If you know anything about British or Irish cuisine, you’ll know they have at least 40 baked goods that are technically scones, but with many different names in hopes they’ll trick you. It’s a lovely enough item that by just tinkering with it a wee bit—a dash of oat flour here, a few blueberries there, a spot of cream—it can reinvent itself over and over and over again. As long as you know the basics of how things go together, you can tackle any scone/biscuit/shortcake/etc. recipe that comes your way, whether it’s sweet, savory, or little bit of both. Not only that, you will not be restrained by them. We’re embarking on a make-your-own-scones adventure. If the Brits can make up a thousand variations, surely you can throw in one more.
There are plain scones, oat scones, potato scones, but everything starts with a bit of plain all-purpose flour, which holds it together. If you’re baking without any sort of gluten, you’ll have to put yourself in the controversial egg camp.
Egg or no egg?
Purists insist that scones should be dry, buttery and crumbly, which you get with the “no egg” method. Adding one egg to the liquid might technically put it in biscuit territory, but who the hell cares? It’s not like there’s a scone police (that I know of). One egg whisked into your liquid component will result in a scone soft enough that it won’t require clotted cream to be enjoyable.
Cream scones rely on heavy cream, which might scare you off. Do remember that Queen Elizabeth eats these every single day (I fact checked), and she’s not dead yet!
Buttermilk makes a very nice scone, but heads up, if your recipe doesn’t call for it, you’ll have to adjust your leavening. Baking powder is meant to rise when there’s nothing acidic in your batter. Buttermilk is acidic, which means you’ll likely need to swap out some of that powder for baking soda, an alkali that reacts with acid to blow bubbles. If you paid attention in second-grade science, you’d know that.
It. Must. Be. Cold. Nipple-chilling cold. If it’s warm it’ll just melt into a puddle in the oven, then solidifying into a greasy brick.
Good ways to keep your butter where it needs to be: Use a food processor, or grate frozen butter on a cheese grater. Then work quickly to make sure it has no time to soften before baking (and if it does, pop it in the freezer for a few minutes to set back up).
The best place to add fillings is not after you’ve made the batter, but before you add the liquid ingredients. It give you enough time to evenly distribute things without overworking the dough.
If you want to add things like blueberries, keep them frozen and toss them well with flour before adding. If you’re using a food processor, pull out the butter/flour mix and put it in a bowl, add the berries, and go the rest of the way by hand.
Some people are traditionalists and like patting their scones into a disc before cutting into triangle. Some like a scone that resembles more of a drop biscuit. Some want to go through the trouble of rolling out and cutting into perfectly fluted rounds. Some have so much money that they don’t know what to do with it, so they go out and buy $60 specialty scone pans to make perfectly uniform wedges.
Honestly? It doesn’t matter. The dough is going to bake and taste the same regardless. Go whichever way you see fit. Just keep your eye on these things to make sure they don’t overcook. The queen would not be amused.