About our scone recipe
A few years ago I learned something that would forever change my biscuit and scone baking career: the disappointing tin-like taste in my biscuits was the result of alum in the baking powder I was using. And, in place of baking powder, I could substitute baking soda and cream of tartar and have great results with a few adjustments to my process.
The scone recipe that I have used since then has a lovely sweetness to it. And the technique of larger bits of cold butter and straight cut edges means the scones rise beautifully and have a melt in the mouth quality. It has been such a dramatic change that I have since redesigned almost all of my recipes that called for baking powder.. with great results.
A quick word about great tools for great scones. The baking sheet must be a traditional heavy single layer metal sheet. Airbake will not do, as the bottom of the scone will not seal or brown well. Next, make sure you are using a good quality parchment paper , or a Silpat baking mat on the cookie sheet for great browning and easy cleanup.
Kneading gloves are now one of my new favorite things. Scone dough can be sticky and it must be kneaded a bit and shaped. These gloves will hold flour and prevent the dough from getting under your nails and drying your skin. They go straight from baking into the washing machine (skipping the perfumed dryer softener sheet!).. then back to my baking drawer for the next time.
Cutting the scones into shapes is easily done with a long plastic lettuce knife. For round scones use sharp edged deep biscuit cutters.
Basic Scone Recipe
* 2 cups all purpose flour
* 2 T. sugar
* 1 t. cream of tartar
* 1/2 t. soda
* 1/2 t. salt
* 1/2 stick (1/4 c.) cold butter, cut in 1/2 ” chunks
* 3/4 c. whole milk or part cream and whole milk
* coarse sugar (turbinado) for tops
* optional: 1/4 c. currants, craisins, or other dried fruit
* optional: 1/2 t. flavoring or 1 t. lemon or orange zest
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Combine all of the dry ingredients except the optional items. Have the milk and/or cream measured out in a cup. Using a sharp long knife, cut the butter first lengthwise into 4 sticks, then cut all of the sticks into 1/2″ chunks.
With a pastry cutter or 2 table knives, cut the butter into the dry ingredients as with pie crust, leaving some 1/4″ chunks. Do not blend too finely.
Make sure your baking sheet is ready with parchment paper, your tools are ready for shaping and cutting, and the oven is hot before proceeding. Once you add the liquid to the dry ingredients you have about 10 minutes to work with the dough before the leavening begins to lose its potency.
Add the milk to the dry ingredients. Add any other fruit and flavorings. Mix with a wooden spoon until almost blended. Then put on your gloves, flour them, and dump the bowl of ingredients onto a well floured board or countertop.
Gather the dough into a ball and knead a few times adding a bit of flour as you finish blending all of the ingredients. (Add flour to the gloves as you go.) Pat the dough down to a circle about 8-10 inches across and 3/4 inch thick. Sprinkle the top of the circle generously with the turbinado sugar. Flour the lettuce knife then, with a straight down rocking motion (do not saw) cut the circle into fourths, then cut each fourth in half again to make 8 wedge shaped scones.
(Alternate cutting for 12 smaller scones: shape the dough into a 4 by 12 rectangle. Cut the rectangle into thirds, then cut each third square into 4 pieces diagonally, as if you were cutting a sandwich into triangles.
Move quickly to put the scones onto the parchment lined baking sheet. Separate the scones by at least 2 inches, keeping the points into the center so they keep from over crisping. Bake just 10 to 12 minutes or until just browning. Move to a cooling rack. Serve warm with lots of cream and lemon curd or jam.
There are so many variations to making your own scone cream. One of the easiest is to mix equal parts of whipping cream (whipped to soft peaks) and active culture sour cream (anywhere from 1/2 cup to 1 cup each.) Then add powdered sugar (2T or more) and a bit of vanilla to taste. In our part of Minnesota I like to use Old Home naturally cultured sour cream.
You can use this cream right away, but it does develop a rounder flavor if allowed to sit a while. After mixing the two creams I keep the bowl at room temperature at least overnight to let the cultures work on the cream. Then refrigerate if you wish, but the warm scone goes best with room temperature cream and jam or lemon curd.
There are other variations of cream that use cream cheese or mascarpone. Any of these creams are wonderful. Try them, too, with fresh fruit. Strawberries dipped in the cream and served with brown sugar is a great dessert treat anytime.