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I never used to understand the obsession and appeal of scones. Not until I took a bite of a truly great one.
Many scones are bland and dense. Who wants that?
It wasn’t until I perfected my own recipe that I realized how delightful scones can be. They’re sturdier and heartier than biscuits because they contain eggs and more sugar.
What I love most about them (besides all. the. BUTTER.) is that they belong on pretty much any breakfast or brunch table.
You can dress them up by adding nuts, citrus zest, or chocolate chips. Or simply serve them plain alongside some local jam or homemade flavored butter. Or clotted cream, though this is more of an American scone recipe than British.
Any way you serve these, they’re bound to be perfect if you follow my tips below!
How to Make Scones
Get Flaky Scones with COLD Butter
- Butter must be COLD from the very start to when the dough enters the oven.
- The cold butter melts upon entering the oven and the water content in butter evaporates in steam.
- As the steam escapes, it bursts up and creates that beautiful tall, flaky, fluffy texture.
- I like to cube then freeze my butter before assembling the dough.
- I also always prefer to use unsalted butter for baking. You can find out why here: Salted vs. Unsalted Butter.
Why is Buttermilk Used in Scones?
This is absolutely the preferred liquid for scones. It will result in tender, taller scones because of how its acidity reacts with the baking powder and tenderizes the dough overall. It also adds a lovely tang to create more depth of flavor.
What if I don’t have Buttermilk? Can I Substitute and Still Make Scones?
I would NOT substitute buttermilk with a DIY alternative. If you aren’t able to use buttermilk, you can also use keffir or alternatively, heavy cream. You can learn more about the science of buttermilk here.
Tips for How to Make Scone Dough:
- Whatever you do, do not overmix the flour mixture or dough or allow it to get too warm. This will result in flatter, tougher, and less flaky scones.
- My absolute favorite tool for making biscuits or scone dough quickly and easily by hand (so I don’t have to lug out my food processor) is this OXO bladed pastry blender.
- Use a marble pastry board to help keep the dough cool. If at any point you notice the butter become greasy and melty, pop the dough into the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes before proceeding.
- You can also pop the baking sheet of shaped unbaked scones in the fridge or freezer while the oven preheats, to ensure the butter remains nice and cold.
How to Make Tall, Flaky Scones BONUS tip:
We’re stealing a trick from croissant baking that I use in my Best Ever Pie Crust recipe! A little bit of “lamination” gets the scones to shoot up sky-high with tons of flaky layers. Don’t worry, it sounds more complicated than it actually is. If this seems like way too much work, just skip this step. You’ll still have tasty scones! Check out my How to Make Tall Scones & Biscuits article for more tips.
How to Laminate Your Scone Dough:
- If adding any mix-ins, fold into dough prior to step 2.
- Turn the craggly mass of dough out onto your work surface.
- Shape it into a rectangle.
- Fold the rectangle horizontally in thirds, like you’re folding a piece of paper to go into an envelope.
- Flatten it out into a rectangle again.
- Now fold it in thirds once more, but going the opposite direction. This will also help you to gently ‘knead’ the dough so it comes together into a more cohesive disk without overmixing it. Overmixing leads to rubbery and tough scones and biscuits.
Try to shape half your scone dough using this trick and half without to compare the difference. You’ll be surprised!
I actually demonstrated this during a live Zoom class recently Take a look at Benjamin’s laminated vs. un-laminated scone:
How to Make Scones Ahead of Time:
The shaped unbaked scones can be covered and refrigerated overnight. Bake from the fridge as the recipe directs.
How to Freeze Scones:
Place in an airtight container and freeze for up to 1 month. If baking from frozen, add about 2 minutes to the baking time.
Scone Flavor Variations:
Feel free to get creative with your scone flavorings! Listed below are some ideas with specific ingredient additions. But you can add in about 3/4 cup of dried fruit, chocolate chips, nuts, etc., to the dough. If using fruit, dried fruit or frozen berries such as raspberries work best!
- Cranberry Orange
- Lemon Poppy Seed: Add 3 tablespoons poppy seeds + 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest to the dough.
- Cinnamon Sugar: Mix 3 tablespoons granulated sugar with 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and sprinkle on the egg-coated unbaked scones.
How to Make A Glaze for Scones:
- 1 1/2 cups (188 grams) powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons water, milk, or citrus juice
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, or other extract
- Citrus zest, to taste, if desired
Whisk all glaze ingredients together until thick but still pourable. Spread over cooled scones and let stand until set.
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(381 grams) all-purpose flour
(66 grams) granulated sugar
fine sea salt
sticks (170 grams) unsalted butter,
cold and cubed
(237 grams) buttermilk
Adjust the oven rack to the center position and preheat to 400°F. Line two baking pans with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
Add the butter and cut with a pastry cutter or a fork until the butter is the size of large peas.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, 1 egg, and vanilla extract.
Make a well in the middle and add the liquid mixture. Mix until just combined. Don't over mix. If adding in dried fruit, nuts, chocolate, or other flavorings, do so now.
Transfer the dough to a floured surface. *Optional Step: See Recipe Notes for lamination instructions.
Divide into 2 equal parts. Lightly knead each into 3/4-inch thick, 6-inch diameter rounds. Cut each round into 8 wedges and place on your prepared baking pans. Space them out about 2 inches apart.
At this point the unbaked scones can be refrigerated overnight, or sealed and frozen for up to 1 month. If baking from frozen, add about 2 minutes to the baking time.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining egg with 1 teaspoon water. Brush over the scones. Sprinkle with the coarse sugar.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. The scones are best served warm, or within a few hours of baking.
OPTIONAL STEP: Here's how to laminate your scone dough:
Turn the craggly mass of scone dough out onto your work surface. Shape it into a rectangle. Fold the rectangle in half like a piece of paper. Flatten it out into a rectangle again. Now fold it in half once more, but going in the opposite direction. This will also help you to gently 'knead' the dough so it comes together into a more cohesive disk without overmixing it. Continue with step 7 above.
This recipe was originally published in May 2017 and was updated in 2023 with new photos and even more baking tips. Photos by Joanie Simon.