I’m about to make a very bold statement, especially considering this is only my second post to this blog to date. Are you ready for this one? Here I go:
These are the best scones you will ever eat. Period.
I’m sure many, if not all, of you have suffered through a similar experience – eating a dry scone. There’s truly nothing worse, at least as far as food experiences go. A scone shouldn’t crumble apart into a mess as you try to take a bite. And it’s darn near criminal if it gives you a dry mouth feel as soon as you do take that bite, as if it’s trying to rehydrate itself by stealing every last bit of moisture from your mouth, only to annoyingly stick to its roof like its sad, dry life depended on it.
These scones, though, are anything but dry. Which is precisely why it’s the only scone recipe I’ve been using for the past two years now. This dough transforms into the most buttery, tender, and ever-so-slightly-but-perfectly-sweet scones as they bake up in the oven. Combined with the crunchy, caramelized bits of sugar that fleck the tops of these scones and the sweet-tart raspberry preserves nestled plop in the center like a bright jewel, you couldn’t ask for a better treat to start your day with. There are two components to this recipe that I’d like to take a moment to point out, as my many scone-related experiences have led me to believe that they are responsible for this recipe’s perfection.
First is the use of heavy cream in place of either milk or buttermilk. While buttermilk does lend itself to some deliciously tender scones, it lacks the sweetness that heavy cream naturally possesses. As someone with a pretty demanding sweet tooth, I love the sweetness that cream imparts on any scone or biscuit recipe. That being said, if you prefer a subtle tangy flavor to accompany your scones’ tender crumb, then substitute buttermilk for the cream in this recipe – I’ve made this recipe both ways with delicious results each time. And if you’re fresh out of buttermilk, don’t fret! You can always make your own by mixing some fresh lemon juice or vinegar (I prefer using apple cider vinegar over distilled white vinegar because it’s sweeter) – 1 tsp. of vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup of milk – and let it sit for about 5 minutes; then use as indicated in the recipe’s instructions.
Second, I really love this method of cutting the butter into the flour mixture. This recipe has been adapted from a recipe published in the Food Network Kitchens Cookbook, and it’s the only technique I use when making scones and biscuits now. You’ll start off by thoroughly cutting in a portion of the butter into the flour mixture, which creates a more cake- or muffin-like texture. The remainder of the butter is mixed in after, but left in slightly larger, pea-sized pieces. As the scones bake, these bits and pieces of butter melt and create pockets of steam that ultimately leads to a tender and flakey confection with an unmistakable buttery flavor.
While putting these together, you’ll want to keep all of the ingredients as cold as possible to achieve perfectly risen and tender scones. To ensure this, I like to pop the bowl of flour (with the butter cut in) into the fridge or freezer as I preheat the oven. This gives the dough a good 10-15 minutes of chill time before mixing in the wet ingredients and then shaping/filling. You’ll also want to avoid over mixing the dough and over-handling it during the shaping process – be forewarned, this is a fairly wet scone dough, so make sure your work surface is well-floured when you reach the point of shaping!
And feel free to use any flavor of jam or fruit preserves for the filling. I’m pretty partial to raspberry and mixed berry preserves, but any flavor will do – be creative! Maybe one of these days I’ll finally get around to filling these bad boys with some homemade lemon curd…
Makes 8 medium-sized scones
1 3/4 cup flour
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed and divided
2 teaspoons lemon zest
3/4 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing
About 1/2 – 3/4 cup of fruit preserves or jam (or any other filling of your choice)
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. To this mixture, add the lemon zest and 2 Tablespoons of the butter. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the mixture until it looks sandy in texture. Cut in the remaining 4 Tablespoons of butter until pea-sized pieces are formed.
(*At this point in the recipe, I like to pop the butter-flour mixture into the fridge or freezer for about 10 minutes as the oven preheats to 425º.)
In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the egg and cream until well-mixed. Stir into the butter and flour mixture using a fork just until combined; the final dough will be wet and sticky. (If you notice the dough is a bit dry, add more cream 1 Tablespoon at a time until it comes together.)
Dump the dough onto a well-floured work surface and pat into a narrow rectangle about 3/4-inch to 1-inch thick. Slice the rectangle in half length-wise with a sharp knife. Slice in half again, this time along the width of the rectangle to form four smaller rectangles. Cut each of these fourths in half along the width again to make 8 square scones.
Arrange the scones on a baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches of space between each one. Using either your index finger and thumb or the handle of a wooden spoon, create a large, wide well in the center of each of the scones. Be careful not to break through the bottom of the scone, and if the sides break or crack at all, just smush back together (you don’t want that precious jam filling to leak during baking!). Lightly brush the tops and sides of the scones with heavy cream, doing your best to avoid pooling cream in the bottom of the wells you just made in the center of the scones. Sprinkle the tops with coarse or granulated sugar, then fill the centers with 1 – 2 Tablespoons of fruit preserves (or other filling of your choice) – remember, these scones puff up and rise in the oven, so you’ll want the filling to come up a little bit past the rim of the well you created.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool on a wire rack until the filling is no longer too hot to eat.
Recipe adapted from the Food Network Kitchens Cookbook