Scones don’t want your helicopter parenting. She will roll her eyes at you, stomp her foot, sigh a big, dramatic sigh, then go out with her do-nothing Goth boyfriend anyway. Lazy bakers, scones are for you!
The less foofing and futzing you do with the dough, the better your result. In fact, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to whip up a batch of scones with most recipes in five minutes or less.
Use the Table of Contents below to hop to the section you need or keep on, keepin’ on to learn how to make scones.
- How Do You Make Scones?
- Scones Versus Muffins
- Scones Versus Biscuits
- Baking Scones
- What You Need to Bake Scones
- Tips to Know Before Baking Scones
- How To Shape Your Scones
- Should Scones Be Chilled Before Baking?
- Baking Scones
- What To Do After Baking Your Scones
- How To Serve Scones
- Troubleshooting Scones
- Storing Scones
- How To Freeze Scones
- Bake Homemade Scones
- Best Scones Recipes and Resources:
Where you are from depends a great deal on how the proper scone should look and taste—and even how you say the word. Buttery and flaky or something closer to Irish soda bread, dotted with dried fruit or chocolate chips or plain Jane, a scone can look a lot of different ways to a lot of different people. Some scones are served with clotted cream or butter or pastry cream and/or jam. Others are drizzled with melted chocolate or edible flower petals, turbinado sugar (for the perfect crunch), or are deemed top dog “as is.”
In the US, we typically pronounce “scone” so it rhymes with “stone.” If you’ve ever watched the Great British Baking Show when it was hosted by Mary Berry, you might notice she pronounces “scone” so it rhymes with “gone.” Here’s a quick look (above) at Mary Berry long before GBBS. How do you say “scones?”
For me, a scone makes a great breakfast or midday treat or late night “need a snack” kind of food. Simple or dressy, I love them all. There is a rumor going around that scones are dry, crumbly, or are too hard to make. Let’s set that straight, shall we?
How Do You Make Scones?
I remember when scones seemed impossible. I hadn’t ever had a scone before, so what business did I have trying to make them? And yet, the recipes seemed uncomplicated. Simple. Much like muffins, but without the whole muffin tin part of things. Less cleanup? I liked that idea. Washing muffin tins is not my favorite thing.
Now, I don’t think it takes more than five minutes to whip up a basic batch of scone. They are a good morning guarantee. You don’t need Bisquick or a scones mix or any of that pre-made stuff. You can do this all on your own in no time. Stick to a basic wedge-shaped scone or a drop scone over a cut-out scone if time is tight.
Who knew that baking scones could be so fast?
Scones Versus Muffins
Scones are considered a quick bread (like muffins), a bread made using a chemical leavener (like baking powder) instead of yeast. You don’t have a rise time like you do with yeasted breads, so you can make good scones in no time at all.
Unlike muffins, scones don’t have the separate mixing of wet and dry ingredients before combining them. Scones begin with dry ingredients in a bowl, and then the fat (usually cold butter) is cut in before the rest of the wet ingredients are added. Both baked goods, however, hate being overmixed.
You can use a food processor to make scones, but you have to pay attention so you don’t overmix them. That’s so easy to do with a food processor. A food processor is just so zippy zip zip fast.
Scones don’t taste like a muffin either. Muffins often resemble something a bit more cake-like in texture, even though there are savory muffins of all kinds too (hello, cornmeal muffins), while scones resemble something a bit closer to bread. Muffins have a satisfying uniformity about them, while scones may be a bit more lumpy bumpy.
Scones Versus Biscuits
Biscuits and scones might be in the quick bread family, they might even use the same ingredients, and have similar mixing instructions, but they aren’t the same thing.
The two have the same British ancestor, but the versions being made by early Southern colonists were characterized by the butter, lard, buttermilk, and soft wheat plentiful in the South. Over time, this fluffy and layered bread evolved into a regional commodity: the Southern biscuit.
However, elsewhere in the country (particularly in New England), certain communities made “biscuits” in a fashion similar to the English ancestor. More dense than its Southern cousin, these “biscuits” typically use eggs or cream as the liquid component. This creates a tighter texture and creamier flavor than the buttery Southern buttermilk biscuits.
Over time, these dense pastries took on the name “scone,” and they are now made with more sugar than the scones of old. The white sugar in the dough gives the tender interior a crisp and crusty outside, creating a contrast of textures that goes perfectly with a cup of coffee.
Bottom-line: Biscuits are more acidic and, dare I say, more buttery. Scones make use of “richer” ingredients, yes butter, of course, but also cream and egg. Scones are a sturdy vehicle for whatever you throw their way.
I’ve had traditional British scones baked by a Brit. I’ve baked scones with dried fruit or nuts, and scones with chocolate of all kinds (the youngest really loves scones with chocolate, so the huge assortment of chocolate scones that will appear on this site are all because of him). Sometimes I get fancy and drizzle on the chocolate. Other times, a sprinkle of turbinado sugar (a coarse-cut brown sugar) is it.
There is no right or wrong way to make, bake, or eat a scone. Regions have their favorite methods and traditions, but this is about you and what you prefer. Scones come in a few different shapes. Scones could be served as wedges, drop scones, or cut-out scones, using a biscuit cutter (scones still aren’t biscuits).
Drop Scones resemble an approach much like that of your favorite chocolate chip recipe. You will use spoons or a 1/3 cup scoop to plop the dough onto a prepared baking sheet (parchment paper is typically the way to go). Wedge-shaped scones require the dough get patted into a circle, then sliced into wedges. You’ll pat the dough right onto the parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, cut it, and situate the wedges apart from each other, yet still within a circle.
Why do some recipes require scones to be set close together on a cookie sheet, while others say scones should be set apart? Scones further away have a crunchier edge while scones placed closer together stay softer. Keep wedge-shaped scones close together within that circle, so there is still a little airflow, but also so the scones rise up, instead of out.
No matter what method you choose, resist the urge to keep messing with the dough. If you do, your scones will be tough. Nobody wants a tough scone.
What You Need to Bake Scones
Whether you call it a baking sheet, baking pan, or a cookie sheet, you need one to make scones. A glass baking dish or pie plate isn’t going to cut it and will affect proper baking.
A bench scraper isn’t a required tool in any way. But, it’s a handy, inexpensive gadget allowing you to work, portion, and slice your scones into wedges in no time. Bonus: Use your bench scraper to lift scones off the prepared baking sheet too. I have the OXO Bench Scraper below, though all the bench scrapers pictured here are highly rated.
While the recipes I turn to tend to make wedge-shaped scones, there are scone recipes out there that use a biscuit cutter. Skip the glass rim and buy an actual biscuit cutter, so you don’t smush down your scone and prevent a good rise.
If you’re still using two knives to combine ingredients, it’s time to throw down $10 for a pastry blender. Saving time is a good thing, but the ease at which you will blend your fat with your flour is truly awesome. My pastry blender is from Martha Stewart (and it’s a good thing).
Many recipes for scones include brushing a beaten egg, egg white, or yolk, milk, cream, or melted butter over the unbaked scones before placing them in the oven. A pastry brush gets the job done. I have a silicone and a bristle brush and, for me, the bristles make for a more even application. Just look it over before each use to ensure you haven’t hit the end of it’s lifespan…and it drops bristles like they are going out of style. Hand wash your brush to help it last.
Rolling Pin or Rolling Pin Guides
If you have trouble rolling out even scone dough, look for a rolling pin with a guide, if you don’t own a rolling pin already. If you do have a rolling pin, take a look and see if the guides below will fit yours, for more even scones every time.
Silicone Baking Mat
I don’t like messing with dough on my kitchen counter. It kind of grosses me out. That’s where a baking mat comes in. I had used a large cutting board for years, but it’s almost impossible to transfer some types of dough to a cookie sheet. With a baking mat, you don’t need to do that at all. I can futz with it on the mat, then transfer the matt to a cookie sheet, and voila! Done.
Use a long-pronged fork, like that of a dinner fork, or spend a couple bucks on a whisk. You’ll use a whisk for so many things. With better blending and more control, a whisk does a better job of getting air into your liquid ingredients for a great end result.
Who doesn’t love a good wooden spoon? My best wooden spoons have come from antique shops over the years, or reenactment festivals where they were made by people (which I love). I do prefer a weightier spoon. Find a wooden spoon, or several, so you always have one ready to go when you are.
Tips to Know Before Baking Scones
If you’ve studied up on other parts of baking, you know that you need softened butter for cake, pound cake, and many cookie recipes. But scones are different. Scones don’t want your softened butter one bit!
The secret to the flakiest scones is to start with cold ingredients — cold butter, cold eggs, and cold cream. Similar to making pie crust, using cold ingredients prevents the butter from melting before the scones are baked, leaving it instead to melt in the oven and create a super-flaky end result.
Follow this tip: Keep your butter, eggs, and cream in the fridge until you’re ready to make your scone dough. Heck, chill your bowl while you’re at it!
That’s a bit fiddly compared to the way I roll. Most of the time, my fridge doesn’t have room for an extra bowl. Good thing there may not be a huge difference between using softened or cold butter.
Conclusion – make the scones you prefer to eat. Closer-textured? Don’t worry about warm ingredients. Want them super-fluffy? Get everything as cold as cold as cold and work fast!Perfecting Scones — Cold or Warm Butter?, They Lived on Treacle, August 1, 2016.
While cold butter is important, I think the real key to a good scone is to avoid overworking the dough. It’s so easy to keep mixing and mixing and…you get the idea. Of course, the way you form a scone can have an impact on the final outcome too.
How To Shape Your Scones
Scone recipes vary. Some use a biscuit cutter, while others have you form the dough into a circle, and then slice the dough into wedges. Those wedges are either slightly spaced, or widely spaced. A closer spacing promotes a softer scone, while more spacing gives the edges a crunch.
Hey, while we’re talking biscuit cutters, why can’t you just use a juice glass or such, like Grandma did?
If you look at the edges of the biscuit cutter they’re thin and sharp, great for cutting right through layers of dough with little friction and little squashing of layers.
The measuring cup/juice glass has a much thicker, rounded rim. It’s pretty hard to push easily through the dough and definitely squashes the layers as you cut.
Here’s a neat little tip from Jamie Oliver’s site:
Once you’ve cut out your scone shapes, flip them over and place upside down on the baking tray. This will help them rise evenly, and counteract any ‘squashing’ that happened when you cut out the dough.How to Bake Perfect Scones, Jamie Oliver, June 5, 2017.
For novice bakers, I would recommend a cream scone recipe (no butter or egg) which produces a nice tender crust exterior with a meltingly tender interior. Dried fruit mix-ins like apricots, raisins, or dates work best. Add a light smear of cream and a sprinkle of sugar on top before baking for a nice touch. Once you get the technique down, it will take less than five minutes to whip up a batch.
Should Scones Be Chilled Before Baking?
People are divided. I admit, I hadn’t chilled my scones before baking, until I met the recipe for Chocolate Chip Scones by Elizabeth Alston. In a few of my past homes, chilling scones wouldn’t have been an option: different house, dippy fridge = zero room for scones.
But, it turns out there may be a very good reason to chill your scones overnight before baking them:
Recipes for scones sometimes provide a make-ahead option that involves refrigerating the dough overnight so it can simply be shaped and then popped into the oven the next day. But now we’ve found that resting the dough overnight has another benefit: It makes for more symmetrical and attractive pastries.
Rested dough is far easier to shape cleanly than unrefrigerated dough is, and it bakes up noticeably taller, smoother, and with crispier edges. The explanation is simple: As with other doughs, including pizza dough, resting lets scone dough’s gluten relax completely, so that it doesn’t snap back during shaping or baking.
Does this mean that from now on we’ll always rest our scone dough? Not necessarily. But it’s nice to know that when we do, our scones will only improve.
So, there you have it. If you do take the time to chill your scones dough overnight, you have more attractive, taller, and just plain nicer-looking scones. That might be worth keeping in mind before you have a special event or holiday where you’re looking to impress.
If you don’t chill your dough, your scones will lack that professional somethin’-somethin’. But for the average home baker, and feeder of a family, it’s nothing to lose sleep over.
How Long Should You Bake a Scone?
Most recipes provide a time range for how long a scone should bake. If you haven’t used the recipe before, and you don’t know how long it will take, always go with the lowest number in the range. I often do three minutes less than that, and check the scone for doneness.
Recipes do differ. I baked cream scones for 400* for 9 minutes today, but those were cut with a small 2″ biscuit cutter. My Swedish scones bake at 425* for 10 minutes, while my chocolate chip scones bake at 425* for 15-20 minutes.
Go with your gut. If a recipe had you wedge large scones, a longer bake time makes sense. Always go at the low end of the range or, like me, check even before that “just in case.” Make notes on your digital or paper recipes so you know what to do the next time.
How Do You Know When a Scone is Baked
Our sons hate when I say you know when something is done baking because it “looks done.” But it’s true! Your scone should look like something you want to eat. Properly baked scones will be lightly browned. You can tap the top of a scone. Unlike a muffin, it won’t spring back. Instead, you will look for a hollow sort of sound.
Scones won’t stick to your parchment paper anymore either. Baked scones can be slid off the parchment paper or picked up without a problem.
A toothpick tester will come out clean, but don’t forget that as scones cool slightly on the baking sheet, they do keep baking. If your scones are hard as a rock, or have burned bottoms, you, my friend, have overbaked your scones.
Visual clues, listening for the hollow sound when you tap the top, and baking at the low end of the time range are the best ways to determine if your scones are baked.
What To Do After Baking Your Scones
Do you prefer a crunchier top or a soft top to your scones? It turns out that the way you treat your scones after baking will help make the decision for you. Once you scones are baked, follow this tip for your idea of the perfect scone:
The ladies baking the CWA [Country Women’s Association] scones at the show also had this tip – for a crusty top, cool the scones on a wire rack. For a softer top, wrap them in a tea towel once they leave the oven.Sarah McInerney, How To Bake the Perfect Scone, The Sydney Morning Herald, May 5, 2011.
You aren’t done yet. Now, you need to know the sort of condiments you need to accompany your scones (and you know we aren’t talking about ketchup and mustard here).
How To Serve Scones
You can serve scones with butter, jam, or clotted cream (like the British do). Clotted cream and jam aren’t just accessories, but mandatory additions to a true British scone. What is clotted cream?
Cream is made by separating the fat from milk before it’s homogenised. Like milk, cream exists in various types. Single cream contains around 18% fat or more, and behaves a lot like milk when you cook with it.
Whipping cream is thicker, allowing it to trap air when beaten, while double cream is thicker still. Clotted cream is the thickest of all, made by baking double cream until a delicious crust forms.Our Products, Dairy UK, Accessed October 12, 2020.
Not just any product can be termed Cornish clotted cream. As a protected food name, it needs to meet specific standards:
Milk is warmed to separate the cream. The cream must have a minimum butterfat content of 55%. The cream is then scalded to 70 to 80º C, but not allowed to boil, for a minimum of one hour during which time a thick crust forms. The product is then cooled to a maximum temperature of 5º C during which time the crust hardens and the underside cream thickens.Protected Food Name: Cornish clotted cream, Gov.UK, March 15, 2019.
If you’ve heard of Devonshire Cream (DEHV-uhn-sheer), it’s clotted cream, but from one of three southwest counties: Cornwall, Devon, or Somerset. Also called Cornish clotted cream, it’s said that the cows here produce a rich milk that creates a flavor like no other.
Funny enough, in Devon, clotted cream is used on a scone, followed with jam, while in Cornwall, it’s the opposite. Although it sounds a bit Dr. Seuss-like, it is a matter of great debate in some circles.
Clotted cream is not made equal. Jarred will not be the same as fresh, of course, but you can find it here in the US. Clotted cream is sold at Whole Foods, through King Arthur Baking Company, and at specialty food stores. If you opt to have clotted cream shipped to you, and there are plenty of places offering such things, do make sure the company packs it with a freezer pack or other method for keeping it safe.
Your scones may also benefit from clotted cream and jam. Or, you may use butter or honey or one of a million other creative ideas bakers have baked up. Serve your scones with:
- Clotted cream, scones cream, mock cream, whipped cream
- Butter, plain or compound
- Lemon curd
- Jam or jelly
- Melted chocolate
- Caramel sauce
- Nutella hazelnut spread or almond butter
For all the perks of a scone, this is one baked good you probably don’t want to ship to friends or family near or far. If your scones taste like baking powder…you used too much baking powder or you didn’t combine your dry ingredients well enough. Those aren’t the only potential issues. Take a look below for problems and solutions to your scones baking troubles.
Why Didn’t My Scones Rise?
When your scones don’t rise, you’ll have to think back to your baking process.
- Did you follow the recipe? Is it a recipe you made before, or could it have been poorly written?
- Did you measure dry ingredients with dry measuring cups and wet ingredients in wet measuring cups?
- Is your leavener or self-rising flour old or expired? Six months is too old for baking powder.
- Did you overmix or over-handle your dough?
- Did you use a biscuit cutter with a press down and cut motion? Twisting or using a glass rim seals the edges, resulting in a flatter scone.
- Did you set your scones far apart? Scones like to be close to their buddies, so they rise up, not out.
- Did you preheat your oven before you put your scones in to bake, thus ensuring they had all the time they needed to rise?
- Was your oven temperature too hot or too cold?
Why Are My Scones Dry and Crumbly?
Scones shouldn’t be dry or crumble into bits. Here’s a look at common situations causing a scone to fall to pieces:
- Too much flour. Are you scooping and brushing off the excess flour (if you aren’t weighing your ingredients)? Take care not to pack down flour or you risk a scone without the moisture required to hold it together. You don’t want sticky dough. Go for something closer to slightly tacky, yet workable. Don’t keep adding flour just to add flour.
- Humidity. A humid kitchen is a kitchen just asking for scone trouble. If the dough is too dry, add a little more milk or cream, as your recipe calls, to balance it out. If it’s too wet, add a small bit of flour. One of my momisms I tell my kids (and my mom always told me): “You can always add more, but you can’t add less.” It’s good advice.
- Too many mix-ins. Dried fruit or nuts are a fun addition to a scone, but you can have too much of a good thing. Too much of an add-in can absorb the moisture, resulting in dry scones.
- Better butter? Butter isn’t made equal. In the US, butter has a higher water percentage than high quality European butters. If you are using a European butter, and these other potential trouble areas don’t fit, swapping your fancy butter or adding more moisture may help your scones stay together. Don’t use a vegetable spread here.
- Wrong oven temperature. An oven that’s too hot or too cold may mean you are baking your scones for far too long. Invest in an oven thermometer if you have any doubts about the trustworthiness of your oven.
Why Are My Scones So Heavy?
- Your scones need fat. They love fat. The wrong butter to flour ratio will throw them off. Follow the recipe and don’t try to cut the fat here.
- Less is more. Quit fiddling with your scones. Handle them as little as possible. They don’t want to be kneaded or coddled.
Why Are My Scones Burned on the Bottom?
- Oven temperature. Are you following the baking instructions? Shoot for the low end of the time range and check your scones.
- Middle rack. If you are setting your scones on any other rack, it’s no wonder the bottoms are burnt.
- Baking sheet. Storing a pizza stone in your oven is one thing, but using it to set your scones on is another. Stick to a good baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a baking mat.
- Bad recipe. It happens. Whether due to a typo, omission, or just a faulty, slapped-together recipe, you might have done everything right, and it still wouldn’t work. I remember reading how a recipe columnist had had basil (maybe something else too?) edited out of the recipe, without her knowledge. All in the interest of saving space. She’d received angry letters about the bland recipe. Those were the ingredients that gave the dish flavor. For baking, it could mean the difference between good and total failure. I like to compare recipes from unknown sources to see if they are similar to what I would expect in terms of amounts and ingredients.
Why Are My Scones So Pale?
- Where’s your oven rack? If you aren’t using the middle oven rack, you may have lackluster scones.
- Too cold an oven. Most scones seem to baked in the 400*F—425*F range. Yes, there are always exceptions. But, if you are getting pale scones, it might help to take a look and double-check your oven temperature.
- Brush with cream (or egg). A quick swipe of cream across the top of your unbaked scones lead to a nice color later. Well-written recipes will specify if you should use cream, milk, or an egg.
Why Do My Scones Look Speckled?
Sugar adds a bit of sweetness to your scones, but too much sugar can leave your scones looking speckled. I’ve made this mistake before and it isn’t pretty.
Why Are My Scones So Rough Looking?
Mix-ins affect the texture of your scones. They will be bumpier and lumpier than a simple, plain scone, and that’s okay. Oddly bumpy scones can be the result of too little mixing or kneading (if requested by the recipe). It could be that you didn’t get the leavener worked through the dry ingredients too.
Why Did My Scones Spread?
- Letting your scones become too warm could result in a spreading scone. There’s a reason why so many people are adamant about using cold ingredients for scones. Some recipes do call for a resting period, to relax the gluten strands thus producing a flakier scone, but those recipes still demand the rest happen in the coolness of the fridge.
- Scones are the Emmett of the pastry world: They want to be buddies. Unlike cookies, scones prefer a bit of closeness. Situate your scones so they are closer together. Yes, they may run into each other a bit depending on the recipe, but you’ll get the hang of proper spacing for your recipes before too long.
- Are you greasing your baking sheets? Don’t do that. Scones tend to spread if you set them on greased sheets. Turn to parchment paper or a baking mat instead.
Why Are My Scones Uneven?
If your recipe involves rolling out or patting the dough, you likely made an uneven roll. Here’s a handy tip from one of my FAVORITE magazines:
Use dowels as guides to roll doughs evenly. Just place your dough on a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper. Top it with a second piece, and place the dowels on either side of the dough. Roll out the dough while resting the rolling pin on the dowels. The dough will be level and the thickness of the dowels. You can even use chopsticks!Use Dowels for Even Dough Rolling, Cuisine at Home, Accessed October 14, 2020.
Refer to the tools area above for rolling pin and guides to help you out.
How do you keep scones fresh? Easy. The same way you keep a lot of other baked goods fresh. You have to let your scones completely cool before you put them awy.
Store muffins, biscuits and scones in an airtight container at room temperature. (If made with cheese, cream cheese or other perishable foods, they should be stored in the refrigerator.)Taste of Home Editors, Storing Muffins, Biscuits, and Scones, Taste of Home, July 15, 2008.
I normally reach for a plastic container. By day three, most scones will be a bit blah. If your recipes are making more scones than you can consume, share with a neighbor. Stash a few in your freezer for fresh scones any old time.
How To Freeze Scones
You can bake scones ahead of your event or a busy morning, no problem. The best way to freeze scones is also the easiest. Take your shaped, unbaked scones, leave them on the pan, and pop ’em in your freezer. Drop the unbaked, frozen scones into a freezer bag or container. I find it helpful to add masking tape with the date to the top or front of the container, just in case I don’t get back to whatever I’m freezing as I had planned.
While browsing through recipes, I discovered an experienced scone maker who did mention an issue with freezing scones when using a specific kind of baking powder. I haven’t seen this mentioned elsewhere, but I thought it was worth pointing out in case you want to experiment. With a teen and almost-teen in the house, I don’t have problems with leftovers.
*COOK’S NOTE: Update on freezing scones. I usually use Red Star non-aluminum baking powder. I recently ran out, so I bought some Rumford’s instead. After freezing solid, the Rumford scones did not rise at all when baking. So fyi, if you use Rumford’s baking powder, bake the scones straightaway, and don’t freeze.Mrs. Larkin, Royal Wedding Scones, Food52, April 25, 2011.
When you are ready to use the scones (within two to three months, according to StillTasty), bake the scones in their frozen state. Add a couple of minutes to the overall bake time. Keep an eye on your oven to avoid over-baking the scones.
Bake Homemade Scones
Scones have the ability to go from simple breakfast to fancy treat no problem. What a wonderful way to wake up. Do you bake scones? What’s your favorite type of scone? I’d love to hear about it. Please do leave a comment below.