Scones are SO in: Get with the program

scones

The scone, in its original incarnation nothing more than a British buttermilk biscuit, has settled comfortably into the American breakfast landscape. And in the process, it’s been Americanized (of course!) into a sweet, buttery, sugar-topped “biscuit” filled with chocolate chips or swirled with cinnamon or studded with pecans–or all three. Scones… have made it into America’s coffee-break mainstream; they now comfortably share bakery-case space with muffins and cinnamon buns and other more common morning treats. I mean, when Starbucks sells scones, you know they’ve made it to the big time.

But just as there are chocolate sandwich cookies from the dollar store, and there are DoubleStuf Oreos, so are there average scones, and really great scones. And the fact is, to enjoy REALLY great scones, you have to make them yourself. Because, like biscuits, and pancakes, and popovers, a hot-from-the-oven scone is the only way to go. A cold scone? Well, better than no scone at all… But a hot scone, split open and spread with jam or butter so that said jam or butter ooooozes out the sides and drips on your fingers as you eat…. Ah, now THAT’S the way to enjoy a scone.

Scones are a nice middle-of-the-road choice for special holiday breakfasts, where you want to balance your audience’s perception of what’s set in front of them against how long it took you to make said treat. Scones are seen as fancier than muffins, and perhaps a half-step below a streusel coffeecake or yeasted sticky buns or cinnamon rolls. But they balance very favorably in the labor-to-result equation: scones are way, WAY easier (and faster) to make than cinnamon rolls or their kin. (Especially when you use a mix; hint, hint… King Arthur’s scone mixes are the most popular mixes we sell, and we sell tens of thousands of them every year. That’s a lot for a little company like us! And listen up, you heard it here first: the new peaches & cream scone mix we’re bringing out this spring is my new best friend. I lived in Maine for 14 years, and as a native might say about these scones, “I tell you, Mr. Man, they are SOME good!”)

But I digress. Oven-hot scones. Mix, plop in a pan (or freeform ’em on a baking sheet), bake for 30 minutes, and there you have it–heaven on a plate. They require very few ingredients; are easily customizable to your friends’ or family’s taste; and are a lovely Christmas morning breakfast. If you can tear yourself away from the festivities for about 10 minutes (less, once you get your method down), you can pop scones in the oven and 30 minutes later be enjoying them with a cup of coffee (juice for the little ones). Hey, I defy anyone except the strictest dieter to turn down a warm vanilla-chocolate chip scone!

Have I talked you into it? Are you ready to make scones? Let’s get started with Simple Scones. Here are some illustrations to go along with the recipe.

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When you mix the cold butter with the dry ingredients, you don’t want to make it perfectly lump-free. Leaving some lumps means scones will be break-apart-tender, rather than crumbly/sandy textured.

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Stir in any add-ins (chocolate chips, in this case), then the egg-milk-vanilla mixture. The dough will be sticky. Don’t beat it endlessly; mix just until everything is moistened. The more you beat, the more likely you are to have tough scones. (Don’t worry; it’s a rookie mistake. We all make it when we’re starting out.)

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Take a flexible bowl scraper, and scrape all the dough into the center of the bowl.

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Divide it evenly among the greased wells of a scone pan, patting the dough out to fill each section…

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…or use a heaped muffin scoop (heaping 1/4 cup, or scant 1/3 cup) to deposit into greased 4″ round paper bakers.

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OR make the dough with 2 tablespoons less liquid, so it’s not quite as sticky. Shape it into a flat 7″ round on a lightly floured baking sheet (or lightly floured, parchment-covered baking sheet, to avoid having to wash the sheet). Use a wet bench knife to cut the dough into 8 wedges…

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…then pull them apart to separate them slightly. Compared to baking scones individually, in a pan or paper baking cups, this will yield scones with soft (rather than crunchy) edges.

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Top generously with coarse white sparkling sugar; you don’t have to do this, but it’s a lovely, crunchy-sweet touch.

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Bake till golden brown, and voilà–scone success! Remember, check out the Simple Scones recipe online, and customize to your family’s taste. A teaspoon of Vietnamese cinnamon and cinnamon chips, perhaps?

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...