A perfect scone is tender, moist and full of flavor. The good news is that it’s really easy to make perfect scones in your own kitchen. With a few simple tricks and tips, you can make scone quickly — even on a weekday — without compromising on texture and flavor.
The ones at your favorite coffee shop might be good, but you can make some that are even better using this easy recipe. And scones taste best when they are fresh from the oven.
Scones v. muffins — what’s the difference?
Scones are a fancy cousin to muffins. Where muffins tend to be breakfast items and after-school snacks, scones get invited to tea parties and brunch. But scones are only fancy by reputation. In reality, scones are just as simple to make at home as a basic muffin.
Just like muffins, scones can also be as healthy (or indulgent) as you want them to be. With a glaze or some chunks of chocolate, a tender, sweet scone makes a delicious dessert. If you skip the glaze, reduce the sugar, use whole-grain flour and add some fresh fruit, you can eat a scone with no guilt. Like muffins, scones are easy to customize and flavor to your tastes.
Scone baking basics
Scones start with a mixture of flour, leavening and sugar. Most of the time, scones are made by cutting butter is cut into the flour mixture by hand to create a a dough that’s very tender and slightly flaky.
Cutting in the butter
For a quicker option, use a food processor to cut in the butter.
For the recipe you see below, a food processor steps in for a pastry cutter or your hands to combine the flour and butter.
Simply combine all your ingredients in the food processor and pulse to blend in the butter. Drizzle in the milk while pulsing the machine to help the dough come together. It takes about 60 seconds (maybe less) to mix up the dough!
Just be sure to add the mix-ins by hand so they don’t get chopped up more finely than you had hoped.
If you don’t have a food processor or don’t want to use it, grate frozen butter.
If you plan to use your hands, start with frozen butter. This makes sure that the butter doesn’t melt before it gets to the oven.
To preserve its temperature even more, instead of just cutting the butter into the flour, grate the butter instead. Grating the frozen butter allows it to spread evenly through the flour, which results in a really soft scone.
Flavoring your scones
No matter what flavor scones you are making, the initial dough-making process is always the same. Once the dough comes together, you can add in a variety of mix-ins and customize the scones to suit your mood.
Orange and cranberry scones
Here, I’m making cranberry orange scones using fresh orange zest and dried cranberries. It’s a popular flavor combination in my kitchen and I always get requests for it.
For a more pronounced orange flavor, first combine the sugar and orange zest in a bowl. Use your hands to incorporate the zest into the sugar, rubbing the zest between your fingers to release its flavor.
You can easily substitute in any dried fruit or nuts for the cranberries, and you can use a variety of extracts and citrus zests for flavor.
Fresh or frozen fruit
You can also use fresh or frozen fruit instead of dried fruit in your scones. Both fresh and frozen fruit can give off a lot of moisture when they are baking, so your baking time will likely be a few minutes longer
If you use frozen fruit, don’t defrost it beforehand. Fresh fruit should be handled with care — especially if you are working with berries — so that it’s not crushed when shaping your scones.
Shaping the dough
You can cut scones into any shape or size, but triangles are the most classic — and very easy.
Cutting triangle scones from a square
To shape your scones into triangles, divide your dough in half and knead it gently to smooth it out, if necessary. Shape the piece of dough into a square or rectangle that’s about 1″ thick.
Using a sharp knife, cut the square from corner to corner to divide it into four triangles. Repeat this process with the rest of the dough, then transfer the scones to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Be sure to leave some room between the individual scones because they will rise and spread as they bake.
Cutting triangle scones from a circle
Another option is to pat the dough into a circle that’s about 1″ thick. Use a sharp knife and cut it into 8 wedges.
Or, use a scone pan for more uniform scones
While it’s not necessary, using a scone pan makes really symmetrical pieces, just like the coffee shop version. They taste the same either way, but if you have the extra cupboard space, a scone pan really is fun.
Serving your scones
The scones should be served when they are still slightly warm from the oven for best results. They’ll be tender and flaky in the center, with edges that are buttery and crisp.
The scone dough is not too sweet, so while you can enjoy these plain, you can also serve them with butter, jam or even a bit of whipped or clotted cream. To really take them to the sweet side, top them with a glaze of powdered sugar, melted butter, juice from half an orange and a bit of vanilla extract.
Easy scones recipe
Makes 8 scones
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup butter, cold and cut into pieces
- 2/3 cup milk (preferably whole milk)
- Mix-ins of your choice (I used 1 tablespoon orange zest and 2/3 cup dried cranberries)
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, then pulse a few times to combine. Add pieces of butter and pulse 5 to 8 times, until no pieces larger than a big pea remain visible.
Add in milk (and citrus zest or extracts, if using), then pulse until a shaggy dough forms. Fold in other mix-ins by hand, mixing until they are evenly distributed in the thick dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently 3 to4 times to smooth the dough. Divide dough in half. Shape each piece into a 1″-thick square or rectangle. Using a sharp knife or a bench scraper, cut each square into quarters by cutting from corner to corner.
Arrange scones on prepared baking sheet, allowing 3″ to 4″ for the scones to spread.
Bake for 16-18 minutes, until the scones are golden brown on the edges. Transfer to a wire rack to cool before serving.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2017 and was updated in April 2018. It includes contributions from another post written by Allison Ruth.