These simple classic scones are golden brown, soft, fluffy, and delicious. Serve them with jam and cream, or try them out with some butter and cheddar!
Scones are always a treat. Since they come together so easily, they were made rather regularly in my house. However, unlike the huge scones that were typically sold in cafes, coffee shops and supermarkets, my mother insisted that scones should be small. Like only 3cm in diameter.
But I went rogue with these scones and mimicked the large size that I had seen in the coffee shop window this past rainy weekend.
What are scones?
A scone is simply a baked good that is either sweet or savoury, made from flour (wheat or oat), butter, baking powder (or soda), and milk. These tasty delights originated in Cornwall, England. But are enjoyed in my home country of South Africa, and are fairly popular here in New Zealand, and Australia.
South African Scones
We like our scone base to be fairly savoury in that they aren't really sweetened, and we top our split scones with jam and cream (which may be unsweetened, Chantilly cream or even clotted cream), and of course, with a side of grated cheddar.
British scones usually also contain a bit more sugar than my recipe and can include eggs as well.
South African also like our savoury versions of scones - typically infused with cheese or herbs or both.
For more South African recipes - click here.
What you need to make scones
Flour - plain, standard grade, or all-purpose wheat flour. I have on occasion used bread flour in a pinch, being extra careful to not work the dough too much.
Butter - cold and cut into small squares. This will be rubbed into the flour, and release steam in the baking process, creating those delightful layers within the scone. Growing up, we used baking margarine for scones which worked great. For a vegan option swap out the butter and milk with plant-based varieties.
Baking powder - helps give a lift to the scones. Baking powder is used in this recipe because I am not using an acidic liquid such as buttermilk or yoghurt. However, if you are using buttermilk or yoghurt, substitute the baking powder with 2 teaspoon of baking soda or bicarbonate of soda.
Icing sugar - only 4 teaspoon of icing sugar is used in this recipe. This is an optional extra. The icing sugar adds the lightest touches of sweetness with the starch stabiliser of the icing sugar adding a touch of lightness to scone dough overall. Other than that, there is no sugar in this recipe
Note on icing sugar - this was a happy accident. Many moons ago, I wanted to make scones. But for some reason, there was only icing sugar in the pantry. So I subbed out the sugar for icing sugar. The fine texture and starch component, in my opinion, make for a superior scone. But if you don't have icing sugar, substitute it with caster sugar.
Milk - whole (standard) or low-fat (trim) varieties of milk will work just fine. I have not tried this recipe using plant-based milk, but I'm confident soy milk would work perfectly to have dairy-free scones.
Buttermilk for scones - you can easily substitute milk with buttermilk in this recipe. Just remember to use baking soda instead of baking powder as a raising agent.
Salt is a crucial ingredient in all baked goods. I use table salt in all my recipes. One teaspoon of table salt equals 1.5 teaspoons of Morton Kosher Salt equals 2 teaspoons of Diamond Crystal.
The egg is optional in this recipe. If you don't feel like using an egg for a wash over the top of the scone, use butter or even a bit of cream (unwhipped) instead.
Scones require a mixing bowl, a baking sheet, cookie cutters or even a sharp knife. The great thing about these is they can be made with the bare minimum of kitchen equipment.
How to make scones
This easy scone recipe requires a soft touch and preferable cold hands.
Step 1 - Preheat the oven to 220°C. Prepare a baking sheet. Scones should not stick to a baking sheet but you can still line the sheet with a re-usable silicone mat or baking paper.
Step 2 - sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder (or soda), icing sugar and salt. This makes sure everything is evenly distributed throughout the flour.
Step 3 - toss the cold butter that has been chopped into small squares into the flour and rub the butter into the flour using your fingers. This basically constitutes squeezing the butter in the flour between your fingertips, or between your thumb and forefinger. Do this until there are only pea-sized pieces of butter left.
Step 4 - pour the milk into the flour mixture and mix through until you have a shaggy dough. Do not overmix.
Step 5 - Lightly flour the kitchen counter or board, place the dough on the counter and bring it together. Using a bench scraper or knife, lift half the dough, fold it over itself, and squash it together. Repeat this another 2 times to 3 times to laminate the butter pieces in the dough. Pat the dough into a circle or square about 2 to 3 cm thick.
Step 6 - Either using a cookie cutter or knife, cut our 4 to 5 large scones. If using a round cookie cutter, bring together the left-over dough, by kneading the dough together and forming a disk or square to cut out additional scones.
Step 7 - Using a pastry brush, brush the tops of the scone with a beaten egg, cream or milk. Bake for approximately 15 minutes. The scones would have risen, and be golden brown in colour. Serve the scones warm or at room temperature with whipped cream and jam, or even some grated cheese.
Cold butter (but not hard) is a must for scones. This butter is then rubbed into the flour which coats some of the flour, and inhibits gluten formation. The chunks of butter that aren't rubbed in will release steam when baked. This leads to a flakey, soft and tender scone.
Handle the scone dough as little as possible. The folding technique described above using a bench scraper really allows the dough to come together with minimal kneading.
A hot oven is absolutely necessary for the rise of the scone.
This recipe can easily be doubled, or even halved to make scones for two.
Fan-forced or fan-assisted oven temperature must be decreased by 20°C/25F. Use an oven thermometer to determine the accuracy of your oven dial.
Frequently Asked Questions
Either jam or cream first on scones is perfectly acceptable. The Cornish method insists on jam then cream, while the Devon method is cream then jam.
Yes. The trick is to first cut the scones in the desired shape and freeze them on a baking sheet covered in a layer of cling film. Once they are frozen solid, wrap each scone individually in cling film, place in your desired container and store in the freezer for up to 3 weeks. Let the scones come to room temperature while your oven is preheating.
Yes. Once you have made your dough and shaped your scones (cut into the desired shape) you can place the scones in the fridge overnight (covered in clingfilm or in an airtight container).
The main difference between scones and biscuits is that scones are traditionally a sweet treat, and may even contain sugar in the dough, served with cream and jam. A biscuit usually contains far less sugar and is served in a savoury manner.
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Simple Classic Scones
- 300 grams plain standard grade or all-purpose flour
- 4 teaspoon baking powder
- 4 teaspoon icing sugar powdered or confectioners sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt or ¼ teaspoon if using salted butter
- 60 grams butter cold
- 200 grams ml milk
- 1 egg or 3 tablespoon of cream/milk to brush over the top of the scones
- Preheat the oven to 220°C/430F. Prepare a bkaing tray. Scones should not stick to a baking tray but you can still line the sheet with a re-usable silicon mat or baking paper.
- In a large mixing bowl, place the flour, baking powder, icing sugar and salt. Mix through using a whisk or fork to evenly distribute the baking powder, icing sugar and salt through the flour.300 grams plain, 4 teaspoon baking powder, 4 teaspoon icing sugar, 1 teaspoon salt
- Cut the cold butter into small 1.5 cm x 1.5 cm blocks. Toss into the flour and rub through the flour until only pea-size pieces of butter remain.60 grams butter
- Pour the milk over the flour, and mix using a fork until the ingredients are just incorporated. Do not worry if there is some flour at the bottom of the bowl, tip it all out. Do not over mix. Any extra flour will be incorpoated during the laminating process.200 grams ml milk
- Lightly flour the kitchen counter or board, place the dough on the counter and bring it together, folding over 2 or 3 times to laminate the butter pieces in the dough. Pat the dough into a circle or square about 2 to 3 cm thick.
- Either using a cookie cutter or knife, cut our 4 to 5 large scones. If using a round cookie cutter, bring together the left-over dough, by kneading the dough together and forming a disk or square to cut out additional scones. Try to work with the dough as little as possible.
- Using a pastry brush, brush the tops of the scone with a beaten egg, cream or milk.1 egg or 3 tablespoon of cream/milk to brush over the top of the scones
- Bake for approximately 15 minutes. The scones would have risen, and be golden brown in colour.
- Serve the scones warm or at room temperature with whipped cream and jam, or even some grated cheese.
Nutrition information is an estimate. If scaling the recipe remember to scale your cook and bakeware accordingly.