Recipe: Fabulous Scones Simple Enough for the Baking Challenged

For years, my sister, Sandy, has been working to develop the perfect scone. It’s a mission to satisfy a taste of home for her mother-in-law, Nora, a gentle woman born and raised in Ireland. Now 91, Nora grew up in an era when life was measured by what happened in between cups of tea and the most common form of entertainment was conversation, not watching television. “TV ruined the talk,” she says in her sweet Irish brogue. About a dozen years ago, Sandy and Nora were in Michigan having tea in a bakery when they ordered a batch of scones. Nora just sighed. “If there’s one thing I wish for, it’s a good scone, like the ones my dear mother used to make.” My sister never backs down from a challenge. Here’s her recipe. The hands you see belong to her, working in her kitchen in St. Petersburg, Florida.

I’m a fan of this recipe for a number of reasons. It’s easy enough for non-bakers, plus flexible enough for any taste. If you whip up a batch of these on a Sunday morning, you’ve got a lovely weekend treat, plus something to grab-and-go inexpensive breakfasts for the rest of the week. These keep best if left on the counter covered with a dish towel. They’re good at room temperature, but warm up best in a low oven or toaster oven.

Sandy’s Scones

Grating frozen butter into the batter and then chilling the completed dough again after mixing is the secret to a flaky, soft scone so don’t skip this crucial step.

A great thing about scones is that they’re flexible when it comes to flavoring. Try studding them with frozen blueberries, chopped peaches, chocolate chips, chopped apples, chopped dried figs, crushed almonds — the possibilities are endless. Just be sure not to use any fruit that’s too wet such as fresh blueberries as that can introduce too much liquid into the dough and to thoroughly chill whatever you add in the freezer. You can also boost the flavor by spreading a light layer of jam or marmalade once the rolled out flour.

My sister uses fat-free milk and sour cream; I use low-fat as they tend to have less artificial ingredients. Yields about 15 scones.

8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), frozen
1 teaspoon of grated lemon or orange peel
2 cups white unbleached flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup low-fat milk
½ cup low-fat sour cream
1 egg, beaten

¼ cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons orange marmelade

Before starting, put your butter in the freezer for at least 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425 F degrees. Then, grate the frozen butter with a cheese grater. Place it back in the freezer.

In a bowl, whisk the milk and sour cream together and then put into the fridge. Grate the skin off a lemon or orange into a large bowl. Add in the the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and ½ cup sugar and stir together. Lightly dust the countertop with flour.

Get the grated frozen butter and toss it with the flour mixture until all the butter is coated. Fold in the child milk and sour cream mixture and combine until the batter is quite wet. Turn out onto the floured countertop and with floured hands, knead it about six times. Do not over knead it.

Roll the dough with a rolling pin into a 12-inch square. Fold it in half, and then fold again, like folding a napkin. Put it on a plate or similar and put into the freezer for about five minutes. This will rest the dough plus slightly refreeze the butter, yielding a more flaky pastry.

While its in the freezer, dust your countertop with flour again and put a heavy cookie sheet or baking stone into your preheated oven to get it warm. (You might want to use these few minutes to make yourself a cup of tea.)

After five minutes, remove the doll and roll your square flat into a 12-inch square. Push the dried cranberries into flattened batter, then spoon the marmalade into a light layer over top. Roll up the dough and turn it over if necessary so the seam is on the bottom. Gently push the roll down until it’s about three inches wide.

With a sharp knife, cut the roll into a series of triangles. Brush the top with the beaten up and sprinkle lightly with the remaining sugar. Place the triangles on the preheated cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until medium brown. Let the scones rest at least 15 minutes before serving.

You might also be interested in…
GlutenFreeGourmand: Gluten-free scone recipe
Jeanette’s Healthy Living: Vegan/gluten-free cinammon-spiced scones



Filed under recipes

16 responses to “Recipe: Fabulous Scones Simple Enough for the Baking Challenged

  1. Katie

    I love scones but I have a hard time shelling out $3 for one. This looks quite easy. I am trying to cook more, thanks to your new book!

  2. I can smell this and it’s making me hungry. Dammit. (Lovely recipe!)

  3. We, the baking challenged, thank you and your sister! Your photos are particularly helpful.

  4. Marcus

    You know, I never “bake” because I feel like its so complicated. This feels like something I could do. I like the idea of making them on a weekend morning and then having them available for breakfast for a couple of days.

    • Kathleen Flinn

      Yeah, I feel confident cooking but it took no-knead bread to make me start really baking. Give these a try and let me know how they go!

  5. The scones look really tasty. Love the tips!

  6. Scones are one of those treats that have somewhat of a split personality…. not quite a biscuit, nor not really a bread….. but soooo flexible in taste!
    Nice post Kat!

  7. I just made a batch of organic strawberry preserves – will try Sandy’s recipe without the dried cranberries and just a smear of orange marmalade. So civil with a freshly brewed pot of Earl Grey – Think I’ll use my grandmother’s Blue Willow. Thanks for the photos, Mike. They will definitely help.

  8. I was planning on making chocolate chip scones this weekend – I may have to try this recipe – especially since she has developed the perfect scone! 🙂

  9. Kathleen Flinn

    Thanks for all the great comments 🙂

  10. Ali

    I’m reading your book, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School and I find myself wishing I could have attended your hands on cooking experience! Reading the book is developing an interest for me to learn to cook (vs eat out and eating boxes and mixes). I’m a 2nd generation non cooking woman. I have a 5 year old daughter and I want to learn and to teach her.

    Let me know if you ever have “cooking camps” for Mom’s over the summer time. I would sign up to learn especially if you were the teacher and we practiced what you wrote in your book!

    ~ Ali

  11. Kat, I love the simple filling method for these scones. Your sister is a keeper! I’ll be seeing my sister, Gretchen, soon and maybe we’ll make these lovelies together. Nice job.

  12. I checked out your latest book at my local library last week and I am totally enjoying it…very entertaining reading and a great message. I have always enjoyed cooking and done quite a bit of it over the years, but when my husband died quiet suddenly a few years ago I found that unless I was cooking for guests I fell into the habit of just getting by. But I like food, and I like my own cooking so I am enjoying preparing meals again even if it’s just for me. The leftovers go carefully packed into my freezer and on nights when I come home late from a class I always have something nice to look forward to eating!

    I was so pleased to Google your name and find out that you had a blog so I could tell you thank you for a wonderful and most enjoyable book and now I can also enjoy reading your blog posts too!

  13. I’ve found you via La Vie Quotidienne – saw your cookbook and had to come over to see what else there might be. The scones look delicious – I’ll give them a try. There’s nothing at all like a good scone and strong cup of tea on a rainy afternoon.

  14. Leslie

    Loved the scones! I’ve made others before, but these are very unique and lighter in texture. I’ve never grated butter before, but it was well worth it. Also loving your book Kitchen Counter Cooking School (it’s borrowed from the library and I keep wanting to reach for my highlighter!)
    So glad to have found you and your blog!

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