A classic scone is the perfect tea-time snack (and a classic in the UK!), served with clotted cream (or salted butter, as I prefer) and jam. These little delights are a kind of quickbread (similar to soda bread) so rely on a chemical raising agent, not yeast, and come together extremely quickly.
From Mary Berry to the BBC, every scone recipe will vary slightly but the ratios are usually pretty similar and rely on the simple ingredients of plain flour, milk, butter and baking powder. Thanks to the simple ingredients we’re using here, these scones are foolproof! There are a few ingredient substitution suggestions just below the recipe as well for if you need to slightly change the ingredients to suit your needs.
You can play around with add-ins as well, folding in grated cheddar cheese for a cheese scone or some soaked sultanas for a fruit scone. See the sections below the recipe for more info on this.
I like the addition of eggs to my scone dough as I think they produce a cakier texture and help the scones stay softer for longer.
Scones with buttermilk
Some people like using buttermilk but, as it is often hard to find, I prefer to simply thin some natural yoghurt with water (in a 50:50 ratio) to use instead of the milk in the recipe below – i.e. use 50ml natural yoghurt mixed with 50ml water. I do this when I have some yoghurt that needs using up! Buttermilk (or my DIY buttermilk) has a natural acidity to it and this, along with the proteins in the dairy, help to create a very tender, fluffy scone!
Can scones be frozen?
Yes, this is a great way to make scones way in advance. Freeze the cut rounds of scone dough on a lined baking tray. Once frozen, slide the scone dough rounds into a resealable food bag and freeze for up to 3 months. You can bake the dough straight from frozen, at the usual temperature, for 20-25 minutes.
You can also freeze already baked scones in a resealable food bag for up to 1 month. Pop them into a 100C (200F) oven for about 20 minutes to defrost & warm them up.
Can scone dough be made in advance & refrigerated?
Yes, you can make scone dough the night before you want to bake them. I think this works best if you roll & cut out the scones, pop them onto a lined baking tray and then chill for up to 24 hours (instead of chilling the un-cut dough). You can then glaze and bake as usual straight from the fridge – the chilling shouldn’t really impact the baking time much. This can actually provide a better rise to your scones as the flour has more time to absorb the liquid in the dough, plus the buttery bits in the dough re-solidify, which both help produce a better texture. Don’t leave the scone dough in the fridge for more than 24h though as the baking powder will start to lose its efficacy meaning your scones won’t rise as much!
Why is scone dough so wet?
The texture of scone dough should be quite wet and sticky as this loose texture really helps to produce the lightest, fluffiest texture once baked. The drier your dough is, the less ability the dough has to rise in the oven and the denser your scones will be. If you’re finding the scone dough is too wet to handle, pop it in the fridge to chill for about 30 to 60 minutes. Make sure you’re using a lightly floured work surface and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Also, try to handle it as little as possible to prevent it sticking! Do not try to mix more flour into the dough as you’ll throw off the ratios of ingredients in the recipe resulting in dry, dense scones.
Tips for the best scones
- Scone dough is not kneaded – instead it is gently stirred and then patted and folded in half a few times (this is called ‘chaffing’ the dough), trying to work it only until the dry ingredients are incorporated. This is because kneading the dough will develop the gluten structure in the dough past where we want it to be, which leads to a tough, dense scone. On the other hand, chaffing the dough incorporates some air into the dough and encourages formation of distinct layers which help the dough rise AND give a natural ‘fault’ line to your scone meaning you should be able to split it in half by simply pulling the top and bottom apart.
- Only stir the batter together until the liquid is just about incorporated – the chaffing step after mixing is where the dough properly comes together so don’t worry if it looks like a complete mess when you tip it out of the bowl. By finishing the mixing job when you’re folding the dough on the work surface, you prevent overworking the dough and ensure you get nice flaky layers in your scones.
- Re-roll the dough as few times as possible – you will need to re-roll the scraps if you’re cutting out circles but try your best to do this only 2 or 3 times max. This will ensure you don’t overwork your dough!
- Have cold butter and milk – this will help give the scones a light and ‘short’ (crumbly) texture as the cold fat and milk will somewhat inhibit gluten development.
- Roll the dough THICK – I like to cut my scones from dough which is about 3cm thick. You’ll probably look at the dough and think ‘that dough is too thick!!’ but it’s not!! It’s probably the most vital part to ensuring your scones rise up tall.
- Don’t twist the cutter – when you punch each circle out of the dough, use a straight down & up motion, no twisting!! The twisting effectively seals the cut edges of the circle which means it won’t rise as well.
- Don’t let the egg/milk glaze drip down the sides of the scone – again this kind of seals that cut edge of the scone and will prevent it rising.
Scones with plain flour
The recipe I’ve written below uses plain flour and includes the addition of baking powder for the ‘rise’. I’ve done the recipe this way as I most often have plain flour instead of self-raising and I think that self-raising flour is not a standard ingredient across brands/countries so it’s easier for people to get the recipe right if they’re making it using a different brand of plain flour. However, to make this recipe using self-raising flour is easy – see next question!
Can I make these scones with self-raising flour?
Yes, just replace the plain flour and the baking powder in the recipe with 360g of self-raising flour. My preferred brands (in the UK) are either the Doves Farm Organic white self-raising flour, or the McDougalls supreme sponge self-raising flour.
Can I make these scones eggless?
Yes, they’ll have a slightly less spongey texture but you can make this recipe without eggs. To do this, replace the eggs in the recipe with an extra 75ml (1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp) of milk.
If you’d prefer a fully vegan (eggless & dairy-free) scone recipe, head over to this post all about vegan scones!
- 360 g (3 cups) plain flour * (all-purpose flour)
- 50 g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
- 3 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp fine table salt
- 100 g (7 tbsp) unsalted butter, cold, cubed
- 2 medium eggs
- 100 ml (1/3 cup + 1 tbsp) cold milk*
- 1 egg , beaten OR 2 tbsp milk
- Preheat the oven to 200°C fan (400°F fan) / 220°C non-fan (430°F non-fan). Line a baking tray with baking paper.
- Place the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Stir together. Add the cubed butter and used your fingertips to rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture looks kind of sandy and shaggy with some pea-sized lumps of butter remaining.360 g (3 cups) plain flour *, 50 g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar, 3 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp fine table salt, 100 g (7 tbsp) unsalted butter, cold, cubed
- Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture. Crack the eggs into the centre and pour in the milk. Stir together very briefly to form a messy, sticky dough with some floury patches remaining.2 medium eggs, 100 ml (1/3 cup + 1 tbsp) cold milk*
- Tip the contents of the bowl out onto a work surface dusted lightly with flour. Pat the shaggy dough out into a rough rectangle about 1.5cm (1/2-inch) thick. Fold the dough in half and rotate 90 degrees. Pat out again and fold in half then rotate 90 degrees. Do this a couple more times until there are no floury patches remaining. You want to work quickly & lightly here – don't overwork the dough or the scones will be tough.
- Now dust your dough rectangle with flour on top and underneath. Roll out gently until it's around 3cm thick – it'll look super thick but this is key to getting tall scones!
- Dust a 5 or 6cm (2 or 2.5-inch) round cutter (or water glass) with flour and use to cut out rounds of dough. Make sure you're using a simple down-up movement with the cutter (i.e. DON'T twist the cutter as this will seal the cut edge and prevent the scones rising).
- Pop the rounds out onto the lined tray. Gently gather the scraps and re-roll, cutting out more rounds from the dough until it’s all used up. You should get 8 or 9 scones total.
- Brush the tops of the scones with a thin layer of beaten egg (or milk) – try to make sure the glaze doesn’t drip down the sides of the scone as this can prevent them rising.1 egg
- Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating the tray 180-degrees when they're halfway through their cooking time. They should be well-risen and golden all over.
- Serve warm with clotted cream, or butter, and jam.
See the list below with instructions on how to adapt the recipe above to make differently flavour sweet or savoury scones!
Fruit Scones & Sweet Scones
Scones with sultanas or raisins
Add 100g or sultanas or raisins to the bowl just after rubbing the butter into the dry ingredients. Toss through before adding the wet ingredients. You can also use mixed dried fruit here if you prefer a variety of flavours.
Scones with cherries
If you want to include glacé cherries, the technique is the same as the scones above however, as glacé cherries tend to be quite large, you’ll want to chop them up a bit first until the pieces are roughly the size of a raisin before adding to the bowl!
If you want to include fresh cherries, either use 200g fresh cherries, then pit them, or buy 150g frozen, pitted cherries (which you can use frozen or defrosted). You’ll also want to chop these into halves or quarters (make sure they’re pitted first!) before incorporating into the dry ingredients, just before you add the wet ingredients. You may need to increase the baking time by 5-7 minutes to account for the increased moisture.
Scones with blueberries
Add 150g frozen blueberries to the bowl just after rubbing the butter into the dry ingredients. Toss through before adding the wet ingredients. Be aware that you will need to work quickly and gently once the frozen blueberries are added as they will start to defrost and can become squishy which can bleed into the dough. You may need to increase the baking time by 5-7 minutes as the blueberries make the dough colder and wetter.
I prefer to use frozen wild blueberries for this as they distribute more evenly throughout the dough and have a much stronger flavour, plus release less moisture into the dough.
Replace the milk with lemonade. Add the freshly grated zest of 1 lemon to the dry ingredients when you’re rubbing the butter in. Glaze the baked, cooled scones with a mixture of lemon juice and icing sugar until thick but pourable.
Replace the milk with 130g pumpkin puree (from a tin, unsweetened). Add 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg and 1/4 tsp ground allspice (or, instead of using all the individual spices, add 2 tsp mixed spice) to the dry ingredients.
Chocolate Chip Scones
Add 100g dark, milk or white chocolate chips to the dough after you’ve rubbed the butter into the dry ingredients. If you want double chocolate scones, replace 30g of the flour with unsweetened cocoa powder.
Feel free to combine the flavours below, or use on their own, for your own take on savoury scones!
- Cheese scones: add 150g grated, mature cheddar cheese to the bowl, just after rubbing the butter into the dry ingredients. You can also use other cheeses of your preferance – if firm enough to grate, do that (e.g. gruyere, parmesan, comte, manchego). If using a softer cheese (e.g. blue cheese, feta, boursin), crumble this into the dough in larger chunks as it will break down a bit more when mixing.
- Bacon scones: fry 10 rashers streaky bacon in a pan over a medium heat until crisp. Allow to cool then roughly chop. Add this to the bowl just after rubbing the butter into the dry ingredients.
- Chive scones: finely chop 30g chives and stir into the bowl just after rubbing the butter into the dry ingredients.
- Marmite scones: stir 1 tbsp marmite into the milk, mixing until the marmite has dissolved into the liquid