The Best Scone Recipe I’ve Ever Made
No, your scone is NOT supposed to be a sad dry heap of useless carbs! The best scones are crispy on the edges and tender in the middle. They are buttery, flaky, perfectly moist pieces of breakfast perfection that are surprisingly easy to make with a few tips. Don’t let the sad coffeehouse selections fool you into thinking you don’t like scones. You just haven’t tried this recipe yet! Originally posted February 13, 2012.
My best friend Sarah just texted me: “It’s 7:15am and both my dishwasher and washing machine are running, so I’m loving life right now. I’m just sitting on the couch listening to them and feeling so productive!”
You know how most people want quiet appliances? Like, the kind where you can’t even tell if the dishwasher is running? Not Sarah. She’s always talking about how when everything is running at once she feels like someone else is doing all the work for her. Like a regular old Rosey the Robot, from Jetsons. The future, guys: we have arrived.
Also, I just want to add a note that there has been literally no day of my life where both the washing machine and dishwasher were running by 7:15am. Most days I’m barely crawling out of bed by then. Things have not changed since we were roommates in college and she would have to shove my piling laundry back on my side of the room with a broom handle. Sarah and I: the odd couple indeed!
Sarah and her family are in the middle of a transcontinental move right now. They are heading back to the states after a 3 year stint in Japan with the military. I can’t even tell you how excited I am to be back in the same time zone as my best friend! Even after 3 years, I still call her half the time and then hang up frantically when I realize it’s 4am in Japan.
How is everyone holding up lately? I can’t believe July is over. Only one more month before school starts…except it’s not starting. Cue the tears.
Or how about we just bake away all our sorrows?? Scones for the win! If you are not feeling excited about the prospect of a freshly baked scone yet, it’s because you’ve never had a decent one. Curse you and your dried out baked goods, Starbucks! Ruining the reputation of classic British baked goods the world over!
I decided to make scones a few weeks ago when my friend Kim promised my 9-year-old daughter that she would throw an Anne of Green Gables watching party if Charlotte finished the book. Well she finished the book and all 72 sequels after that, so an Anne party we had! (We even dyed our hair green. Just kidding.) What food could be more early-century Canadian than scones??
What is a scone?
A scone is similar to a biscuit. It is a flaky dough made by cutting cold butter into flour, and uses baking powder to rise. They can be sweet or savory. English scones are a little bit different (they are made with softened butter rather than cold butter, changing the texture.) Usually they are shaped with round biscuit cutters instead of the triangle shape popular here in the US. Do I have any British readers who can tell us more about scones from the homeland? Teach me!!
A warm homemade scone spread with butter and jam is one of life’s greatest pleasures, but I didn’t always think so. Mostly because my mom never made scones growing up, so my only experience with them came from coffee shops. An already-bad scone that has been sitting in a glass display for 8 hours? I need a glass of milk just thinking about it.
The first time I had a truly amazing scone was when Eric and I went to High Tea at this fancy hotel in Victoria one time. They had the cucumber sandwiches and 3 tiered serving platter and everything. The scones were SO GOOD. Perfectly moist and tender on the inside, delightfully crispy on the edges, and full of buttery flavor. And topped with clotted cream and freshly made jam! Heaven!
Basic Scone Ingredients
Here’s what to have on hand. Quantities given in the recipe below!
- All purpose flour
- Granulated sugar
- Kosher salt
- Baking powder
- COLD butter
- Heavy cream (see recipe note)
- Sour cream
- Optional mix-ins like blueberries, cream cheese, etc. More on that below!
For the glaze:
- SOFT butter. You’ll want it very soft so let it sit on the counter or soften in the microwave.
- Powdered sugar
- Kosher salt
How to Make Scones
It’s true that scones are really easy to put together, but there are a few really important tips to follow if you want to avoid sad dry scones, or scones that end up cakey instead of flaky.
First put together all your dry ingredients: flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Then use a pastry cutter (or a cheese grater!) to cut the cold, cold butter into the flour.
Why is it important that the butter for scones be cold?
Butter melts very quickly in the oven, and the little pockets of butter in your scone are no exception. If they start out ice cold, they are going to take longer to melt. This gives your scone a chance to rise higher in the oven, creating little pockets of air where the cold butter used to be. This is how you get a flaky scone texture!
You want to have pea-size pieces of butter. Don’t over mix it! You can use a food processor for this step if you like. Or a cheese grater as shown above. You can even use frozen butter. The colder the butter, the better!
Next pour in the wet ingredients: egg, vanilla, cream, sour cream. Stir it together into a shaggy dough and then switch to using your hands, making sure to coat them with flour first. Use your hands to fold the dough on top of itself in layers until it comes together. Try to use as few strokes as possible.
Fold in mix-ins if you like (it’s not necessary), and pat into a circle.
This is a master scone recipe and you can add any type of mix ins that you like. I made a few different versions: Cream cheese, blueberry, and plain.
Here in California we don’t have clotted cream at the grocery store (I think they have it in Canada??), and it’s kind of a long process to make your own (I will post a recipe someday!) So my quick fix is adding chunks of cream cheese coated in sugar to my scones. It’s so good! You could even try doing half cream cheese, half blueberry. That would be delicious.
Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to slice your circle in half, then each half into 3 triangles.
Look at how thick it is! Can you see the layers? You get that by not over working your dough.
Freeze for 30 minutes. This freezing step is really, really important. Super cold butter going into a screaming hot oven is what makes your scone tender and flaky instead of tough and dry.
If you don’t have room in your freezer for the whole baking sheet, just put them on a plate in the freezer and transfer back to a baking sheet after 30 minutes.
Scone recipe mix-in ideas
The sky is the limit on what to fold into your scone recipe. You want to add about 3/4 to 1 cup of total mix-ins for this amount of dough. Here are some ideas!
- Blueberries with a tablespoon of lemon zest
- Chocolate chips and toasted pecans
- Dried tart cherries with almond extract (top with sliced almonds)
- Craisins with orange or lemon zest
- Grated marzipan, chocolate chips, and orange zest
- Raspberry and white chocolate (frozen raspberries work great)
- Apple and cinnamon
- Dried apricots and coconut extract
- Sugar coated cream cheese scones; see recipe
Savory: you will want to reduce the sugar to about 1/4 cup if you are doing savory scones.
- Bacon and White Cheddar (like in this overnight recipe)
- Parmesan cheese and rosemary
- Sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, and basil
- Apple, cheddar, and crumbled bacon
- Kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and feta
- Mini pepperoni and chopped chunks of mozzarella. Dip in marinara.
(The brown crystallized sugar you see in this photo is from the sugar I coated my cream cheese chunks in. Normal scones won’t do that. But it sure is delicious. Who can say no to a bit of crystallized sugar??)
What is the difference between a scone and a biscuit?
Visually, the biggest difference between a scone and a biscuit is the shape. Biscuits are almost always cut into circles, and scones are often cut into triangles. Traditional British scones are more dense and crispy, using heavy cream rather than butter as the fat. This recipe is not dense, and is only crispy on the edges. The inside is light and flaky and tender. We are using butter, cream, and sour cream to make sure it’s super moist. Biscuits are usually savory and more buttery. Here is my favorite Flaky Buttermilk Biscuit Recipe! It’s so good.
How to store Scones
Scones don’t have a long shelf life which makes their tendency to disappear into hungry mouths really convenient. To stretch their shelf life, seal tightly once cool and store on the counter or fridge. Eat within 2 days to get that wonderful texture.
Do scones freeze well?
Yes! To store longer than a few days, wrap the baked scones so they are air-tight. Freeze up to 3 months. Rewarm in the microwave on a low setting and don’t overdo it. Don’t “cook” the scones in the microwave, just warm them. You can also slice in half and toast.
Can this scone recipe be made ahead of time?
Yes, I do this all the time!
To make the dough in advance, follow the recipe through cutting the dough into triangles. Put the triangles onto a pan or plate and freeze for 30 minutes. Then tightly seal the frozen sections of dough in a ziplock. You can have scones on any random day! Just take them out and pop them in the oven totally frozen. This is also a great recipe to make for overnight guests. Make the dough the night before, then toss them in the oven in the morning.
What to put on a scone:
For sweet scones, the toppings are where it’s at. Try these:
- The Best Lemon Curd << If you’ve only ever had store bought lemon curd, MAKE THIS. They are just not even in the same category.
- Cinnamon Honey Butter << So easy to make and to-die-for on fresh baked goods!
- 2 Minute Maple Butter << Easy and delicious!
- Easy Strawberry Jam from Dinner Then Dessert
- Grape Jelly from A Baker’s House
The Best Scones Recipe
- 2 & 1/2 cups all purpose flour, spooned and leveled
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 & 1/2 tablespoons baking powder, yes really
- 1/2 cup butter, (1 stick) COLD butter, frozen butter is great too
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1/3 cup heavy cream*
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- more cream, for brushing
Optional add in
- 1 (8-oz) package COLD cream cheese, chopped
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar, for coating cream cheese
For the glaze
- 2 tablespoons butter, very soft
- 1 & 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1-3 tablespoons milk
- Dry ingredients: In a large bowl, combine 2 and 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup sugar**, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1 and 1/2 tablespoons baking powder.
- Wet ingredients: In another medium bowl, add 1 egg, 2 teaspoons vanilla (omit for savory scones), 1/3 cup cream and 1/3 cup sour cream. Whisk it together. Set aside.
- Cut in butter: Now back to the dry ingredients. Use a pastry cutter to cut in the COLD or frozen butter. You can also grate the butter using a cheese grater and mix it in that way. Cut the butter in until it is incorporated and there are still pieces of butter about the size of a pea. Don’t overdo it! See photos.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Use a wooden spoon to stir it together until it forms a shaggy dough.
- Coat your hands with flour and finish kneading the dough in as few strokes as possible. (Overworking the dough makes for a tough scone.) Use your hands to fold the dough on top of itself, creating more and more layers until it has come together and all the flour is incorporated. You can add a tablespoon or two of ice cold water if you think it’s necessary. I try to get the dough to come together in 5-8 folds. Do your best and remember that you will get better with practice!
- Mix-ins: At this point add in any mix ins you plan to use. (If you want to add cream cheese like you can see in the photos, chop an 8 ounce block of cream cheese into 1/2 inch chunks. Coat with 1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl, making sure all the cream cheese is coated. Carefully fold into the dough.)
- Prepare a work space with plenty of flour. I like to use a pastry cloth. Transfer the dough to the work place and use your hands to shape the dough into a 6 to 8 inch circle. I like really thick, tall scones. The thicker your circle of dough is, the taller your scones will be. If you added mix ins, your circle will be a bit larger.
- Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut the circle in half. Cut each half into 3 equal triangles.
- Place on a baking sheet that has been lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Place the scones at least 3 inches apart from each other.
- Freeze for 30 minutes.*** If you don’t have room in your freezer, you can put them in the fridge for 45 minutes. If you don’t have room to chill a whole baking sheet, place the scones on a plate and then transfer to the baking sheet when they are frozen/cold.
- 15 minutes before the scones are done freezing, turn your oven on to 400 degrees F.
- Place the cold scones on a baking sheet if you haven’t done so yet.
- Brush the top of each scone with cream. This will make the scones get nice and brown. Top each scone with coarse sugar if you like, or a bit of salt if you are doing savory scones.
- Bake: Put the scones in the oven and bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees.
- Turn the heat down to 375 without opening the oven.**** Bake for another 8-15 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. DO NOT OVER BAKE. This is where the magic happens, so stay nearby. If you over bake your scones, they will be dry even if you did everything else right. If you are not sure, use a spatula to lift up one of the scones. If they are a nice golden brown on the bottom, they are done.
- Remove from the oven and let set up on the pan for 10-15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Make the glaze: in a small bowl, whisk or use an electric beater to cream 2 tablespoons of very soft butter. Add 1 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1 tablespoon milk. Whisk together and add more milk until you have a consistency you like. Drizzle over the tops of the scones and let harden (it usually takes 20-30 minutes.)
- Top your scones with butter and jam! They are great reheated in the microwave.
- Store scones covered on the counter for 2-4 days. They are best eaten on day 1 so that you can get those crispy edges. After storing for a while it’s hard to avoid a bit of sogginess. (Starbucks solves this problem but leaving them out in the air, but then eventually the center gets dried out. So, pick your poison. Or just eat all 6 scones single handedly on day 1. No judgment here.)
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