What’s your idea of the perfect scone? Frankly, I love them all and for such an innocent baked good, it’s a topic that’s heavily debated depending on which side of the pond you’re from.
The scones you find in America, in bakeries and coffee shops, are quite different than those you find in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Today’s focus is on rich, ultra-buttery, American-style scones. The perfect treat to pair with your morning cup of coffee!
What Are American Scones?
American scones are rich and sweet. They’re typically made with a healthy amount of butter and heavy cream and are often enriched further with the addition of an egg.
The texture is dense, crumbly, and tender. This is what differentiates them from American biscuits, which while also rich, are much lighter and flakier in texture.
While there are savory American scones, they’re usually made sweet and often studded with ingredients like fresh or dried fruit, chocolate or nuts. Sometimes, they’re also glazed similarly to doughnuts.
American scones are most commonly enjoyed at breakfast, and they’re a staple at coffee shops around the country. They’re typically enjoyed warm or at room temperature without an accompaniment since they’re plenty buttery and flavorful on their own. However, butter, lemon curd or jam can be slathered on for added sweetness or richness.
Tips and Tricks for Making American Scones
Though there are only a handful of ingredients in American scones, they can be tricky to master. Lucky, these tips will set you up for success.
- Like pie crust, the secret to a tender scone is cold butter so you should freeze the butter.
- While cutting a stick of cold butter into cubes and working it into the flour does the job just fine, freezing the butter then grating it on a box grater works even better. This greatly reduces the chances of the butter melting into the dough while you’re preparing it.
- Don’t overwork the dough. It’s tempting to press and knead the dough to form a cohesive ball, but this can result in tough scones. Instead, use a light hand and mix together the dry and wet ingredients until just combined. The dough will be lumpy and a bit floury in spots but that’s okay.
- Cut the dough in triangles. American scones are traditionally triangle-shaped. Simply pat the dough into a rough circle and use a sharp knife or bench scraper to cut it into wedges. This technique also helps prevent you from overworking the dough.
Scone Additions and Variations
What makes American scones stand out is what they are flavored and studded with. This recipe results in scones that are scented with vanilla and sprinkled with coarse sugar.
While they’re perfect in there simplicity, they’re a blank canvas for add-ins. Add up to 1 cup of any of the following, right after you’ve tossed in the grated butter and before you’ve added the wet ingredients.
- Fresh fruit such as berries, diced stone fruit, and diced or grated apples
- Chocolate chips or chunks, as well as butterscotch, peanut butter or cinnamon chips
- Toasted and chopped nuts such as walnuts or pecans
- Dried fruit such as raisins, dried cranberries, or chopped figs
- Chopped candied ginger
- Unsweetened shredded coconut
- In place of vanilla extract, use almond extract or finely grated citrus zest
- In place of the coarse sugar, try sprinkling the scones with cinnamon-sugar before baking
How to Store and Freeze
Scones are best enjoyed fresh the day they’re baked, either warm or at room temperature. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.
To freeze baked scones: Alternatively, baked scones can be frozen. Freeze on the parchment-lined baking sheet until firm, then transfer them to a zip top freezer bag. Thaw overnight at room temperature, then rewarm them in a 400°F oven.
To freeze unbaked scones: Cut the dough into wedges, hold off on brushing them with cream and sprinkling them with sugar, and freeze on the parchment-lined baking sheet until firm, then transfer them to a zip top freezer bag. Bake the scones, as needed, directly from the freezer, as directed, brushing them with cream and sprinkling with sugar, and adding a few minutes onto the baking time.
More Satisfying Scone Recipes
- Ginger Scones
- Lemon Blueberry Scones
- Queen Elizabeth’s Drop Scones
- Savory Scones with Goat Cheese and Chives
- English Scones
- Irish Scones
This recipe is simple and easy as it is, but feel free to add up to 1 cup of your favorite mix in (mix in options noted above). It also uses grated frozen butter. Place a stick of butter in your freezer for at least 15 minutes while you work on other steps in the recipe, or you can keep a pound of butter in your freezer for exactly these occasions.
- 2 cups (257 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
- 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon (15 grams) baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) kosher salt
- 2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream, divided
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, frozen
- 1 tablespoon coarse sugar, such as turbinado
Line a baking sheet:
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine the dry ingredients:
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
Combine wet ingredients:
Measure out 2/3 cup heavy cream. In a medium bowl whisk together about half of the cream, along with the egg and vanilla extract. You will use the rest of the cream later.
Grate the butter:
Place a box grater over the prepared baking sheet. Grate the butter on the large holes of a box grater. When you get down to a small nub of butter, chop that nub into a few small pieces.
Add the butter to the dry ingredients:
Use the parchment paper as a sling to transfer the butter to the dry ingredients in the large bowl. Then, return the parchment paper to the baking sheet.
Use your fingers to toss the butter in the flour, breaking up any clumps, until evenly coated.
Combine wet and dry ingredients to make dough:
Carefully drizzle the cream, egg, and vanilla mixture over the butter-flour mixture in the large bowl. Use a fork or your hands to combine and lightly mix. The mixture will start to look sandy.
Add the remaining half of the reserved cream 1 tablespoon at a time, continuing to combine with a fork or your hands, until a rough and lumpy, but cohesive, dough ball forms. You may not use all the remaining cream.
Shape the dough:
Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and pat into a rough 1-inch-thick circle about eight inches in diameter.
Cut dough into wedges and arrange on baking sheet:
Use a sharp knife or bench scraper to cut the dough into eight wedges. Transfer the wedges to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them evenly apart, about an inch or two between scones.
Refrigerate scones, arrange oven rack, and preheat the oven:
Refrigerate the unbaked scones while you place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F.
Brush scones with heavy cream and sprinkle with sugar:
Once the oven has preheated, using a pastry brush, brush the scones with the remaining 1 tablespoon of heavy cream. Sprinkle evenly with the coarse sugar.
Bake the scones:
Bake, until the scones are golden brown, 18 to 22 minutes.
Cool and serve scones:
Let scones cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before enjoying warm or transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.