How to Make Traditional English Scones

Updated on May 16, 2019
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

Scientist and author, Beth writes on a wide variety of subjects.

Strawberries, cream, and scones. The taste of a perfect English summer.
Strawberries, cream, and scones. The taste of a perfect English summer. | Source

Home Baked English Scones

Scones are the perfect tea-time treat. They are quick and easy to prepare and use ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen cupboard. Freshly made, home-baked scones taste fantastic compared to shop-bought ones. Once you have mastered the art of baking scones, you need never worry again about having not having a tasty snack to offer an unexpected guest.

Ingredients for Authentic Plain Sweet Scones (makes approx. 10 scones)

  • 1 cup self-rising flour, (or use plain flour and add a teaspoon of baking powder)
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 egg for glazing, (or you can use milk instead)

Cheese and Fruit Variations

Homemade Cheese Scones

For savory cheese scones, just leave out the sugar and add ½ cup of grated Cheddar cheese (or other medium to strong tasting cheese).

Sweet Vine Fruit Scones

To make fruit scones, add ½ cup of dried mixed fruit to the plain sweet scone recipe.

Golden yellow savory cheese scones.
Golden yellow savory cheese scones. | Source

Baking Utensils and Equipment Needed

Some people like to use an electric mixer, but I prefer to be a bit low-tech and use a large mixing bowl and then manually blend the ingredients using a spatula or flexible knife. I recommend this silcone non-stick spatula as it can be put in the dishwasher and is suitable for blending a heavy batter like this scone recipe.

You will also need a flat pastry board and a 2” round cookie cutter.

To bake the scones you will need a baking sheet, a pastry brush to apply the egg glaze and a wire cooling rack.

Cooking and Preparation Times

Prep Time - 10 minutes

Cooking Time - 10 to 12 minutes

Oven Temp - 425o F, 220o C or Gas Mark 7

Yields about 10 pastries.

Scones, Cornsh cream and strawberry jam taste even better with a cup of strong English tea.
Scones, Cornsh cream and strawberry jam taste even better with a cup of strong English tea. | Source

Method for Making Traditional English Scones

  1. Before you start mixing the ingredients, turn on the oven. Scones need to be put into a hot oven. They rise and cook quickly at the correct temperature. If the oven is too cool when they go in, your scones will not rise properly and they will taste heavy and doughy.
  2. Lightly grease the baking sheet and dust with a little flour. This will help prevent the pastries from sticking during baking.
  3. Place the flour, salt (and baking powder if being used) into a large mixing bowl. Add the butter or margarine cut into small pieces about one inch in size. Using clean hands, rub the fat into the flour to form “breadcrumbs”.
  4. Add the rest of the dry ingredients to the bowl. These will be the sugar, fruit or cheese depending on which variation of sweet or savory scone you are making.
  5. Make a well in the middle of the mixture with the spatula and gradually add the milk blending from the center. Fold the milk into the dry mixture gently so that you do not beat the air out of the dough. You dough should be firm and not sticky once all the milk has been mixed in.
  6. To prevent the dough sticking to the pastry board or your hands, dust a little flour on both. Then with floured hands, take the ball of dough from the mixing bowl and place it gently onto your board. Do not use a rolling pin to flatten it. Instead shape it by patting (gently!) into a one inch thick sheet. This will double in height when it is cooked. (Don't be tempted to make them any thinner or there will be no room to cut them in half for the traditional fresh cream and jam filling.)
  7. Using a 2” diameter pastry cutter, make scone shapes from your dough sheet. You should be able to get about 10 or 12 scones from this recipe. Put them on the greased baking sheet and give each one an egg glaze. To make the glaze, dip the pastry brush into beaten egg and paint a little on the top of each scone.
  8. Put the baking tray of scones into your preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes. (Check them after 10 minutes to see if they have risen and are golden on top. If not, leave to bake for 2 more minutes.) If you have handled the dough lightly whilst mixing, they will have doubled in height.
  9. Place the scones onto the wire rack to cool.

How to Make Perfect Scones: British Award Winner Shares His Method

Serve Freshly Baked With Clotted Cream and Jam

Scones are traditionally served with clotted cream and home-made strawberry jam. In the UK they make an ideal snack with a cup of tea at Teatime (that's about 4 p.m.)

They should be eaten on the same day as they are baked. They go stale very quickly and never taste as good if eaten the following day.

The video below shows how to make traditional English scones. The film was made in real time and illustrates how quick and simple it is to make them.

Plain sweet scones with clotted cream and jam.
Plain sweet scones with clotted cream and jam. | Source

Suggested Variations to the Basic Recipe

Each of these is a separate recipe suggestion. They are not intended to all be added to the same batch!

1. Use buttermilk in place of pasteurized milk.

2. Make a spicy version by replacing the sugar with treacle or molasses and adding cinnamon and nutmeg.

3. Add grated parmesan cheese and crushed garlic for a tasty, savory snack.

How to Pronounce "Scone"

If you visit the UK you will find that scones are eaten not just in England, but also in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. You will hear regional variation in the pronunciation of the word “scone”. In general, people in the southern parts of England make the “o” a long sound, so that it rhymes with “cone” and “Joan” to sound like “own”. People in the northern areas of England shorten the “o” so that it rhymes with “con” and “John”. They say it so that it sounds like “on”.

Plain scones for breakfast with home-made raspberry jam.
Plain scones for breakfast with home-made raspberry jam. | Source

Does the Cream Go On Before Or After the Jam (Jelly)?

This is a question that arouses great passion in the English counties of Devon and Cornwall. Both places make delicious clotted cream and grow succulent strawberries for jam-making (jelly-making).

Devonians prefer to put cream on their scones first. No butter is needed, the cream makes a good base for the jam to sit upon and cannot then soak away into the dough.

Residents from Cornwall take the opposite view. The jam goes on first, and the cream is spooned over it. The correct answer depends on where your loyalties lie.

Will Scones Double in Size During Cooking?

The size of baked goods increases during cooking if a raising agent like yeast or bicarbonate of soda is used. You can also beat air into the cake mixture so that it rises like a souffle.

Yeast is not used to make scones, but baking powder or self-raising flour is. This helps the scones to become light and fluffy as they cook and at the same time makes the scones bigger. Sometimes this could be as much as double the original size of the raw dough, although usually it is a bit less than this.


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