I used to hate scones. I used to hate scones.
No, I mean, I hated them. They were weird, hard, dry bricks with no flavor that were sold to me by major coffee chains and the like. I couldn’t imagine that anyone would ever prefer one of those things to a nice, fluffy, soft muffin.
Of course, I didn’t grow up in England or any place where scones are tradition. I only knew them from nationwide coffee chains………
And then I learned how easy they are to make. And how forgivable, and how variable. And that they taste great, with a delicate and crumbly texture (unlike the heavy bricks of scones I’d previously known). And that you can make them and freeze them and they pretty much taste just as good reheated as freshly baked. Wow. I was floored. A scone is basically a biscuit, meaning some combination of butter, flour, chemical leavener (baking powder or soda), and the flavor elements.
So, I set out to make some scones. And I started with some chocolate and some tart dried cherries that had been in the pantry for a while. They were going to be put into a brioche loaf at some point, but it just never happened. The scones were great, but I got a little carried away, because I just couldn’t stop and ended up making some with white chocolate and dried apricot as well!
Scones are made by rubbing or cutting butter into flour and other dry ingredients, folding in some flavor elements (here chocolate/cherries or white chocolate/apricots) and mixing it up with a little cream until it just comes together. The dough, depending on how wet it is, is either cut into pretty triangles from a square or round shape, or simply scooped onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Et voilà! In 20 minutes or so of baking, you’ll have scones like these.
So, below you’ll find my basic scone recipe, which I think is neither too dry and crumbly, nor too wet and heavy. A good balance all in all.
And here’s my scone secret. I swear it makes a difference. I always do the dry ingredients first and incorporate the cold butter. Then I put the bowl in the refrigerator or freezer to get cold again while I prep the other ingredients, such as chopping the fruit and chocolate, or incorporating the egg into the cream. I find this helps with a flaky texture by keeping the butter cold, but it doesn’t take any more time than the traditional advice of prepping all your ingredients before assembling them. Try it. I think it makes a difference, but am curious to hear your thoughts.
And, as I’m always curious about these things, what is YOUR favorite scone flavor or flavor combination? I had a great scone with candied ginger (served with lemon curd and clotted cream for spreading) at Cook’s County last weekend. What’s your dream scone???
Scones (Apricot/White Chocolate or Tart Cherry/Chocolate)
for 8 scones*
- 1 3/4 cups (220 g) all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup (67 g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp. (3.5 g) salt
- 1 Tbsp. (12 g) baking powder
- 6 Tbsp. (3 oz. or 85 g) cold butter, diced
- 1/2 cup (4 oz. or 115 g) diced dried apricots or tart cherries
- 3 oz. (85 g) white or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (chopping a bar is more work, but it melts nicer than the chips)
- 1/2 cup (4 oz or 155 g) cream
- 1 egg
- sugar (granulated, crystallized, or turbinado) and a little extra cream for finishing the scones
Heat the oven to 375 degrees (190 C).
1. Combine the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder together in a bowl. Give it a good stir with a fork or a whisk to make sure everything is well-combined.
2. Cut the cold butter into the dry ingredients, until the mixture resembles wet sand, grated parmesan, or something of the sort. It’s okay for the butter to be in somewhat unevenly-sized chunks — what you’re looking for is that there are no longer any dry ingredients that completely dry. You can do this with a pastry cutter, or your fingers (which is what I use). After cutting the butter pieces down with your fingertips, you can pick up handfuls of the mixture and rub the heels of your hand together to until you get to the right consistency.**
3. Stir in the fruit and chocolate.
4. Combine the egg and cream together until no big pieces of egg white remain, and then add the cream/egg mixture to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Stir it around. At first it might seem like there’s not enough liquid, but it will be enough for a crumbly dough (which is what you want).
5. Form the dough (it will be crumbly) into a square or a circle, about 8 inches (20cm) across, and use a bench scraper or a knife to cut the dough into 8 pieces.
6. Place the scones on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and brush the tops with a little extra cream, taking care not to drip too much onto the baking sheet. Sprinkle with sugar of your choice.
7. Bake for 20-25 minutes, and cool on a rack until you want to enjoy them.
Scones will stay fresh for a day or so, but as I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I’ve had really good luck freezing them (either wrapped in plastic or in a plastic freezer bag with the extra air squeezed out) and reheating them for about 15 minutes in a 350 degree (175 C) oven.
* You can make 16 small scones with this as well. Perfect for a fancy tea party. Just cut the cooking time by 5 minutes or so.
** At this point, as mentioned above, I will usually put the bowl into the freezer or refrigerator while prepping the rest of the ingredients.