When I think of scones, I get an urge to bake them. I often give in to my temptation because they don’t take very long to make. In 20 minutes you can have these amazing little clouds of baked goodness at your fingertips. This is why sometimes I even bake them first thing in the morning so I can have fresh and warm scones for breakfast.
Lost in English Translation
The word “scone” can have a slightly different meaning across the pond. The traditional English scone is a soft, buttery-rich bread, somewhat similar (emphasize somewhat) to the American biscuit (not to be confused with the English biscuit which in the US is called a cookie). In the US, scones are usually found in coffee shops and its texture is more crumbly and dry; falling somewhere in between bread and shortbread. Per their Southwestern English roots, scones are typically served with clotted cream and jam on top of the cream as part of the “Devon cream tea” (or with jam and clotted cream on top as part of the “Cornish cream tea” – I don’t take sides). Some popular “flavours” of English scones are: plain (butter or buttermilk), with currants or raisins (also known as “sultanas” in the UK). Despite being famous for its high presence at the English tea table, scones are also well consumed in Scotland and Ireland; where savory flavors (such as Scottish potato scone; known as tattie scones) and alternate methods of cooking them (in a frying pan or griddle versus baked) are also well-liked.
My first encounter
Ever since a trip to London four years ago I have been obsessed with scones (and clotted cream, but that is for another post). I had been to the UK before, but don’t remember my encounter with scones until this particular trip. A friend had her bridal shower at a traditional tea house outside of London. We had a lovely afternoon that started with drinking pims cocktails in the stunning garden of the beautiful tea house. Yet I couldn’t wait to go inside for our traditional English tea! I cannot recall how many scones I had that afternoon; it’s a memory I’m probably in denial of revealing, but that is the day I remember falling in love with scones.
About this recipe
Upon my return to the US, I was determined to find a good recipe. I searched British cookbooks, websites, talked with people I knew. I have lost count of how many recipes I tried. I then came across a recipe from Bon Appétit for “Lemon Cream Scones” that used heavy cream instead of butter. I wanted to make the recipe lighter so I decreased the amount of sugar and substituted milk for the cream; I tried another combination as well of milk and yogurt. The scones changed texture and became more similar to bread when yogurt and milk were added; still wonderful, but had lost their scone appeal to me. I further played with the recipe and reached a good compromise using some milk yet still keeping the cream for richness of the scone. I like making blueberry scones; sometimes when I don’t have blueberries I add raisins or just lemon zest. This is a great base recipe for any flavor you want to experiment with. My next attempt will be to make them savory, and I will soon share those recipes with you!
Adapted from Bon Appétit, May 1996 recipe Lemon Cream Scones
Yields 18 scones (approximately 2.5in/6cm in diameter)
Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Baking time: 8 minutes
Cooking Temperature: 420°F (215°C)
Ingredients (dough recipe):
- 2 cups (320g) flour
- 3 tablespoons (40g) sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 1/3 cup (75ml) milk (skim or low fat)
- 1 cup (225ml) heavy whipping cream* (click here to see Types of Cream) – or, you can use all cream [1 1/3 cups (300ml) of cream and no milk] for a richer scone.
- 2 tablespoons of cream for brushing top of scones (or can use same amount of milk or butter)
*Note: in the US, use “heavy whipping cream”
- 1/2 cup (80g) raisins (sultanas), cranberries, or dried apricots;
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest (plus 1 teaspoon of lemon juice);
- 1/2 cup of blueberries (also go well with a little lemon zest); or
- 1/2 cup (88g) chocolate chips.
- Preheat oven to 420°F (215°C).
- Sift flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a bowl. Add milk and cream and mix with a fork.
- a. Note: If adding raisins, cranberries, apricots, lemon zest, or chocolate chip, add them now to the dough mixture. If adding blueberries, see note below.
- Knead dough gently until smooth (less kneading leads to flakier scones). Use your hands to flatten the dough then use a rolling pin to smooth the surface. The dough should be approximately 1/2in (1cm) in height. Use a dough cutter of your choice to cut through the dough making round scones.
- a. Note: Use the cutter in an up and down motion instead of twisting it while cutting the dough; this helps the dough rise uniformly when baking (but additional ingredients may alter its shape).
- Place the scones on a greased and floured cookie sheet (or use silicone mat).
- Brush the scones with cream or milk or melted butter.
- a. Note: If making blueberry scones, I like to put the blueberries on top (mark the dough with your thumb so the blueberry sits on the dough and does not fall out).
- Bake for 8 minutes or until light golden brown.
Scones are best served warm, but can also be enjoyed at room temperature. If you are fortunate to have clotted cream to eat with your scones, I gastronomically envy you. The clotted creams found online sold in jars don’t taste good at all. I usually eat my scones with mascarpone cheese as a replacement when I crave clotted cream. Mascarpone is a dense cream and shares a similar texture to clotted cream; it’s also the closest flavor I found and tastes much better than the clotted cream in jars.
You can freeze this recipe for 2-3 months (thaw at room temperature, and reheat).
Hope you enjoy!