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Scones: A Saga

December 2, 2012

Laundry day is fun when you’re a culinary student. Okay, maybe “fun” isn’t the best word choice, but it can be entertaining. Going through my chef’s coats is like an adventure back in time, during which I look back fondly on the assorted stains I find on my once-white clothes: “Oh yeah, I remember when I made those peanut butter cookies… ooh, I had forgotten that I spilled that tomato sauce on my jacket during dinner… is that blackberry purée? I didn’t even use that this week!” (Bonus points for stains that defy explanation.)

The fun is over when I have to come up with magical methods to release those stains.  Thankfully, there’s this product called OxiClean.  I don’t know what’s in that stuff, but it cannot be legal.  I’ve had coats covered with chocolate and red wine and God-knows-what, and with a little scrubbing and a lotta Oxi, bada bing, bada boom: clean, white jackets.

Besides the satisfaction of pulling a pristine white jacket out of the dryer, laundry day is also my favorite because while the Oxi is working its magic, I have lots of time on my hands to bake something exceptionally delicious.  Some days, that means three back-to-back batches of scones as part of Recipe Testing 2012.

People, scones are hard.  For some time now, I’ve been on a search for The Perfect Scone, something more akin to what I have eaten in England: not so eggy, not so sweet, and not so laden with vanilla extract that it tastes like a sugar cookie.  Not a buttermilk biscuit.  Something with a flaky texture, a lot of height, and just enough flavor that it is equally interesting to eat by itself as it is slathered with clotted cream and jam.

You see why this search has taken so long… sometimes I get picky.  I like to think it’s what makes me a decent cook.  Let me save you some time and share some things I have learned about scones:

There are different kinds of scones.  Most of the possible differences are up to you–would you like dried fruit in your dough?  Round scones or triangular?  Egg wash?  Milk wash?  Sanding sugar on top?  All of those things are up to you.  The two main discrepancies between recipes I have seen are: (1) some have butter, and others do not, and (2) some have plain milk or cream as the liquid ingredient, and others use buttermilk or sour cream for more depth of flavor.

It is true what you’ve heard: it’s very important not to over-mix your dough, lest your scones be tough and unlovable.  However, it is equally important not to under-work your dough, lest your scones be too tender to pick up and eat.  Whatever you believe about baked goods, I think we can all agree that “edible” is a must.  Hitting that perfect consistency is the key to an awesome scone.

Mostly, I have learned that there are different types of scones, and while I have yet to stumble upon the paragon I was searching for, most of them are pretty dang good.  I like these scones because they hold their shape nicely and are fairly flavorful.  I served them with clotted cream and jam, and I didn’t receive a single complaint.  Most went back for seconds.

Scones 002

Is my search over?  No.  But in the meantime, nobody deserves to be scone-less, so I hope you’ll make these sometime.  They’ll make your afternoon tea or Sunday brunch much tastier, I promise. Enjoy!


Pretty much directly from Smitten Kitchen, as adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook

2 c. all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp. baking powder

3 Tbsp. granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

5 Tbsp. butter, chilled

1 c. heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 425º.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.

3. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or a fork.  Alternatively, use a box grater to grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients.

4. Add all of the cream at once and mix the dough just until it starts to pull off the sides of the bowl.  Turn out onto a floured surface and knead just until it comes together, being sure to incorporate any crumbly bits.  Pat the dough into a disc no more than 1″ tall.  Cut the disc into 8 equal wedges and place the wedges on a paper-lined baking sheet.

5. Bake at 425º for 12-15 minutes or until the scones are golden brown around the edges and bottom.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Linda McGraw permalink
    December 2, 2012 7:30 PM

    Hi Jamie,

    You mention being in culinary school – are you at CIA now? Your last post on scones made me so hungry that I had to make them, and served them with clotted cream and strawberry jam, as well as a nice pot of tea. These look so lovely that you’re making me hungry for them again.
    Do you remember Sharon Anderson? Think she graduated a year or two before you. She worked in the library too. Her mother Pam writes cookbooks and has a really good scone recipe in one of her books.

    All the best, Linda

  2. December 3, 2012 1:27 PM

    Yes! I’m currently at the CIA’s Napa Valley campus, and I’ll be graduating in five months.

    I hope you enjoy the recipe!


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