If you're a scone fan like me, you'll love this simple recipe, which is ready in less than an hour. Scones with buttermilk are soft and fluffy, with a tender crumb. All my top tips are included. Did you know you can freeze them? That way, you can have freshly baked scones to order.
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This recipe here is a very classic one, neither sweet nor salty.
A neutral, very balanced buttermilk scone recipe to eat warm with butter and jam. Or whatever suits your fancy.
They are light and dense simultaneously, with enough butter flavor but not heavy.
Scone-making is a big deal in my family.
My Irish great-grandmother passed down 'the' recipe, just like she did with the Irish soda bread. But no one got the same results. They were always almost as good.
Or so they say. I never met her. And never ate scones made by her. I had an aunt who made them, and they were good.
Well, these buttermilk scones are better! The horror, I know, if the family could hear. But it's true.
Why use buttermilk?
It makes them more tender, so the scones have a better crumb and a richer texture.
It can also add a slight tang depending on the amount used and the type of buttermilk. This recipe is very balanced flavorwise.
Buttermilk can be purchased in the grocery store or online, or you can easily make your own (find the recipe in the recipe card's notes). You can also buy buttermilk powder and prepare it as you need to.
- Buttermilk: use the regular, full-fat type, not low-fat or light. What if you don't have buttermilk? You can buy buttermilk powder and prepare it as you need to. Or make homemade buttermilk that is super easy (see Notes in the recipe card).
- Cream: whipping, heavy, or heavy whipping cream can be used.
- Unsalted butter.
- All-purpose flour.
- Baking powder: is used as leavener to help the scones rise, so make sure it hasn't expired.
- Salt: I like to use kosher salt when baking. But regular table salt works just fine.
How to make scones
The mixing of dry ingredients with butter can be made in 2 ways:
- By hand - a bowl where you integrate the cold butter with your hands or with a pastry cutter. This can take a few minutes as the butter needs to be the size of peas and small beans because it will be irregular.
- Food processor - the butter and dry ingredients are integrated by pulsing a few times. This is way faster and less messy (no hands involved), and the only thing to watch out for is not getting carried away and processing the butter too much.
Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and add cold butter pieces.
Work the butter with your hands or a pastry blender until the pieces are the size of small beans. It will be irregular.
Lightly beat the egg in a small bowl and add it with the buttermilk and cream. Mix with a fork or spoon until a few dry spots are left. Don't overmix!
Transfer the shaggy dough to a lightly floured surface. Gather it into a disc, working it as little as possible. It will be irregular, and some spots will be more floury than others.
Place them on a cookie sheet lightly dusted with flour. They should not stick after being baked, but if you're more comfortable lightly buttering the sheet or using parchment paper, go ahead.
Vintage Kitchen tip: to get tender and fluffy results, make sure the ingredients are cold, have the oven preheated, and don't overwork the dough. If in doubt, put the scones in the freezer for 15 minutes before baking.
- Preheated oven: this is non-negotiable. Scones need that first spring the hot oven gives it. If you forgot to turn it on, put the cut scones in the fridge or freezer in the meantime.
- Cold scones: if they are not cold, pop them in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before baking.
- When are they baked? The best way is to open one a little and check that the inside is fully baked.
Scones freeze like a dream. You can keep a batch in the freezer and bake to order!
Freeze the already cut scones until they are rock solid, and then transfer them to a bag. That way, they will be covered and occupy much less space in your freezer.
When you crave warm, fluffy scones, bake them directly from the freezer in a 375°F/190°C oven.
Coatings and glazes
I like them plain; they turn out with a matte floury finish that I love. But I think most people prefer a shiny coating before going into the oven and/or a glaze after they come out. So here are some ideas:
- Brush them with milk/egg and sprinkle them with sugar for a sweeter and crunchier version
- Brush them with water, and sprinkle with grated parmesan or sesame seeds to make them savory. Eat the latter with ham and cheese, a savory mini version of shortcake.
- Brush them with egg wash (an egg, lightly beaten with a tablespoon of water) for a more golden finish.
- Powdered sugar glaze is my favorite. It consists of powdered sugar and your liquid of choice: citrus juice, milk, water, liquor, fresh fruit juice such as raspberry, honey, syrups, or even olive oil.
I used the lemon juice version because it's my favorite; a little zing on a perfectly plain scone.
- Organization: read the recipe first and ensure you have ingredients at the correct temperature, equipment, and enough workspace. This will make the process so much easier.
- Baking time: consider that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look similar. The baking time in my recipes is as accurate as it can be, but it might take you more or less time. You can use a thermometer(like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that your oven is at the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust.
- Very cold ingredients. I’m not kidding when I say frozen butter, at least very cold. And don’t take the cream half an hour before you start mixing the scones. Butter, cream, and milk belong in the fridge until you need to scatter and pour them.
- Don't work the dough much. It should come together but still have floury patches. You don’t need to work it until it’s smooth, like a pie dough. It is an uneven dough with dry spots, and that’s good for flakiness later.
- A rather high oven. They need that extra heat (and baking powder) to rise however they can despite all that butter and cream. And if by any chance you forgot to turn the oven on before you start mixing, please don’t leave the baking sheet with the cut scones waiting on the counter. Put them in the fridge or freezer for the ten or fifteen minutes it takes for the oven to reach its temperature.
- Add-ins: you can add citrus zest, seeds (lemon and poppy seed always work), vanilla extract, ground spices such as cardamom or cinnamon, mini chocolate chips, cranberries or raisins, or a tablespoon of minced herbs for a savory touch. Don't go crazy, just a ¼ cup or so of dried fruit or nuts, and ½ a teaspoon of extracts or spices. This is not a large recipe.
- Serving: warm with butter and honey or jam never fails. You can eat them plain with a cup of coffee or tea or use them for sandwiches.
Related recipes you might like:
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- 2 cups (280g) all-purpose flour
- 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 4 tablespoons (60g) butter, very cold and in small pieces
- 1 egg, cold
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 2 tablespoon whipping or heavy cream, cold
- Make sure the ingredients are cold. I put the butter pieces in the freezer for 5-10 minutes, and keep the buttermilk and cream in the fridge up to the last minute.
- Have ready a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Preheat oven to 375ºF / 190ºC.
- In a large bowl put flour, baking powder (don’t forget or your scones won’t rise!), salt and sugar. Mix lightly with your hand or fork.
- Scatter cold butter on top and start working it into the flour mixture. You can use a dough cutter. Mix it with the dry ingredients but be careful not to warm it too much. If you feel it starts to soften too much, pop the bowl in the fridge for a few minutes, or the freezer.
- The butter should have some pieces the size of peas.
- Lightly beat the egg in a small bowl, just to mix it, so it integrates better.
- Make a well in the middle, and add the egg, half the buttermilk, and the cream.
- With a fork or spoon, lightly stir and begin to incorporate the flour. The flour and butter should be wet but dry spots must be seen.
- If needed, add the rest of the buttermilk a little at a time. You might end up using all of it or not.
- Transfer to a clean surface or counter that is lightly dusted with flour.
- Gather it and turn it onto itself a few times. The dough will be floury and messy, but you don’t want to work it too much or make it as smooth as pie dough.
- After a few turns, it will come together if you take a bit and squeeze it; it should come together and not be too wet or too dry.
- Press the whole mixture about 1-inch thick. The outer parts will be dry, don’t worry.
- With a round cookie cutter (I use a flower shape sometimes because I like how irregular they bake) cut the scones and put on the prepared pan, leaving 2 inches or so between them.
- Repeat with the remaining dough, bringing in the outer dry parts and incorporating it into the dough.
- When all you’re scones are cut, I like to take the sheet to the freezer for 5 minutes.
- Then bake for 20 minutes or so, until puffed, dry, and a bit golden. If you open one it should be dry inside.
- I recommend eating them freshly baked.
- Keep leftovers in tins and re-warm in a medium oven before eating.
- See the Notes below for freezing instructions.
- Homemade buttermilk: for every 1 cup of milk, add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar. I usually use juice as I think it goes better with baked things.
- Top tips:
Very cold ingredients. I put the pieces of butter in the freezer for 5-10 minutes while preparing the rest of the ingredients. And don’t take the cream half an hour before you start mixing the scones. Butter, cream, and milk, they belong in the fridge until you need to pour them.
Don't work the dough much. It should come together but still have floury patches. You don’t need to work it until it’s smooth, like a pie dough. It is an uneven dough, with dry spots, and that’s good for flakiness later.
A rather high oven. They need that extra heat (and baking powder) to rise however they can despite all that butter and cream. And if by any chance you forgot to turn the oven on before you start mixing, please don’t leave the baking sheet with the cut scones waiting on the counter. Put them in the fridge or freezer for ten or fifteen minutes while the oven preheats.
- Freezing: freeze the already cut scones (I pop them directly in the baking sheet) until they are rock solid, then transfer them to a Ziploc bag. That way, they will be covered and occupy much less space in your freezer. Bake them directly from the freezer in a 375°F/190°C oven.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Category: Bakery
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: English
- Serving Size: 1 scone
- Calories: 136
- Sugar: 3.2 g
- Sodium: 172.8 mg
- Fat: 6.7 g
- Carbohydrates: 16.6 g
- Fiber: 0.5 g
- Protein: 2.7 g
- Cholesterol: 30.4 mg
Keywords: buttermilk scones