If you’re someone who enjoys afternoon tea, chances are you also savor those buttery, fluffy scones that pair perfectly with it. This may entice you to try making your own treats from scratch.
You follow different scone recipes precisely, only to end up having flat scones each time. Such a situation begs one question: why do my scones spread?
Luckily, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll go through seven likely culprits behind flat scones and how to tackle them.
Several reasons can make your scones spread and not rise evenly. Some of them have to do with the ingredients, and others have to do with your technique.
Let’s dig into seven reasons that’ll help you troubleshoot what you’re doing wrong:
Ideally, a good scone dough should be wet and sticky yet still a bit crumbly.
That’s because an overly wet scone dough won’t puff when baked and will give you a tough, chewy scone. On the other hand, a dry dough will result in an overly crumbly scone that won’t rise either.
Below are a few tips to help you achieve a perfect dough texture:
- First, make sure not to pack the flour in the measuring cup—you’ll use excess flour than the recipe needs. Instead, fluff up the flour before measuring it.
- Sift the flour to introduce more air, making your scones lighter and puffier.
- Don’t add the wet ingredients in one go to avoid over-wetting your dough.
We’ve all been in a situation where we’re missing one ingredient and trying to find an alternative.
For instance, a scone recipe may require you to add baking soda, baking powder, or both. Now, if you don’t have baking soda or baking powder, you may try to search for a substitute in a pinch.
However, adding another substitute may alter the recipe and won’t give you the desired results.
Luckily, you can substitute plain flour with self-raising flour when you don’t have a leavening agent. However, if you’re going to add a rising agent, make sure to sieve it well with the flour to ensure the scones rise evenly and don’t have any speckling on them.
Usually, you’ll find an expiration date on the packaging of raising agents like baking powder and baking soda. However, even if the leavening agents haven’t expired yet, it could still bring the quality down.
When raising agents like baking powder are mixed with water, they react and give carbon dioxide gas, which results in puffy, light scones. Once you open the packaging, air and humidity will react with the chemical-raising agents, making them less helpful in raising your scones.
Fortunately, you can try the following test to know whether your baking soda or powder is still reactive or not:
- In a cup, add two tablespoons of vinegar. For baking powder, use lukewarm water.
- Next, add half a teaspoon of baking soda or powder.
- If there is bubbling immediately after you’ve added baking soda or powder, they’re still fresh, and you can use them in your scone recipe.
Using cool butter is vital to have a light and fluffy scone.
In most recipes, you’ll have to rub the slightly softened butter into the flour mixture to create fat pockets. Those fat pockets will melt and steam between the dough layers, ensuring that the scones rise.
Now, what happens if you over-softened your butter?
The butter will melt and escape the dough before entering the oven, causing your dough to spread.
Just refrigerate the softened butter pieces until you mix the dry portions. That way, you’ll maintain their cold temperature.
You can also cut the stick into smaller cubes that could blend into the mix faster.
You should work the scone dough barely enough, so all the ingredients stick together. Try to avoid kneading the dough beyond that limit.
Not only will that result in a bread-like scone, but it can also cause all the introduced air during sifting to escape, resulting in flat scones.
Rolling the dough too thinly will result in flat, dense scones.
Instead of rolling the dough, pat on it gently until it becomes around an inch thick. Thicker cuts will rise better and give you a crispy treat with a lot of layers.
How you cut the scone dough is also crucial to getting puffy scones. Here are some tips for cutting scone dough properly:
- Flour your cutting tool between each cut to avoid sticking with the dough.
- With one quick motion, push down the cutter and bring it back up. Don’t twist the blade; that’ll result in lopsided or jagged edges, preventing your scones from fully rising.
- Lastly, transfer the scones to the baking sheet. The trick is to place the scones closely, so they rise upwards instead of spreading.
Pre-heating your oven will make all the difference in your scone recipe. It’ll ensure the butter doesn’t melt and the air bubbles don’t escape the dough before the oven hits the right baking temperature.
To avoid losing temperature, pre-heat the oven at 500ºF. Then, drop the temperature to 425ºF once you put in the scones. That way, the oven temperature will be ideal for the dough to rise and become golden brown.
Plus, you’ll have to try your best to avoid opening the door while the scones are baking. That’ll introduce cooler air, dropping the oven’s temperature, so you end up with spreading scones.
So, why do my scones spread?
Usually, scones fail to rise because the dough’s consistency is too wet. Other reasons that may prevent you from achieving puffy scones include: not using fresh ingredients, not keeping the butter cold, overworking your dough, or not hitting the proper baking temperature.
The good news is that all these problems are easy to counter, and once you eliminate them, you’ll end up baking and enjoying fluffy, flaky scones for brunch!
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.