May 5, 2009

A Recipe to Change Your Mind About Scones

If you think that you don’t like scones, chances are you haven’t had a good one. Once you bite through a scone that is done right, you will realize all that it should be: deliciously tender, flaky and slightly sweet. Unfortunately, many of the scones available to us are dry and dense, often dressed up with glazes, chocolate and excess sugar.

Scones are thought to be of Scottish origin, where they were originally made with oats and cooked on griddles over an open fire. Today’s scones are a type of quick-bread, similar to a biscuit, made with flour, baking powder, butter, milk (including cream or buttermilk), and sugar. They are shaped into individual wedges or rounds and baked until golden brown with a white and soft interior.

The trick to making scones, or any kind of flaky dough (like a pastry crust) for that matter, is to work cold butter into the flour until it looks like coarse crumbs. It is also very important not to overmix once the liquid ingredients are added, which would result in a dense, doughy scone. The dough is then lightly kneaded, just enough to develop a structure with alternating layers of dough and fat. If these steps are done correctly, a delicious biscuit with a distinct flakiness will result.

In England, plain scones are traditionally eaten split open with preserves, clotted cream or lemon curd. American scones tend to have the sweetness baked into them (and eaten like a muffin), flavored with different fruit, nut and spice combinations.

My favorite scones are those made with fresh fruit. There is a well-known bakery in San Francisco called Arizmendi that makes the most delicious baked goods. They feature a scone-of-the-day with an assortment of fruit combinations. I also really enjoy their cornmeal-cherry and oat varieties. I didn’t think that I could ever make a scone anywhere near as flaky and delicious as those that come from the Arizmendi ovens. I have to say though (and Justin agrees), that one of my first attempts was quite successful. Given that strawberries can be found all over the Bay Area markets, I decided to go with a fresh strawberry scone made with buttermilk. The flavor was reminiscent of a strawberry shortcake. They were especially delicious right out of the oven with a glass of milk.

Fresh Strawberry Scones

Lowfat buttermilk lends a rich, buttery flavor and tender texture to the scones without excess fat. These moist scones are delicious with strawberries, but I bet any type of fresh, diced fruit would do.

Makes 8 large or 12 small scones.

2¼ cups all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons natural cane sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
3/4 cup buttermilk
1½ cups diced fresh strawberries
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 375° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cane sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda; whisk to blend.
3. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in the butter pieces until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
4. Gradually add the buttermilk to the dough, mixing with a wooden spoon until the dough just comes together. Gently fold in the strawberries. Do not overmix.
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough in half and form each piece into a 2-inch thick disk. Cut each disk into 4-6 even wedges. Place the scones 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
6. Before baking, brush each scone with egg and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.


  1. those scones look amazing!

  2. Leslie! This is my go to scone recipe now. I've used it about a million times since you wrote this entry...

    Thanks and I miss you!