Scone Tops Recipe

We were expecting friends for brunch on Saturday morning, and I decided to bake scones. Not the triangular wedges stuffed with various ingredients often sold in the US, but the classic, round, plain, British kind.

For three years, almost to the day, I’d been sitting on a recipe that my dear friend Chika had shared with me, and which she’d drawn from Anton Edelmann’s out-of-print book, Taking Tea at the Savoy. She had mentioned that this was her go-to scone recipe, and it was the one I intended to try, for a change from my usual yogurt scones.

The dough was quick and easy to assemble — a definite plus for a brunch item — and I rolled it out, according to the instructions, to a thickness of 1.5 cm (2/3 inch). Had I been more fully awake, I would probably have realized that this was a bit thin, and that there was little chance that these would puff up to the kind of height one expects from a scone.

For three years I’d been sitting on a recipe that my dear friend Chika had shared with me, calling it her go-to scone recipe.

Into the oven they went, with a touch of salt and sugar sprinkled across the top, and indeed, while the smell was heavenly and the baking time just right, my scones didn’t quite look like scones.

Of course I served them anyway, with strawberries from Carpentras (hulled and halved an hour or two in advance and macerated with just a little sugar to bring out their juices and concentrate their flavor) and raw milk crème fraîche from the cheese shop — a sort of strawberry shortcake* if you will.

And my not-quite-scones were delicious, flaky and tender and not too sweet, but I refrained from calling them anything, not wanting to linger on the fact that this wasn’t quite the format I’d had in mind.

It’s only a few hours later, after a good nap, that the following lightbulb went on in my brain: just like people make muffin tops using special pans, I had simply baked scone tops, which had the bonus advantage of fitting into the toaster easily for reheating, without slicing them in two and in so doing shedding crumbs at the bottom of the toaster.

Suddenly, I felt a lot better about the whole experience.

So, I’ll let you decide to what thickness you choose to roll out the dough for these — I’m giving you two suggestions in the recipe below — but I hope you’ll give them a try one way or the other: it really is a wonderfully simple and good recipe.

Do you have a go-to scone recipe of your own? And have you ever had a similar conundrum with some concoction of yours, which didn’t quite feel like a success until you found just the right name for it?

* Did you know that the French version of that character is called Charlotte aux fraises?

Scones Recipe

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Total Time: 37 minutes

Makes 10 regular scones or 20 "scone tops"

Scones Recipe

Ingredients

  • 220 grams (1 2/3 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 60 grams (1/3 cup) unrefined blond cane sugar
  • 75 grams (5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon) unsalted butter, chilled, diced
  • 150 ml (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons) milk (dairy or non-dairy)
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for glazing
  • unrefined cane sugar in thick crystals, for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, put the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Stir with a whisk to remove any lumps. Add the butter and, using a pastry blender, two knives, or the tips of your fingers, rub it into the flour until the mixture looks like fine crumbs. (You can also do this in a mixer or food processor.)
  2. Pour in the milk, and stir with a fork until just absorbed. Turn out onto a work surface and knead gently until the dough just comes together into a ball; avoid overworking it. Add a drop more milk if it seems dry, a little more flour if it's too moist.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.
  4. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of 3 cm (1 1/4 inch) for regular scones, 1.5 cm (2/3 inch) for scone tops. Using a 6-cm (2 1/3 inch) round cookie cutter, stamp out circles of dough and arrange them on the prepared baking sheet.
  5. Brush the tops with the egg yolk (make sure no eggwash drips down the sides of the scones or they won't rise as well), and sprinkle with a touch of salt and sugar crystals.
  6. The original recipe recommends letting the scones rest for 15 minutes at room temperature, which I did, but next time I'll follow Chika's advice to chill the scones for 20 to 30 minutes instead.
  7. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until golden. Let cool slightly before serving -- they should be warm, but not piping hot -- with cream (clotted cream if available) and fresh berries or berry jam.

Notes

Adapted from Anton Edelmann's book Taking Tea at the Savoy.

http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/cookies-small-cakes/scone-tops-recipe/

  • Ada

    When they’re round, they’re typically called biscuits in North America (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biscuit_%28bread%29), so this is essentially a biscuit, in my opinion. A scone is sometimes round, sometimes triangular, but always larger and generally with stuff in it (berries, chocolate chips, cheese, etc.) rather than plain. Of course, I must qualify this comment with the fact that I live in Canada and I am not trying to generalize our nomenclature to the rest of the continent or the pastry-baking world. Regardless of what you call it, it looks delicious. :)

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Ah yes, the great scone/biscuit debate! :) I touched upon it in this post.

  • Ada

    I should probably add a further disclaimer that I live in western Canada and that they may very well call it something different in the centre, east, and Atlantic provinces – the country is large, diverse, and opinionated about what is “truly Canadian”, and like a true Canadian I do not wish to offend anyone. :P

  • Monica

    My goto scone recipe is from the cookbook from the Cheese Board Collective in Berkeley California.

    A copy of the recipe is posted here.

    I use Ghirardelli bittersweet baking chocolate and dried cherries or cranberries.

  • Katy

    Yes, I do have a go-to scone recipe: Yours! I have been making your yogurt scones for years, with a myriad of variations, and they always turn out delicious. I hardly look at other scone recipes, because all of their extra butter and cream seems superfluous and one-note, compared to a good scoop of yogurt.

    I’ve been following your blog (but too shy to comment!) since I was just learning to cook, and your recipes have always worked out well for me. I make your yogurt cakes, chicken cabbage stir fry, and those scones ALL the time. Thank you for sharing your recipes and stories with us!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      That’s lovely to hear, Katy, thank you! ^_^

  • Ruth Adams

    Yes, I have a go-to recipe. They are called Welsh Griddle Scones from a small pamphlet of recipes from the Kings Head Inn in King’s Landing Historical Settlement, New Brunswick, Canada. All the recipes are rooted in the past, and these scones do not need an oven to bake. Plus, I like the currants that are an ingredient; though I substitute raisins sometimes. Another comment, though they are Canadian and cut into rounds, the recipe still calls them scones.

    • Alison

      Those are called Welsh Cakes – especially served on St. David’s Day

  • http://www.foodlustpeoplelove.com Stacy

    Scone tops! You are brilliant! I have a couple of go-to biscuit/scone recipes but I can’t wait to give this one a try.

  • kristy

    These are nearly traditional British scones. They are very traditional here in Australia too – often made by country cooks like my Grandma. Your recipe is nearly the same as this one and I would say it’s probably the best recipe to use. My biggest tip (and one that my Grandma always insisted), never never knead or roll the dough. Mix it with a knife and then pat it into disc. This will make them rise and they’ll be perfect!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks for the link and advice, Kristy. I’ll try the no-rolling technique next time and compare the results!

  • adsum-iam

    I think you need a very light touch when making scones. I always use a recipe from ‘Home Baked Breads and Scones’ (Babs Honey, EP Publishing, 1977), which has literally dozens of different scone recipes. The one I use needs 8 oz self-raising flour + 2 level tsps baking powder (or 8 oz plain flour with 4 level tsps baking powder); half a tsp salt; .25 pt (150ml) milk (actually I prefer to use sour milk or yogurt); 1.5 oz butter. Cut, flake & rub the fat into the sifted flour/raising agent/salt, holding your hands high over the bowl to help incorporate air into the mix. Add the liquid *all at once*. Like Kristy I mix with a knife. Once the dough is made you need to handle it very gently. I always put the scones into the pre-heated oven immediately so the raising agent doesn’t waste its powers.

    Another type of scone is often called a Scotch Pancake, or Drop Scone, and is made from something rather like a very thick pancake batter. Try adding ripe raspberries to the batter; the fruit cooks along with the batter … mmm

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks so much for sharing the recipe and tips!

  • Elizabeth

    from the Leith’s Cookery Bible
    225g plain flour 1tbl baking powder
    1/2tsp salt
    55g butter
    30g sugar (optional; I leave it out)
    150ml milk +juice of 1/2 lemon
    sift dry ingredients, rub in butter. Make a deep well & pour in the soured milk, mix with a palette knife (don’t overwork). On a floured surface knead very lightly until just smooth & roll r press to 3cm. Cut into rounds (always with a crinkled edge)Bake at the top of the oven at 220c for 6-7 minutes.

    This works well, the addition of lemon juice came from my time at the Cordon Bleu School in Marylebone, London and probably serves the same function as the acidity in yoghurt in reacting with the baking powder. Very light handling is important, and of course they are best just out of the oven

  • http://shewhoeats.blogspot.com/ chika

    Oh Clotilde, when I first saw the title of this post I thought (of course thinking in the line of muffin tops), “wow, that sounds great!” – and then my jaw dropped to find that it was actually about THAT scone recipe we’d talked about such a long time ago! I actually just dug out my copy of the Savoy book and checked the recipe, and it does tell you to roll out the dough to 1.5cm / 3/8 inch thickness… though it uses 4 tsp. baking powder, which is kind of a lot and should make the scones rise tall as they bake.

    I haven’t baked these scones (or any British cream tea scones… been heavily into American scones as of late) in quite some time now, but was thinking just yesterday that I might bake up a batch one of these days, so I think I’ll go back to this.

    It was too bad that this didn’t produce very scone-like scones, but I still think it’s brilliant that you called them scone tops… :) xx

  • Jane

    Hi I’m from Australia, too, and I second the don’t roll them, pat them approach and using a knife to mix. Also minimal kneading – they will be lighter the less you handle them. Cheers & happy scone making!

  • fifi

    Love your blog, I add a little lemon or lime zest and use the pat down method rather than rolling what we used to call tea scones, in the UK.

  • http://revessurpapier.wordpress.com Rachel

    My go-to recipe is Rose Bakery’s, but this one looks very much worth a try. Thinking of the significance of names (or things getting lost in translation)… I once took a batch of Rose Bakery scones to work when I was living in the States and nobody knew what to make of them because they weren’t the too-sweet, too-rich cake that goes by the name of ‘scone’ in the US! (They were a little less skeptical when I explained that British scones are less sweet because they’re meant to serve as a vehicle for jam.) Now it occurs to me that if I’d just called them biscuits nobody would have batted an eye!

  • Gill

    I use an old family recipe passed down from my Scottish Great Grandmother. It never fails. The dough is not rolled out – heaped spoonfuls are placed in a floured, round tin. The cooked scones are broken apart like pan breadrolls. They rise beautifully and are lovely and crusty top and bottom.

  • Louise

    Hello from Dublin. As soon as I saw the photo I thought, uh oh!!! My never-fail recipe is from Nigella Lawson’s most recent ‘Feast’. Please try it- you won’t look back!
    Buttermilk is the secret but you can use all those yogurt/sour milk alternatives. Makes 17-18.
    Oven 220,large baking sheet sprinkled with flour.
    In food processor chuck 500g flour,4 tsp baking powder + 75g butter. Whizz to chop in. Pour in funnel 300ml buttermilk and whiz again until just forms big lump of dough. Tip out on floured surfacce, minimum handling, pat out to 2.5cm thickness and cut into rounds with cookie cutter shape. DO NOT TWIST as you lift but tap down as this affects rise. Reform and repeat till dough used. Brush with egg if desired. bake about 12 mins till hollow sound when tapped on base.
    Good luck

  • http://www.everydaycooking.canalblog.com zazacook

    I enjoyed making scones -a.k.a. biscuits- 3 months ago and had a lot of fun making them. Your scones turned out very well and look so delicious :)

  • Kelli

    Yep, definitely biscuits. (I have been looking for a French translation for the baking-powder biscuit for ages! Is it a galette? A little savoury bread? A bite, a morsel?) Best recipe ever (so melty and good): on the knitting (!) website, Clara’s Window.

  • Jenn Em

    Hi Clothilde,

    I just tried out your excellent Miniature Carrot Rosemary and Parmesan Scone recipe posted in 2007 and left a comment there. Since I am an inveterate scone lover, I will give a few tips for English scones I have learned along the way which I hope are of use.

    A light hand is essential for scones to turn out light and flaky. Another important element to ensure they come out flaky is that the butter is cold and not oily. Since I live in the humid and hot tropics, I have to improvise. I measure then cut up the butter into small bits and then refrigerate it again so that it is not oily. When really hot, I sometimes chill the bowl or put the bowl in an ice bath when cutting the butter into the flour. I also chill the dough before baking as you mention.

    Though some recipes say to use your fingertips to distribute the butter into the flour I find using a tool called a pastry cutter best as fingers generate heat. Or if you do not have one, to dip your hands in ice water (to chill them) before working the butter in.

    You are right about the thickness being important about getting that wonderful scone flakiness. English scones are white in colour and slightly golden on top. Along with the clotted cream, they beautifully highlight the bright red strawberry jam.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks so much for sharing those tips!

  • http://www.carlacoulson.com Carla Coulson

    These look delicious I would love one right now with a cup of tea, similar to ones Mum makes in Australia
    Carla x

  • http://www.tipsonhealthyliving.com/ Healthy Living Val

    So cute! I love this idea. And like Julia Child says, never apologize for a cooking mistake.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/ault1/ ault

    How fresh was your baking powder? To test, try mixing some with a bit of warm water. If you don’t get a good fizz, your scones will be flat. I’m often surprised that my baking powder is no longer effective well before its “best before” date.

    I often make scones with the thick middle-eastern fermented milk (labn?) that I can find in the refrigerated section of my local Franprix. Works well as a substitute for buttermilk. Not sure of quantities, just mix it in until it looks right.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks for the suggestions!

  • Sirine

    Isn’t she called also Fraisinette?

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      It seems she’s called Fraisinette in Canadian French! In France, it’s definitely Charlotte aux fraises, and she’s still popular with little girls today. :)

  • Malinda

    Here’s the recipe I’ve developed over forty-plus years. I can’t remember where I picked up the idea of using melted butter and egg, but I’ve played with the proportions until it pleases me. In the States I used buttermilk, but yogurt works fine, and I’ve jiggled the recipe so the French packages are just the right size.

    320 g flour
    1/2 tsp soda
    1 tsp baking powder
    (secret: use American or English baking powder if you can.)
    1/2 tsp salt

    Mix dry ingredients well.

    2 Tbs melted butter, room temperature
    1 egg
    125 G yogurt or buttermilk (or lait Ribot)

    Beat liquids together well; add to dry ingredients (If you wish to add currants, raisins, or whatever, now is the time). Mix lightly on a floured board and form into a round 2 – 2 1/2 cm thick (or roll and cut, gently). Cut into 8 – 10 segments. Bake 20 mn @ 190°C.

    Scone vs biscuit? In my family, a scone is richer (but not necessarily sweeter) and generally more crumbly than a biscuit. I like to turn my biscuit dough a couple times, like a feuilleté, so that they have flaky layers.

    As for American (and I suppose English) scones being sweet and full of stuff, I wonder if that isn’t part of the general trend to pile it on? It seems like bakeries compete to make them different – and more caloric. Even poor croissants get loaded up, sweetened and supersized until you can hardly recognize them, and let’s not talk about giant muffins.

  • http://peterhoekl.blogspot.com/ Peter Hoe

    Hi Clotilde

    A big hello from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
    Just stumbled onto your blog and was thoroughly impressed. Your English…your smiling enthusiastic face….your prose!
    But when I saw the photo with ” scones” as the header, I thought…hmmm?
    The looked too thin? I whispered.
    But as I read on & finally your decision to call them scone tops, all doubt vanished!
    Life is what you make of it after all!!!
    Continue being creatively fabulous!

  • http://www.tartineandapronstrings.com/ Jen Laceda | Tartine and Apron Strings

    I’m STILL looking for a signature scone recipe. I recently tried a recipe but it turned out runny! What a disaster! I will try your Yogurt one, though!

  • Malinda

    Here’s the recipe I’ve developed over forty plus years. I can’t remember where I picked up the idea of using melted butter and egg, but I’ve played with the proportions until it pleases me. In the States I used buttermilk, but yogurt works fine, and I’ve jiggled the recipe so the French packages are just the right size.

    320 g flour
    1/2 tsp soda
    1 tsp baking powder (secret: use English or American baking powder if you can.)
    1/2 tsp salt
    Mix dry ingredients well.

    2 Tbs melted butter, room temperature
    1 egg
    125 G yogurt or buttermilk (lait Ribot)

    Beat liquids together well; add to dry ingredients (If you wish to add currants, raisins, or whatever, now is the time). Mix lightly on a floured board and form into a round 2 – 2 1/2 cm thick (or roll and cut, gently). Cut into 8 – 10 segments. Bake 20 mn @ 190°C.

    Your ‘scone tops’ are a clever hybrid of scones and biscuits à la française!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks so much for sharing, Malinda!

  • Mo

    LaBrea Bakery ginger scones, these are sooo good!

    2 1/4 cups unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
    1/3 cup granulated sugar
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon finely chopped lemon zest (about 1/2 lemon)
    1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
    4 1/2 ounces candied ginger, finely chopped into 1/4-inch pieces to equal 2/3 cup
    3/4 cup heavy cream, plus extra for brushing the tops of the scones

    The method is identical to your recipe (recommended 3/4 inch or 2.5 cm thickness), except the tops are brushed with cream instead of yolks. Freezing the butter isn’t strictly necessary, but it helps create a nice flaky texture, especially if you make them in the food processor.

  • http://www.theteachercooks.com The Teacher Cooks

    I love your recipes so this is one that I am going to make. My husband loves scones and I the teacher have never made them. Thanks!

  • http://www.knife-set.org sarah from kitchen knives

    lol i was reading a food blog the other day where the author named his creation a ‘manwich’. Looked pretty good too as do your scone tops :-)

  • Lauren

    I’ve had success before when freezing the butter for half an hour first and then grating it into the flour. I’ve also been pleased with scone dough made in the food processor(again with semi-frozen butter), and I can’t underline enough that you must handle the dough as little as possible once it’s out of the bowl. Another good tip is to use the sharpest (non-fluted) cutter that you can find – the cleaner your cuts, the more likely the scones are to rise. My favourite non-traditional-British scone recipe is one for the North Fork Inn buttermilk/yoghurt scones via Smittenkitchen – they’re amazing!

  • http://amzn.to/oqXw1R Culinary School: Three Semesters of Life, Learning, and Loss of Blood

    Scone tops – what a fun idea! I learned how to make scones at culinary school (and learned how to have the all-important light tough with pastry), but haven’t made them since. Suddenly, I have an urge!

  • http://mayaskitchen.info Maya @ Mayaskitchen.info

    I love your writing and the fact that you were able to look at the bright side :) after all, mistakes are the moments that bring fresh new ideas with them :)
    I have a go-to recipe here: http://www.mayaskitchen.info/2011/10/10/apple-scones-2/
    But will DEFINITELY try this one :)
    Thank you.

  • Dorothy aarholt

    You’re so positive in your blog! Many of us would have ditched (or hidden!) the scones and called them a failure, but you found a positive name for them, resulting in a good discussion and lots of tips!
    As the grand-daughter of a wonderful woman who ran a pie, tart and scone bakery in the north-east of England (near to Scotland, the home of scones) for 60 years, I picked up a tip or two whilst growing up. Gran always used sour milk (naturally soured, not bought that way), she mixed with a round-bladed knife and (roll drum….) she put them onto a pre-heated red-hot tray. Doing that makes them start to rise almost before you’ve finished egg-washing them. Try it!

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