer cream then jam for Devon style.
- Whipped Cream: For a lighter topping, whipped cream can be dolloped onto scones. Add fresh strawberries and you've got strawberry shortcake.
- Powdered Sugar: For a simple and pretty way to serve scones, try dusting scones with powdered sugar with a mesh sieve right before serving.
- Jams, Jellies, and Marmalades: Orange marmalade is a classic condiment to serve with scones and works well with dried fruit or chocolate chip scones. Jams and jellies come in a variety of fruit flavors and go well with all types of sweet scones (try serving with Chef Dominique Ansel’s simple strawberry jam!).
- Herbed Butter: Fresh herbs such as chives, parsley, and thyme can go well with savory scones. For an easy herbed butter: whip ½ a cup of room temperature butter with 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped herbs. Transfer to a ramekin for serving.
- Chocolate Sauce or Hazelnut Spread: For decadent scones try serving them with rich chocolate sauce or hazelnut spread. White chocolate sauce would pair wonderfully with raspberries.
- Glazed: Scones can be finished with a drizzle of classic vanilla glaze or try different flavors such as maple, chocolate, and lemon.
8 Popular Scone Mix-Ins: Make Your Own Scones
- Fresh Berry Scones: Adding fresh berries such as blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries to scones gives them juicy bites of flavor that contrast with the crumbly texture. Blueberry scones are a popular variety that can be topped with coarse sanding sugar for a finishing touch.
- Chocolate Chip Scones: Tender scones filled with melt-in-your-mouth chocolate chips are perfect for chocolate lovers. Serve them warm for gooey chocolate in every bite.
- Cranberry Orange Scones: Fresh or frozen cranberries and orange zest are added to scones for a pop of color and tangy, bright flavor.
- Pumpkin Scones: Made with puréed pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice, these scones will be your new favorite fall treat.
- Banana Scones: Inspired by banana bread, these scones are filled with ripe, mashed bananas and walnuts. Drizzle them with maple icing when they come out of the oven.
- Dried fruits and nuts: Dried fruits such as currants, raisins, and cherries add a sweet, chewy texture to scones and toasted nuts like pecans and walnuts can be added for crunch.
- Lemon Poppyseed: A small amount of lemon zest goes a long way in baked goods. Similar to salt, it can enhance flavors, giving your scone a refreshing aroma. A tablespoon or two of lemon zest with a tablespoon or two of poppyseeds works well in just about any scone or muffin recipe.
- Cheddar Cheese Scones: Savory scones are just as delicious as sweet versions. Scones made with sharp, shredded cheddar cheese and thinly sliced scallions goes perfect with silky scrambled eggs at brunch.
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Basic Buttery Scone Recipe
Prep Time35 min
Total Time1 hr
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 stick unsalted butter, frozen
- 1/2 cup heavy cream or buttermilk, plus more for brushing
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups add-ins such as chocolate chips, fruits, and nuts
- Optional: coarse sugar, icing, or confectioners’ sugar
- In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, white sugar, salt, and baking powder. Using a box grater, grate the frozen butter. Add to the dry mixture and combine with a pastry cutter or pastry blender until the mixture comes together and forms crumbs. Set aside in the freezer while mixing the wet ingredients.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together ½ cup heavy cream, egg, and vanilla extract. Pour over the flour mixture, add any add-ins, then mix together until combined.
- Turn dough onto a floured surface, and with floured hands, knead the dough into a ball shape; don't sorry if it's sticky. If the dough is dry, add 1 tablespoon of heavy cream. Shape into an 8-inch disc, transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and cut into 8 wedges with a knife or bench scraper. Pull the wedges about an inch away from each other, making a larger disc shape.
- Refrigerate unbaked scones for a minimum of 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400ºF.
- Brush tops of the scones with heavy cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar for texture if desired. Bake for 20–25 minutes until golden brown.
- Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes before finishing with additional toppings. Baked scones can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to one week.