Scones are an essential pastry in many cuisines around the world. Their crumbly exterior and soft, fluffy interior make for the best texture in your mouth.
However, many bakers don’t know how to make scones soft. While it’s easy to master the hard, crumbly exterior, many have found their scones to be chewy and bread-like on the inside.
So, this begs the question: how to make scones soft?
No worries! In this article, we’ve gathered all the essential tips you’ll need to make your scones softer and airier. Here’s everything you need to know.
To make scones soft, you need to pay attention to a couple of things. You want the scones to be as airy as possible while removing any gluten that may form.
Every baker knows the importance of leavening agents. However, using leavening agents is more than choosing between baking soda and baking powder. The quality and quantity matter greatly.
These agents contain carbon dioxide. When carbon dioxide is activated while mixing in the liquid or during baking, it escapes in the form of bubbles. That’s what makes your scones airy, fluffy, and soft.
First, you must ensure you’re using the correct amount of either baking soda or powder. More importantly, you shouldn’t substitute one for the other.
If a recipe calls for baking soda, but you only have baking powder, use this simple formula: every teaspoon of baking soda equals three teaspoons of baking powder.
Still, this should only be the last option, as each activates differently.
It might come as a shock, but adding more leavening agents won’t result in a softer scone! A lot of leavening agents cause your scones to rise way too quickly, then deflate. Always follow the recipe’s recommendation for the amount of leavening agent.
As for the quality, make sure your leavening agent is fresh. You can either do this by checking the expiration date or doing a simple test.
Mix a small amount of vinegar with a pinch of leavening agent; if it fizzes, the leavening agent is fresh and good to use.
A little bit of cream of tartar in your recipe can make it surprisingly much better. It’ll help the baking soda produce the carbon dioxide necessary for the fluffy texture. If you add it, you’ll end up with a highly porous scone that’ll melt in your mouth.
If you want extra soft scones, combining cream of tartar with your baking soda is the go-to method. Even if you’re using baking powder, adding a pinch of cream of tartar won’t hurt. It’ll make your scones rise higher and become fluffier!
Typically, scones’ dough should be slightly wet and sticky. A common mistake most bakers make is kneading the dough too hard.
As a result, gluten forms and gets released into the ingredients. So, your scone will be chewy instead of soft and fluffy.
To avoid this, simply mix the ingredients until all streaks of sugar or flour are gone. Try not to overdo it. When you find the dough sticky enough in your hands, stop kneading and continue with the recipe.
The protein in the flour is responsible for the formation of chewy gluten. So, make sure to only use the amount instructed in the recipe, or else you’ll have more gluten than necessary.
You also shouldn’t use extra flour if your dough is wet and sticky.
The next thing you can do is sift the flour to get as much air inside the dough before baking to make the scones fluffy.
To do so, simply place a sieve on top of your mixing bowl and gradually add the needed flour. Then, gently shake the sieve to sift the flour.
Another secret tip is using cake flour instead of all-purpose flour. As we’ve previously mentioned, it’s best to avoid gluten when making scones.
Naturally, you’ll want to use the flour with the least gluten content, which is cake flour.
When making soft scones, it’s a no-brainer to use buttermilk instead of regular milk. It’s the most commonly found ingredient in any recipe calling for soft, flaky pastry.
Buttermilk is only fermented milk. In simpler terms, it’s milk that has a bit of acid in it.
This acid is essential for making your scones soft because it gets rid of the unwanted gluten in the ingredients.
To further explain, gluten is a protein, and buttermilk contains acid. Simply put, the acid can break down the gluten in your dough.
Additionally, buttermilk helps in the activation of the leavening agent, producing more air and making your scones softer.
Instead of using just butter in your recipe, combine both butter and shortening for softer, fluffier scones.
The reason this works so well is that it combines each fat’s best qualities. While they can be substituted for each other, each one has different qualities and properties.
For one, butter has a rich, creamy taste compared to the almost flavorless shortening. However, butter can lead to gluten formation because it releases steam during baking.
Shortening has a higher melting point. So it doesn’t lead to gluten formation. In addition, shortening doesn’t spread out the scones as much, so they become condensed and soft. Using a balanced amount of both is your best bet to get the texture you’re aiming at.
While many recipes call for the ingredients to be at room temperature, scones are different. Using cold ingredients is best to make your scones airy and soft.
This is actually a time-saver since you don’t need to take out your ingredients from the fridge to warm up beforehand. You can just use refrigerated ingredients. Some bakers even recommend refrigerating the bowl for extra coldness.
Another way to keep your dough cool is by chilling it for a while before baking. Once you’re done with the mixing, leave the dough to rest in the fridge for about half an hour.
Now that you have taken all the essential steps for the perfect soft scones, you should always eat your scones fresh. Leaving them outside can cause them to go stale, changing their taste. Their texture will also be dry, causing them to be chewy rather than airy.
If you want to store the scones, make sure to store them in the freezer or keep them in an airtight container. Don’t keep them somewhere moist, and preferably lay paper towels between them if they’re sticking to each other.
You can easily recreate the above tips in any recipe. Still, if you’re using the wrong recipe, or worse, a box of scones mixture, your scones won’t turn out as soft as you expect.
This recipe combines all the above tips, as well as the perfect ratio of ingredients, so your scones turn out fluffy, airy, and above all, soft.
Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make the scones:
- 3 cups cake flour
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons shortening
- 1 egg
- ⅔ cup buttermilk
- ⅔ cup heavy cream
The following steps will guide you through the recipe:
- Preheat your oven to 420 F
- In a cold bowl, whisk the cold liquid ingredients; the eggs, milk, and cream. Then beat well until combined
- In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and sugar
- Add the butter to the dry ingredients and rub it into the flour gently using your fingers
- Make a well in the middle of the flour, then add the liquid ingredients and stir to combine
- Sprinkle flour on your clean counter, drop the dough onto it, and knead for no more than ten seconds
- Let the dough rest in the fridge for 30 minutes
- Take the dough out and form it into a ¾-inch disk
- Cut the disk into equal-sized triangles
- Place the scones in a baking tray so that they’re barely touching
- Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown
Scones should be fairly easy to make. Still, many find it hard to master the complex texture of these pastries as they should be crumbly on the outside but soft on the inside.
An essential component in making soft scones is air. You’ll want to incorporate as much as possible during the baking process. This can be achieved through the leavening agent, sifting the flour, or adding buttermilk and cream of tartar.
The one thing that should be avoided when making soft scones is gluten. Gluten can easily form during the baking process due to the presence of flour protein. Still, you can avoid this problem by using cake flour and buttermilk.
Now that you know how to make scones soft and fluffy, there’s nothing stopping you from enjoying the delicious pastry with your afternoon tea.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.