If you have ever had a scone you probably either love them or wonder what all the fuss is about a lump of baked dough. You may have heard of them before and maybe even seen them in a bakery but until you have tried one yourself you won’t understand the importance of getting the dough just right.
What Exactly is a Scone?
Scones originated in England but quickly became popular in Scotland and Wales. The first scones were actually baked dough shaped into rounds, almost like a biscuit, but larger.
When the first scones came out of the oven they were just about the size of a plate. Most scones are still made this way then cut into wedges like a pie.
Almost all scone recipes are made of these basic baking ingredients – flour, butter, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cream or buttermilk. When consuming scones in America they are treated similarly to biscuits, split in half and slathered with butter.
They grew in popularity in the United States when they became a staple at trending English afternoon teas. These special events are held between 2 and 4 pm and they include mini cold cucumber sandwiches along with a rich creamy soup.
The scones are generously topped with Devonshire. Or clotted cream.
What Are the Characteristics of a Good Scone?
As they are so often compared to biscuits in looks, scones should also have a crumbly texture like biscuits. They should be lightly browned on the outside and they can even appear almost dry.
When you split them open they should be light and flaky. If your scone doesn’t have a crispy outside it was probably baked too close together with the other scones on the cookie sheet.
As with any baked good you prepare at home several things can go wrong turning your good intentions into mysterious disasters.
While the texture of scones leans more to dry and crumbly, finding your scone doughy in the middle can really be confusing. How did that happen and how can you make sure it doesn’t happen again?
How to Prevent Your Scones from Being Doughy in the Middle
There are a number of things you need to do when preparing homemade scones and any of them done incorrectly could contribute to a doughy center. Here are the ways you can turn out perfect scones every time.
1 – Check the texture of your dough. If it looks like it is breaking down into crumbs, add more milk or buttermilk. If your hands are full of dough and the texture is sticky just add more flour a little at a time.
2 – Do not work the dough too much. Over-handling the dough will make it tough and prevent it from being flaky. If it doesn’t appear flaky you may undercook it and it will be doughy instead.
Goldilocks was on to something when she wanted things to be “just right.” Lightly work the dough until it just comes together then let it be.
3 – Try different types of flour. Pastry or cake flour seems to be what professional bakers use but you can always use all-purpose flour. You can use a combination of cake flour with your all-purpose flour for a lighter scone.
4 – Make sure everything is cold. Yes, everything – the eggs, cream, and butter should all be kept in the refrigerator until you are ready to put your scone batter together. It wouldn’t hurt to keep your mixing bowl in the fridge as well.
Once you make the batter for your scones you should put it in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to make sure it is well chilled. You don’t want to run the risk of letting the butter soften which would change the consistency of the dough and the scone as it bakes.
5 – Even though you may be tempted to make your scones ahead of time, don’t. You would be better off keeping your dough in the refrigerator overnight or even freezing the dough and baking it from frozen (just bake it a few extra minutes).
What is a Good Basic Scone Recipe?
The ingredients needed to make scones are pretty basic so you can pick and choose which variations you want to try. Here is a basic recipe you can start with.
Easy Simple Scones
- 2 cups of flour: pastry, all-purpose, or a combination of all-purpose and cake flour
- 1/3 cup of sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup – I stick unsalted butter well-chilled
- 1/2 cup well chilled heavy whipping cream, half and half, or whole milk
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line your baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Mix dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, sugar and salt – in a medium-sized bowl. Cut the butter into tablespoons or grate it using a cheese or box grater.
- Add butter into the dry ingredients using a pastry blender. If you don’t have one you can use two forks combining it until it becomes like small coarse crumbs. Put the bowl in the refrigerator.
- In another bowl mix the wet ingredients together – cream, egg, and vanilla. Take the dry ingredients out of the fridge and pour the wet ingredients into the bowl. Mix together until evenly combined.
- Sprinkle a little flour on your counter and gently work the mixture into a light dough. Roll it out into an 8-inch circle. If the dough is too sticky add a little flour, if it feels too dry add a little more milk or cream.
- Using a sharp knife cut the dough into 8 wedges. Place wedges on your baking sheet. Brush with cream and lightly spoon with sugar if you want a sweet crunch to your scones.
- If you have space available in your fridge let the scones chill for about 15 minutes. If not, put them directly into the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until nicely browned. Enjoy them warm right from the oven with butter and preserves or clotted cream.
Variations you may want to try: cranberry orange, raisins, blueberry, strawberry, pear and cheddar, and parmesan. You can find even more online.
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.