The Best Scones
by Erika Kuever
I spent a year and a half of my quarter-life crisis waitressing in a zany English-style tearoom — just enough time to pay for a three-month trip to Southeast Asia and my first year of graduate school. By the end I was deadly sick of dusting the china, buttoning up the knee-length lace jacket that served as a uniform, and digging jam-encrusted crumbs out of giant teddy bears, but sweet silver teaspoon I still loved the scones. Light and fluffy but not too sweet, they were the ultimate ladylike repast. Because the only person in the kitchen who could make the scones the right way was the owner’s 80-something-year-old mother, we employees were forbidden to eat them unless there were leftovers at the end of day. This only made them more desirable, and even a bit mysterious.
Until, that is, the day when a friend gave me The Recipe. The Recipe relies on whipping cream, rather than butter, to produce scones with a light, pillowy texture, just like the tearoom’s. Their textural perfection and light flavor makes them the perfect template for experimenting with filling combinations. I’ve done ginger chocolate, cherry fig, apple cinnamon, coconut lime, and, with a bit of tinkering, a few savory variations. Some have been better than others, but they have never been bad.
The Recipe was originally designed to make 12 bakery-shelf-sized scones, but I prefer to make the same amount of batter to produce 24 mini scones. One is often enough and the more you have the more you can share. You’re going to make so many people so very happy.
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips/cinnamon chips/nuts/whatever
1 cup dried fruit (I don’t recommend using fresh fruit — it adds moisture to the batter and affects the texture. If you insist, you’re going to need to add more flour)
2 cups cold whipping cream (= 1/2 quart, the size sold in mini milk cartons)
1. Preheat oven to 375F/190C. Grease baking sheets. If you have a stainless steel bowl, chill it in the freezer for at least an hour beforehand.
2. Combine dry ingredients (I sift them lightly with a fork), then mix in fillings. I made this batch with dried blueberries and chopped walnuts. The add-ins go into the dry stuff, and the cream gets whisked before it is added to the dry stuff.
I’ve used both high-end kitchen mixers and plain old whisks (and once, in a pinch, a fork duck-taped to a power drill), both are fine. As long as the cream gets good and frothy you’re in business. I recommend doing your whisking/mixing in a pre-chilled stainless steel bowl — for whatever reason (probably science!) cold cream fluffs up better.
3. Fold the cream into the dry mix, and form the dough into one ball for large scones or three for minis (or two for midis, I suppose). Pat down to a thickness of about one inch and cut into wedges of desired size.
4. Bake until just a bit golden on top, 18–20 minutes.
The scones will be fine at room temperature for a few days, if they last. Serve with butter, lemon curd, jam, clotted cream, or a combination.
BONUS: they freeze beautifully for up to three weeks, and once defrosted no one will be the wiser. Seriously, they’re amazing.
Erika Kuever just finished her dissertation. Sadly, it is not about baked goods.