What comes to mind when you think of a scone? Typically, when I tell people I love to bake scones, their reaction is – “Really? Aren’t scones dry and stale? Only good when dipped into tea?”
I do understand why this is a common perception. We’ve all tried (well, I have anyway) scones from chain cafes that are dry, stale, and tasteless and we only order them because we’re starving and want something to go with our coffee or tea. I’m not sure how people can get scones so wrong. But when you get them right (and they are SO easy to get right, I promise!), they are incredible.
Scones have a special place in my heart: I have my father-in-law, Jon, to thank for my scone obsession, and I have scones to thank for my engagement ring (it will take me awhile to get to this point, but it’s worth it). When I was at university in Washington, DC, I used to trek out to my in-laws’ house (before they were officially my in-laws) to study in peace and quiet, enjoy their company, and most importantly be spoiled by their phenomenal cooking.
Every Saturday and Sunday morning, they enjoy an early-morning, slow cooked breakfast. I loved this tradition of theirs because my family does the same. Now Mike and I have carried on that tradition and our favorite part of the week is cooking weekend breakfasts together.
Jon has a few go-to recipes that he and Mary make during these traditional breakfasts: omelets, popovers, chicken ‘n waffles, cheese pie, cheese and vegetable soufflés, and….scones. I found myself hoping to wake up to freshly baked scones every visit, so I finally mentioned to the Cuttings that they were my preference. I was spoiled with scones from then on. (Side note: Jon and Mary actually started baking scones when they couldn’t find any good ones while living in the UK themselves over ten years ago!)
I’ve always really enjoyed baking, so I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to me to ask Jon to learn how to make them. I was finally prompted over Thanksgiving in 2014 – it was the first time both of our families were spending a holiday together. My parents and brother had driven down to Washington from Massachusetts so that we could all be together. Unbeknownst to me, Mike was planning on proposing to me over Christmas, and he wanted to get our families together beforehand.
As Mike was having difficulty ascertaining my ring size, he concocted a plan and enlisted his dad’s assistance. Jon asked if I would like to learn to bake scones, during which he suggested that I take my rings off and set them aside so as not to get them dirty. Jon kept my attention elsewhere and while I wasn’t looking, Mike pressed the ring into a bar of soap – voila! Mike later took the bar of soap to my family’s jeweler to measure the approximate ring size.
When Mike told me and our families the story after he had proposed, I couldn’t get over how clever he and his dad had been! It also reinforced how much I loved scones and learning to bake.
Since then, I’ve baked them for a London coffee shop, as gifts for people, and for every guest that’s visited us in London. They’ve made it into our family breakfast rotation. Mike requests them more than most other things, even when we’re on holiday! It’s certainly a challenge to figure out each Airbnb’s oven settings (note to US readers: UK ovens make no sense). Now you can do the same. And don’t listen to British people, they don’t need to be served in the afternoon with tea. They’re perfect in the morning with some scrambled eggs, bacon, and coffee. Don’t forget the clotted cream and jam, too!
- Prep Time: 10-15 minutes (with practice, 5 minutes)
- Bake Time: 15 minutes (depending on the oven, see tips below in method)
- Total: 25-30 minutes
- Makes: 6 scones (1-2 per person)
- 1 ¾ cups flour
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 2 ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 85g butter at room temperature (6 tbsp)
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla (optional but very much recommended)
- 4-6 tbsp whole milk
- ½ cup dried fruit (currants, blueberries, cranberries, raisins)
- Serve with: clotted cream and your favorite fruit jam
- Large mixing bowl
- Small mixing bowl
- Scale (optional, but recommended if you bake a lot)
- Cutting board
- Pastry blender (whisk or large fork will do)
- Pastry brush (optional)
- Medium to large baking tray
- Preheat the oven to 375F (190C). If you have a fan oven, you may need to try out various settings to find the right one, but I have found that using the top and bottom heating elements without the fan works best vs. using the fan oven alone.
- Weigh or measure the butter (85g butter is roughly 1/3 cup butter if you don’t have a scale) and cut into small pieces. Set aside.
- Mix the dry ingredients (but not the dried fruit) together in the large mixing bowl. Tip: I have found that it’s best to use a mix of 1 cup plain white flour and ¾ whole grain flour for best consistency.
- Beat the egg in the small mixing bowl. Add the vanilla and beat for a few seconds more.
- Add the pieces of butter into the dry mixture and mix together with the pastry blender.
- Once the pieces of butter are fully mixed into the dry ingredients, pour the egg/vanilla mixture into the dry ingredients/butter mixture. Set the small mixing bowl with remnants of egg aside to be used as an egg wash later.
- Add the first 4 tbsp of milk and continue mixing. The mixture should start to firm up into a dough. Add the next tbsp. of milk and check consistency – it should be firm but moist. If you need to add an additional tbsp. of milk to bind all of the dry ingredients together, do so. It should result in a big ball of scone dough.
- Add in the dried fruit and mix together with your hands, fully incorporating the fruit evenly through the dough.
- Transfer the dough onto the cutting board and press it firmly with the palm of your hand until it forms an evenly round, flat circle that is about 1 ½ inches thick. Cut the circle into 6 wedges like a pizza.
- Transfer the scone wedges onto the baking tray (apply non-stick spray first if needed). Use a pastry brush or your finger to brush the leftover egg mixture onto the tops of the scones. Sprinkle with a little bit of sugar and cinnamon if desired.
- Bake the scones for 12-18 minutes. I have found that the time varies depending on the oven, so keep a close eye on them.
- I think using a high quality butter like Kerry Gold salted butter vs. generic store-brand butter makes a difference in the quality of the scones.
- I have gone through several versions of pastry blenders, and this one is by far the best and has lasted the longest for me. I even take it when we travel so I can make scones on the go!
- Don’t forget the clotted cream. You can use butter and jam, but clotted cream and jam is way more authentic and takes the scones to another level of epic deliciousness. In the U.S., I was able to find jars of it in certain grocery stores like Harris Teeter and Whole Foods. Or, you can be really authentic and make it at home – this involves baking full fat milk for 12 hours 🙂
- Mike’s parents found Boddington’s Berries jam when they were living in the UK, and we have continued to use that on top of our scones. It’s incredible.