Scientist and author, Beth is also a keen home cook. She enjoys trying new recipes.
Recipe for Traditional English Scones
Scones are quick and easy to prepare. All the items in the recipe are ones that all grocers and supermarket stores stock, and you may already have them in your kitchen cupboards. If you have unexpected visitors, you can impress them with freshly made home-baked scones.
US Standard Measurement vs Imperial and Metric
The quantities in this recipe are given in US standard measurements. To change them into Imperial and metric weights, I use this recipe unit conversion app. It’s really useful as it converts all the common measuring units used in cooking and baking from US to European and British ones.
Ingredients for Plain Sweet Scones
- 1 cup self-rising flour (or use plain flour and 1 teaspoon baking powder)
- Pinch of salt
- ¼ cup butter or margarine
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2/3 cup milk
- 1 egg, for glazing (or you can use milk instead)
Sweet and Savory Variations
- Fruit scones: Add ½ cup of dried mixed fruit to the plain sweet scone recipe.
- Savory cheese scones: Leave out the sugar and add ½ cup of grated cheddar cheese (or other medium-to-strong-tasting cheese).
To make the dough:
- Large mixing bowl
- Electric mixer, or a spatula to blend the mixture
- Pastry board
- 2” round pastry cutter
To bake the scones:
- Baking sheet
- Pastry brush to apply the egg glaze
- Wire cooling rack
Cooking and Preparation Times
- Preparation Time: 10 minutes
- Cooking Time: 10 to 12 minutes
- Oven Temp: 425o F, 220o C or Gas Mark 7
- Yield: about 10 scones
- 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.
- Lightly grease the baking sheet and dust with a little flour. This helps prevent the scones from sticking during baking.
- Put the flour, salt, and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Add the butter or margarine cut into small pieces about one inch in size. With clean hands, rub the fat into the flour to form “breadcrumbs” using the rubbing-in method.
- Add the remaining dry ingredients to the mix. These will be the sugar, fruit or cheese depending on which variation of sweet or savory scone you are making.
- 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 don't beat the air out of the dough. Your dough should be firm and not sticky once all the milk has been mixed in.
- To prevent the dough sticking to the pastry board or your hands, dust a little flour on both. With floured hands, take the ball of dough from the mixing bowl and place it gently onto your board. Don't 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 make them any thinner or there'll be no room to cut them in half for the traditional fresh cream and jam filling.)
- Using a 2” diameter pastry cutter, cut scone shapes from your dough. 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.
- Put the tray of scones into a 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've handled the dough lightly whilst mixing, they will double in height.
- Place the scones onto the wire rack to cool.
What is the "Rubbing-In Method"?
Rubbing-in is a technique where fat is rubbed into flour to make shortcrust pastry, crumbles and scones. Using your fingertips, rub the flour and butter together until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Your Guide to Making the Perfect English Tea Scone
Some Novel 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 of scones!
- Use buttermilk in place of pasteurized milk.
- Make a spicy scone by replacing the sugar with treacle or molasses and adding cinnamon and nutmeg.
- 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. Folk in the northern areas of England shorten the o so that it rhymes with con and John.
The Stone of Destiny
Scones are thought to have been so named because of their shape. They were originally baked much flatter and resembled the stone (scone) of destiny upon which ancient Scottish kings were crowned at the Abbey of Scone (near Perth in Scotland.)
Which Goes on First: Cream or 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.) Scones 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.
There is often an argument about whether the jam or the cream should go on first. The English counties of Devon and Cornwall are great rivals in this respect. They both produce rich clotted cream, perfect for putting on scones. In Devon the cream goes on first, but in Cornwall the tradition is to spread the jam on first.
Personally, I put the cream on first and then the jam, mainly for practical reasons, although my mother was from Devon. I find that the cream doesn’t stick very well on top of the jam; jam first makes the cream slither off as I try to eat the scone. But it doesn't bother me if others make the opposite choice.