Several years ago, Cook’s Illustrated published a great recipe for making light and tender scones. The secret is all in the technique, more so than in the ingredients. Grated frozen butter eliminates the need to overwork the dough, which is what often results in tough scones. Over time, I’ve simplified the recipe a little bit, combining a good biscuit recipe with the grated butter.
- 2 1/4 cups self-rising flour, White Lily if you can find it
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, frozen (you will only use 8 tablespoons)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- grated zest of 1 orange
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 1/2 cups fresh cherries, pitted, cut in quarters (or blueberries, raspberries or strawberries)
- a tablespoon or two of buttermilk, for glazing
- a few teaspoons of sugar, for dusting
- parchment paper
I have to say, I left out one folding step in the process. It’s been a while since I’ve made these. I also didn’t let them chill before baking them. The result was that they spread a little more than usual.
1. Unwrap half of the paper off each stick of butter, and grate half of each stick into a small bowl. Place bowl in freezer until all other ingredients are assembled.
2. Preheat oven to 425.
3. In a small bowl, place the flour, sugar, salt, and orange zest. Mix well to distribute everything. Add the butter gratings, and toss well with spoon. Add the 1 cup of buttermilk, and use a rubber spatula to bring the dough together.
4. Dump out dough on a floured surface, and press into a small rectangle. Dust the top with more flour, and using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a large rectangle, about 1/3 inch thick. Press the cherries (or other berries) into the top of the dough. Press them down into the dough a little.
5. Starting at one long end, start to roll the dough into a log, as if you were making cinnamon rolls. Press it flat, longways. Bring in both ends to the center, and press back out into a 3-inch by 15-inch flat “log”. Using a sharp knife or pastry board, cut the flattened log into 6 equally sized squares, then cut each square into 2 triangles, to end up with 12 good sized scones. To make 18 smaller scones, cut a small triangle out of each square, and the remaining larger shape into two equal-sized “triangles” (rhomboids, maybe?) I prefer the smaller scones.
6. To glaze the scones before baking, the Cook’s Illustrated instructs you to melt 2 tablespoons butter and brush this on top of each scone, then dust with a little sugar prior to baking. I prefer to use a little of the buttermilk, and paint a little on top of each scone with my fingers, then sprinkle with a little bit of sugar on top of each one. The buttermilk and sugar leaves a glossy glaze on top which is very pretty.
As careful as I try to be not to overwork the tender dough, I actually think these could have used a little more. Although, since I missed that extra turn-fold step, that helps add layers of flakiness in, too. They were still delicious.
Freezer tips: These can be frozen unbaked. To bake frozen, preheat oven to 375, and bake for 25-30 minutes. To reheat already baked scones, wrap in foil, and reheat in 350 oven for about 10-12 minutes, until crisp. And yes, both baked and unbaked versions freeze quite well, making a slightly detailed recipe easier for a weekend (or even weekday!) treat.