These are the ultimate scones to pair with your afternoon cup of tea!
English scones are light, flaky, and just barely sweet. That means slathering them with clotted cream and strawberry or raspberry jam is practically obligatory.
What Are English Scones?
While American scones are dense, rich, and sweet, English scones are lighter, flakier, and only lightly sweetened. English scones contain less butter and sugar and are usually just enriched with plain milk rather than the heavy cream and sometimes egg that’s often used to enrich American scones.
Traditionally, English scones are served with butter, clotted cream, fruit jam or a combination. They’re intentionally meant to be plain and simple so they can be a vehicle for these spreads, whether they’re enjoyed at breakfast or teatime. You’ll also find that English scones are traditional cut and baked into tall rounds (like American biscuits) rather than wedges.
Tips and Tricks for Making English Scones
There are a lot of different scone techniques! However, these tips and tricks will help set you up for baking success.
- Freeze and grate the butter: To get a flaky texture, you want cold bits of butter interspersed throughout the dough. My favorite way to achieve this is to freeze the butter and then grate it on the largest holes of a box grater. Then you can simply toss the frozen bits of butter into the flour without fear of it warming up too quickly and melting.
- Use a light hand. It’s easy to overwork the dough when you’re combining the dry and wet ingredients. However, if you mix and knead everything too much, your scones will end up being tough. Instead, just lightly work the dough until a rough ball forms. It’s okay if it’s a bit lumpy.
- Chill the scones before baking. Instead of baking the scones straight after shaping them, let them rest in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes while the oven preheats. This gives the gluten in the flour a chance to soften, resulting in more tender scones.
Scone Swaps and Variations
Scones are notoriously versatile. Feel free to get creative with flour swaps and dried fruit.
- Swap up to half of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour. You’ll likely need to use the full amount of milk (2/3 cup) to assemble the dough, as whole grain flour needs a bit more liquid.
- Add a 1/3 cup of currants, raisins, craisins or minced dried apricots. Add the dried fruit to the milk before adding it to the dry ingredients. This will help slightly plump up the dried fruit before it’s mixed into the dough.
The Best Way to Store and Freeze Scones
While these scones are best enjoyed freshly baked, either eaten warm or at room temperature, leftovers can be stored in an airtight container on the counter for up to three days.
To freeze baked scones: You can also freeze baked scones for up to 2 months. 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: After cutting them into rounds, freeze them on the parchment-lined baking sheet until firm, then transfer them to a zip top bag. Bake the frozen scones—no need to thaw—as directed, brushing them with milk and adding a few extra minutes onto the baking time.
More Satisfying Scone Recipe
- Ginger Scones
- Lemon Blueberry Scones
- Queen Elizabeth’s Drop Scones
- Savory Scones with Goat Cheese and Chives
This recipe calls for grating 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 for dusting surface
- 3 tablespoons (39 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon (15 grams) baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen
- 2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk, divided
- Clotted cream and jam, for serving (optional)
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.
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.
Add milk and form rough dough ball:
Drizzle about half of the whole milk over the butter-flour mixture. 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 milk 1 tablespoon at a time, as needed, 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 milk.
Shape the dough:
Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and pat it into a rough 1-inch-thick circle about eight inches in diameter.
Cut dough into scone rounds:
Use a 2-inch biscuit cutter to cut the dough into rounds. Cut them as close together as possible. You want to get as many rounds as possible on your first pass through the dough.
Gently press the scraps back together and cut out additional rounds.
You should have 8 to 10 rounds, depending on how diligent you are with pressing the scrapes together.
Transfer scones to prepared baking sheet, refrigerate, and preheat the oven:
Transfer the scone rounds to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart.
Refrigerate the unbaked scones while you arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F.
Brush scones with milk and bake:
Once the oven has preheated, using a pastry brush, brush the scones with the remaining 1 tablespoon of milk and bake until golden brown, 18 to 22 minutes.
Cool and serve scones:
Let the scones cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before enjoying warm or transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely. Serve with clotted cream and jam, if desired.