Basic Scones

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I don’t know about everyone else, but Mother’s Day is all about the food for our family. If Mom had it her way, we would continuously cook and eat for the entire day, but instead we stick to two main meals, brunch and dinner. Brunch is something special—it’s not every day that you get to gorge yourself on pastries and sausage only a few short hours after round one of breakfast. In fact, it’s really just a second breakfast, which is common only in Hobbiton. Those hobbits really know how to enjoy life.

One of the stars of the brunch show is the scones. They’re amazing on their own with lots and lots of butter, but simply incredible covered in lemon curd or jam and topped with a dollop of whipped cream. As I am at least half Irish, a love of scones is programmed into my DNA. My grandma, who was from Cork, used to make them all the time, and in Ireland they’re as common as a green blade of grass. My family has endured much controversy over scones—more specifically, the issues of which recipe to use and what to put in them. I, for one, do not really have a major recipe preference as long as the scones do not contain raisins. Unfortunately, I am in the minority and so sometimes have to suffer through the excruciating experience that is a raisin scone. There are many foods that I have grown to like over the years, but raisins do not make that list. I remember getting a box of raisins in my Easter basket and trying so hard to like them. But I would get as far as two or three raisins and have to stuff chocolate eggs into my mouth to mask the flavor and texture of those little shriveled demon-grapes. Although, if raisins made me eat more chocolate, maybe they’re not so bad after all.

To those who love raisins: you’ll love them in these scones. To those who don’t: it’s a hard life, but you can simply make the scones without. The beauty of being the chef is that you get to make the calls. Therefore, leave those raisins in the back of the lazy susan where they belong.

Most importantly, Happy Mother’s Day!

Basic Scones

makes 12 | adapted from Tartine: A Classic Revisited by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson

5 ¼ cups (680g) all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
⅓ cup (80g) sugar
1 ¼ tsp fine sea salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold

1 ½ cups (360ml) buttermilk (plus extra if needed)
zest of ½ a medium-large lemon (optional)
½ cup currants, raisins, or chopped dried cranberries

topping (optional):
3 tbsp melted unsalted butter
large crystal sugar (like Demerara) for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a large bowl, whisk the 680g flour, 2 tsp baking powder, ¾ tsp baking soda, 80g sugar, and 1 ¼ tsp sea salt (if your flour or baking soda is particularly lumpy, sift those in first).

Cut 2 sticks unsalted butter into half-inch cubes. You can work the butter into the flour two ways. The first way is to use your stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the butter pieces are roughly the size of a pea. The second option is to rub the butter in by hand—this is my preferred method because I think the scones end up flakier (but I could be wrong). Working with both hands, rub the butter chunks into the flour by making a sprinkling motion with your fingers. Keep working the butter in until the chunks are generally the size of a pea. Work quickly so the butter doesn’t get too warm (warmth=the enemy of flakes). Briefly mix in ½ cup currants (or other dried fruit)

Add 360ml buttermilk and zest of ½ a lemon to the flour and butter mixture. Use your hands to mix everything together, adding another tablespoon of buttermilk at a time until the dough is still a bit rough but comes together in one big clump.

On a lightly floured surface, pat the dough into a rectangle 1 to 1 ½ inch thick, roughly 6×12 inches. Slice into triangles, then arrange the scones on a baking sheet lined with a silicon mat or parchment paper.*

Brush on the optional melted butter and sprinkle with sugar, if you’d like a slightly browner and crispier top.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown. Enjoy warm with butter and jam!

*At this point, you can freeze the scones on a baking tray, then store them well-wrapped in the freezer in a plastic bag for at least a few weeks. Bake the scones from frozen, adding a couple extra minutes to the baking time as needed. I like to freeze at least a few per batch so I can have freshly baked scones when I want them!

2 responses to “Basic Scones”

  1. […] that calls for warm food. One comforting and essential part of cold, holiday season mornings are scones, which we always bake on Christmas. I brought scones to an exceedingly pleasant brunch with friends […]

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