Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Scones: A Baking Muse Sings Again

I have very strong opinions when it comes to scones. In the US, we’ve found many ways to massacre this deceptively simple tea time treat.
Originally, scones were eaten in Scotland and eventually found their way to the US via the United Kingdom and Canada. When I refer to scones, I’m talking about the fully Americanized version. A good American scone should be medium-density, dry, fairly buttery, and nubby-textured. It can have a range of flavors, and even a variable amount of sugar, but it really shouldn’t be round. 

In my quest for the perfect scone, I’ve been lured into buying, basically, a croissant in triangle form, or a hockey puck with currants, or what amounts to a giant mound of chocolate chips glued together with a little butter and sugar. If you enter a bakery and sense that any of these are in the offerings, exit the store immediately and run for the hills. Or better yet, run to your refrigerator and pull out a stick of butter to start making your own. Scones don’t take that long to make, after all. It is almost always worth the wait to do it better yourself.

A couple of years ago, I went on a scone-baking bender. I baked for four consecutive days, trying out a new recipe each day. (For those who are keeping score, that equals 48 scones in four days for a family of four.) Eventually my husband had to shut the operation down.  And, truth be told, after all that baking, I’d mastered the art of pressing butter into flour, if not the perfect scone recipe.

But lately the muse has been singing her siren song again, and here I am, obsessively fantasizing about flavor combinations and texture profiles. And so I’m back in the kitchen. Here’s a recent winner made with buttermilk, figs and orange zest, from Baking with Julia, by contributing baker Marion Cunningham:

Since I was taking these to a book group meeting, I opted for the mini-scone shape (I caved and used a biscuit cutter – inauthentic shape, gah!). The technique of brushing the scones with extra butter and a dusting of sugar just before popping them into the oven gave the scones a nice sweet crust, but they were a bit firm from over baking, so the quest continues. 

I’ll report back when I’ve decoded the ideal scone recipe, or when my husband drags me – flour sullied and pastry blender flailing – out into the light. Whichever comes first.

For the original recipe, buy the book. To see how the other bakers in the group fared (some great ideas here!), visit Tuesdays with Dorie.


  1. Mmm, figs inside sounds great! Most people cooked theirs longer than the recipe stated! Maybe because yours were petite they cooked faster? Sorry they weren't a winner for you!

  2. Figs! Yours sound and look tasty, sorry the scones weren't perfect but it was a very amusing post to read! :-D

  3. The ones they sell in coffee shops never measure up, do they? I enjoyed these, even if they aren't the ur recipe for scones.

  4. Figs and orange zest - yum! Love your story about the scone-baking bender.

  5. Scones do seem to be your muse :-). But I have some sympathy to spare for your family.....12 scones each in 4 days!!
    I can imagine how delicious these must have been with the figs and orange zest.

  6. Haha. Sometimes my husband thinks I'm obsessive in my baking too! Cute little scones! I bet they were yummy!

  7. Mmm.. fig. Love fig anything! When I first saw your photo, I thought "she made them round - I'm confused.." ha ha ha. You are forgiven. ;) Looking forward to your perfect scone recipe. :)


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