You can easily make scones from staple cupboard ingredients. Whisk them all together, and you’ll have a deliciously flakey pastry.
However, one big debate around scones is about the type of milk you should use. Whole milk, cream, or buttermilk?
Many bakers suggest using buttermilk. Why use buttermilk in scones, though?
Buttermilk is the perfect ingredient to combine with baking soda.
The acid in the buttermilk neutralizes the baking soda, making a scone dough rise. Plus, the reaction between the sour milk and the bicarbonate composition of the baking soda makes a better leavener than baking powder.
Another great thing about buttermilk is it can break down gluten strands in the dough, which creates more tender and fluffier scones.
Scones are one of the easiest pastries to whip up. What if you don’t have buttermilk, though?
We’ve got an easy hack for you to create your buttermilk at home.
Buttermilk is essentially sour milk. What makes milk sour? Some acid, of course!
You can use vinegar, fresh lemon juice, or cream of tartar. Once you have any of these in your pantry, all you have to do is get some regular milk.
If you want it to be dairy-free, simply replace regular milk with soy milk.
A rule of thumb for making homemade buttermilk is the 1:1 ratio, especially if you’re using vinegar or lemon juice.
To make a cup of buttermilk, all you need to do is mix one tablespoon of vinegar or fresh lemon juice with a scant cup of regular milk.
If you’re using a cream of tartar, there’s a slight variation in the ratio. Combine one and ¾ teaspoons of cream of tartar with a scant cup of regular milk to create your own buttermilk.
Make sure that your milk is room temperature, though. Cold milk may not produce the best curdling, but there’s an easy fix to that.
Simply leave the mixture until it reaches room temperature. Then, add more acid to let it curdle.
A great way to know whether the buttermilk forms is when you see some curdling.
Leave the mixture for 5-10 minutes on the counter until it shows curdling. Then, you’re free to use it however you like!
Making scones without buttermilk may sound impossible, but it’s actually easy! Let me show you how.
First, here are some ingredients you’ll need for a batch of 8 scones.
- 350 grams of self-raising flour (add a little more for dusting)
- 175 mL of regular milk
- Three tablespoons of sugar
- 85 grams of cold and diced butter
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1 fresh lemon for squeezing
- 1 large egg
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
This high temperature creates steamy air pockets that make the dough rise. Plus, it doesn’t leave you with melted butter on the baking sheets.
Mix the flour, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Make sure to mix them well to avoid uneven concentration in your mixture.
Add your diced butter by rubbing it into the dry ingredients with your fingers. Your warm hands should melt the butter slightly, just enough to make the flour mixture stick.
You should end up with a crumbly texture afterward.
Then, stir in the sugar.
In a microwaveable container, place your milk and heat it until warm. This step shouldn’t take longer than 30 seconds.
Next, add the vanilla extract and lemon juice to the milk. This mixture serves as your buttermilk alternative.
Then, set this mixture aside and let it curdle.
Create a well in the middle of your dry mixture.
Pour the milk mixture in slowly.
To combine the ingredients, use a cutlery knife and stir it quickly. It may feel wet at first, but only because the dry ingredients haven’t absorbed all the milk yet.
On a clean surface, dust some of the extra flour. It should give you a non-sticky worktop to help you with the kneading.
It’ll also help if you dredge your hands with flour.
Fold the dough several times until smooth. Next, pat the dough into a round shape until it’s about 1.5 inches thick.
You now have scone dough!
For this part, you’ll need a 2-inch dough cutter. You can choose a different size for the cutter, but we think that 2-inch cutters make the perfect size for a scone.
You may also want to opt for a cutter with smooth edges to help with the consistent rising of the dough.
Dip the cutter into some flour and press it against the dough. Once finished, you should have 4 scone doughs.
With the leftover dough, knead them again into one dough. Then, shape it into a circle that’s 1.5 inches in thickness.
Repeat the cutting process until you have 4 more scone doughs.
Beat the large egg and brush it over your doughs. This step creates that golden glazed top we all know and love in scones.
Carefully place the dough onto a baking sheet and pop it inside the oven for 10 minutes. You should get a risen scone with a golden brown top.
You may have all the ingredients for a scone in your kitchen except for buttermilk, but why use buttermilk in scones when you can go for an alternative?
Fret not when you suddenly find your fridge with no buttermilk. Simply make one at home.
Making your own buttermilk only requires two ingredients and about 10 minutes.
So, what are you waiting for? Make that soft and moist scone with homemade buttermilk!
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.