The complete guide: Scone Baking
The complete guide:

Scone Baking

The simple path to tender, delicious scones

...scones are surprisingly simple to make — and irresistible...

When you're checking out the breakfast options at your local bakery or coffee shop, scones are a given. Somewhere between biscuit and muffin — with a delicately crusty exterior, and tender, light crumb within — scones have become part of the morning ritual for many of us: grab your travel mug and a scone, and hit the road. Wedge-shaped or round, plain vanilla, filled with chocolate, or even savory (bacon-cheddar, anyone?), scones are surprisingly simple to make — and irresistible, especially hot from the oven.

How to make simple scones

Making scones is akin to stirring together biscuits. A simple mixture of flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, milk, butter, and often eggs (for added richness), scones can be flavored to taste — and loaded with add-ins. This basic scone recipe makes a mildly sweet, vanilla-scented scone, the perfect blank canvas for your favorite additions. Read the recipe for complete preparation details.

  1. Step 1

    Mix flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Work in the butter until the mixture is unevenly crumbly. Stir in dried fruit, nuts, or chips, if desired.

  2. Step 2

    Add milk (or cream) and eggs, plus vanilla.

  3. Step 3

    Stir until everything comes together to make a stiff dough.

  4. Step 4

    Divide the dough in half; shape each half into a 5" to 6" round about 3/4" tall. Place the rounds on a flour-dusted baking sheet (or floured parchment on a baking sheet).

  5. Step 5

    Brush the rounds with milk and sprinkle with coarse sparkling sugar or cinnamon-sugar, if desired. Cut each round into 6 wedges; separate the wedges slightly. Place the pan in the freezer for 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 425°F.

  6. Step 6

    Bake the scones for about 25 minutes, until they're golden brown. Serve them warm.

Tips for top-notch scones

  • Make sure the butter, eggs, and milk (or other dairy) are cold. Like pie crust and biscuits, scones rely on cold fat for their flakiness.
  • Work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like coarse sand with some larger, pea-sized chunks. The smaller particles of butter will tenderize, while the larger will create flaky texture.
  • Eggs add richness, and enhance your scones' rise. If your recipe doesn't already call for egg, and you want to add one, simply substitute 1 egg for an equal volume of the milk or cream in the recipe.
  • Beware of juicy add-ins, like raspberries or chopped strawberries; they can make scones soggy.
  • Once you add liquid, stir the dough only enough to combine; don't over-mix, or scones will be tough.
  • For soft-sided scones, bake very close together; or bake in large rounds, then cut once they're out of the oven. See our blog post, An easy way to shape scones.
  • Freezing the pan of scones for 30 minutes before baking relaxes the flour's gluten (encouraging tenderness), and chills the fat (enhancing flaky texture).
  • Bake scones until they're barely done: their interior will be fully baked (not doughy), but still moist. An over-baked scone is a dry scone.
  • Can you use lower-fat or nonfat dairy (skim milk, low-fat yogurt) as your liquid? Yes, but scones will be dry and hard. The higher their fat content, the more tender the scones.

A scone is not a cupcake

Many people perceive scones as dry. The classic scone is crusty on the outside, and biscuit-textured within. This is the way they're supposed to be, since they're designed to hold butter, jam, lemon curd, clotted cream, and other types of rich spread or topping. So don't bite into a scone expecting cake texture; enjoy it in all its flaky, tender (but not super-moist) glory.

Shape, freeze, bake

Want to make scones ahead, then bake them just before serving? See our blog post, How to freeze unbaked scones: instant gratification.

Adding fiber and nutrition

Scones made with white whole wheat flour are slightly darker than white flour scones, but equally delicious. See our blog post, Breakfast: from white to wheat, a baker's guide for details.

Choose your favorite size and shape

Scone dough can be simply scooped in rough balls onto a baking sheet; or shaped and cut into wedges, circles, or squares. Match your favorite pan or technique to the occasion: for instance, large, wedge-shaped scones for breakfast on the run; or small, dainty rounds for English "high tea."

  • Scooped dough

    For tall, round scones: Use a large scoop to shape and deposit individual mounds of scone dough. Softer dough works better here.

  • Soft sided wedges

    For soft-sided wedges, shape scone dough into a 3/4"-tall round, and cut into wedges. Bake, then separate baked scones into individual wedges.

  • Crusty wedges

    For crusty wedges, shape scone dough into a 3/4"-tall round. Cut into wedges, and separate the wedges before baking.

  • Standard scone pan

    To use a standard scone pan: Divide scone dough among the wells of the pan. Bake, and turn out of the pan onto a rack to cool.

  • Mini scone pan

    To use a mini scone pan: Divide scone dough among the wells of the pan. Bake, and turn out of the pan onto a rack to cool.

  • Cut scones

    For cut scones: Pat the dough 3/4" thick. Cut into squares or wedges; or cut with a round cutter. Place on a baking sheet and bake.

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Our favorite scone recipes

Troubleshooting

You might have some questions about baking scones, especially if you've never tried them before. Why are my scones spreading out instead of rising? Can I use buttermilk instead of cream? Contact us: we can help.

And while we're a wealth of knowledge around scones, our area of expertise extends far beyond that. Our seasoned staff of bakers knows bread and pizza, cookies and pie crust, cookies and biscuits and muffins. If you can't figure out why your cake crumbles or your sourdough isn't sour enough, we can help. We're available via phone, email, or live chat 7 days a week.