Scones – Once Upon a Chef


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Say goodbye to dry scones. A secret ingredient makes these light, tender and buttery.

Good scones are light, tender and buttery – almost biscuit-like. So why are they so hard to come by? Even most coffee shop and bakery scones are dry and dense. After baking many batches of scones, I discovered that the secret to success boils down to one simple ingredient: cake flour. Cake flour is a finely-milled flour made from soft wheat with a lower protein content than all-purpose flour (7 to 9% versus all-purpose’s 10 to 12%). Less gluten forms when you mix it into the batter, which results in a very fine, fluffy crumb. It’s typically used to make cakes (obviously!), but it also makes incredibly good scones. These are simple and delicious slathered with softened butter and jam. For a kid-friendly variation, try these chocolate chip scones.

What You’ll Need To Make Scones

ingredients for scones

If you don’t have cake flour, you can make your own: simply whisk together 1¾ cups all-purpose flour and  ¼ cup cornstarch.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Preheat the oven to 425°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups cake flour, 2½ teaspoons baking powder, 2½ tablespoons granulated sugar, and a scant ¾ teaspoon salt.

whisking the dry ingredients for scones

Add 5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces.

cold butter cubes added to dry ingredientsUse your fingertips to rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with pea-size clumps of butter within.

butter rubbed into dry ingredientsIn a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together ⅔ cup heavy cream and 1 egg.

heavy cream and egg whisked together

Make a well in center of dry ingredients, then pour the cream/egg mixture in.

wet ingredients and dry ingredients together in bowlUse a rubber spatula to mix until the dough comes together into a mass. It should be a bit sticky but not so wet that you can’t handle it with your hands. If it seems dry, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of cream.

scone dough in bowl
Dust a work surface lightly with flour, then dump the scone dough onto the surface.

scone dough on floured work surface

Knead very gently a few times until dough comes together into a ball. (Sprinkle more flour, little by little, if dough is too sticky to work with.) Press dough into a flat circle about 7 inches in diameter and ¾-inch thick.

scone dough pressed into ballUse a sharp knife to cut into 8 triangles.

scone trianglesTransfer the wedges to the prepared baking sheet. Brush lightly with a beaten egg and sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon demerara sugar.

scones on baking sheet with egg and sugar toppingBake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the tops are lightly golden and firm to the touch.

baked sconesServe warm from the oven with softened butter or jam.

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Scones

Say goodbye to dry scones. A secret ingredient makes these light, tender and buttery.

Ingredients

For The Dough

  • 2 cups cake flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off (see note on substitution)
  • 2½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 2½ tablespoons sugar
  • Scant ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 large egg
  • ⅔ -¾ cup heavy cream (do not substitute milk or light cream)

For The Topping

  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon demerara sugar (also called raw sugar or turbinado)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the cake flour, salt, baking powder and granulated sugar. Add the pieces of cold butter. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with pea-size clumps of butter within.
  3. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together ⅔ cup heavy cream and the egg. Make a well in center of dry ingredients, then pour the cream/egg mixture in. Using a rubber spatula, mix until the dough comes together into a mass. It should be a bit sticky but not so wet that you can’t handle it with your hands. If it seems dry, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of cream.
  4. Dust a work surface lightly with flour, then dump the scone dough onto the surface; dust the dough with a bit of flour as well. Knead very gently a few times until the dough comes together into a ball. (Sprinkle more flour, little by little, if dough is too sticky to work with.) Press the dough into a flat circle about 7 inches in diameter and ¾-inch thick, then use a sharp knife to cut into 8 even triangles. Transfer the wedges to the prepared baking sheet. Brush lightly with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the demerara sugar. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the tops are lightly golden and firm to the touch. Serve warm from the oven with softened butter and jam.
  5. Note: If you don’t have cake flour, you can make your own: simply whisk together 1¾ cups all-purpose flour and ¼ cup cornstarch.
  6. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: To freeze before baking, place the raw scones on a baking sheet, let set in the freezer, then place in an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. Bake as needed directly from the freezer. (Allow 1 to 2 minutes longer in the oven.) To freeze after baking, let the scones cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Before serving, remove the scones from the container and let them come to room temperature. (If you have the option to freeze the scones before or after baking them, you will get the best results if you freeze before baking.)

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