real life test kitchen: brunch-perfect scones

This is a favorite recipe from our archives. Enjoy!

There are few baked treats I love more than a scone hot from the oven. They’re light, fluffy, flaky, and completely irresistible. Unfortunately, I’m too often faced with the generic, coffeehouse variety: stale, heavy, and hard as a brick. But I don’t blame them – the truth is that even the best scone is only good the same day. Day-old scones can be rescued with a brief stint in a toaster oven, but it’s still not the same…and after that, it’s best to use them for doorstops instead of breakfast.

So, I’ve found a solution: baking my own. Don’t panic — this is easily one of the simplest, never-fail recipes in my file. My go-to recipe is from the queen of all things baked, the Barefoot Contessa. The whole process (including rolling and cutting) takes about 10 minutes, and the dividends are utterly delicious. If you’re hosting an Easter brunch this weekend, I can promise these are a favorite your guests will adore. Best of all, they freeze brilliantly, so you can either make them ahead for a party (as I often do) or bake one to go with your coffee and newspaper every Sunday morning.

Weekend Scones – (barely) adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

What You Need:

4 c. flour
2T sugar
2T baking powder
2 tsp kosher salt
3 sticks (3/4 lb.) unsalted butter, diced
4 eggs
1 c. (1/2 pint) heavy cream
3/4 c. dried fruit, mixed with 1T flour – I love raisins, currants or dried cherries, but anything is great. Just chop larger dried fruits into raisin-sized chunks before coating in flour.
1T lemon zest (optional, but delicious).
1 egg blended with 1T water (egg wash) and sanding sugar or raw sugar, to top

How To Make:

1. Preheat your oven to 400 deg. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and zest (if using) in the bowl of a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix lightly to blend. Add diced butter, and turn mixer on low, letting it work until the butter has broken down to about the size of peas, and the mixture starts to look sandy (2-3 mins). Meanwhile, combine eggs and cream in a bowl, whisk to combine. When the flour/butter mixture is ready, add egg/cream mixture all at once – the mixture will come together almost instantly. Add in dried fruit and mix just until incorporated. Do. Not. Overmix.

2. This is a very sticky dough, so be sure your counter is well-floured before dumping the mixture out. Pull the mixture together on the counter, then roll (or really, you can just pat) to about 3/4 to 1 inch thickness (though I sometimes go as thin as 1/2 inch to get more scones from the recipe). Cut using a square cutter (my favorite is a 4-inch fluted square I bought in Paris(!), but any will work) or a round biscuit cutter. If you use a square, cut each square into triangles before baking, so that they’re pretty. Re-roll scraps, but no more than once, to preserve tenderness.

3. For the scones you want to bake immediately, place on a parchment-covered baking sheet, top with egg wash and sanding sugar (you can use table sugar, but I love the crunch from the sanding sugar). For the rest, place onto a cutting board or cookie sheet and put in freezer until hard, then transfer to storage bag until you’re ready to use. Bake at 400 for 20 to 25 minutes (15-18 minutes if you roll thinner, or aren’t baking a full batch at once), until scones are a deep golden brown on top – underdone scones are not good eats.

Serve with your favorite jam, some lemon curd, or a bit of unsweetened heavy cream, whipped just past stiff peaks, but just short of butter.

Depending on the size cutter and the thickness of the scones, you’ll get anywhere from 15 to 25 scones from this recipe. Enjoy!

From our partners
Beth Ellen

I have a great oat scone recipe I have been using for years and would be happy to share it–it is the best one I have ever found. It is a Martha Stewart recipe. The scones are mixed up, pressed into a log shape, scored, and frozen, and then baked from frozen so they don’t lose their shape. You can mix them up 2 weeks ahead if necessary, and/or bake only what you need. If you want the recipe–let me know!!

Megan B

@ Beth Ellen: yes — do share! I’ve been wanting to recreate the most amazing scones I used to get at the farmers market in SoCal — an oaty scone exterior filled with a pocket of fruit. SO.GOOD.

shelterrific » Blog Archive » feeling a little royal? decor inspired by kate & william’s wedding

[…] without plates and wallpaper, you can bet we’ll be up early on the 29th, eating scones and watching in glee as Kate takes her walk down Westminster Abbey’s center aisle. Are you […]

Beth Ellen

Megan B–See below–delicious! I usually use dried blueberries, and I make at least 12, not 10, and they are still very large scones! I pulled this from the Martha Stewart website–seplace for oat scones. I have been making these for more than 10 years, and they are always a hit.

Scones come in a variety of shapes — round, square, rectangular — and can be dappled with dried fruits such as cherries, cranberries, or blueberries. Serve scones fresh from the oven with butter, jam, or that British favorite, clotted cream.

Makes 10 scones

1 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup dried sour cherries, roughly chopped (optional)
10 ounces (2 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon heavy cream
pearl sugar, or turbinado, for sprinkling on top

1.Line an 11-by-17-inch baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine all dry ingredients with cherries, if using, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add butter, and mix on medium-low speed until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk, and mix until combined.

2.Turn out mixture onto a clean work surface. With hands, quickly pat mixture into a 16-by-3 1/2-inch rectangle that is 1 1/2 inches high. Score rectangle into ten triangles. Cover with plastic wrap, and transfer to the freezer for at least 2 hours.

3.Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove dough from the freezer, and cut into triangles with a sharp knife. Place scones 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Brush scones with heavy cream, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until lightly golden, about 30 minutes.

Cook’s Note
Freezing the dough for at least two hours before baking keeps scones from spreading too much. The dough will keep in the freezer for up to three weeks.

shelterrific » Blog Archive » five things we learned last week

[…] Baking a winning scone is easier than you think. Becki shared her go-to recipe and reader Beth Ellen shared hers in […]