Mmm… what could be more appealing than the smell of fresh-baked scones, hot from the oven?
Scones have been described as “the quintessential tea cake of the British Isles.” But really, scones are nothing more than delicate, lightly-sweetened fluffy biscuits. Like biscuits, scones call for the same basic proportions of dry & wet ingredients, solid fat (butter, lard or shortening) and a quick-acting leavening agent, like baking powder. There are some differences in scone recipes. For instance, American scones tend to be much sweeter and often contain ingredients like fresh berries or chocolate chips not typically found in traditional English versions (Brits tend to prefer generous slatherings of jam and heaps of clotted cream). Some recipes call for cream or eggs, and while they can add a good deal of richness to scones, they can also tend to make them heavy and doughy.
The secret of making a good scone is to work the dough quickly, but gently and to pop them immediately into a hot, preheated oven. Ideally, the whole process should take no more than about 30 minutes, from the intial mixing of the ingredients to pulling the hot, golden-brown scones from the oven.
Scones don’t store well, and are definitely at their best when eaten hot from the oven. But that’s not really a problem, since they are so quick & easy to make, you can whip up a fresh batch whenever you want them.
Our Maple-Oat Scones combine some of the best features of both traditional British scones and non-traditional American-style scones. Sweet enough to enjoy without jam or preserves (but go ahead anyway), they get a boost of flavor from that most American of sweetening agents, pure maple syrup. One final touch – Bourbon Smoked Sugar – puts the flavor and crisp, crackly texture of these scones right over the top.
Some recipes call for the butter to be worked until it’s the consistency of coarse cornmeal, but we respectfully disagree. Leaving the butter in larger pieces, the size of small peas, adds flakiness and keeps them tender.
It’s important not to overmix or work the dough. The dry & liquid ingredients should be folded together just enough to make everything stick together. Once mixed, the slightly sticky dough should be quickly dumped onto a well-floured surface and gently rolled with a pin or patted down by hand until it’s about an inch or so thick (a little thicker or thinner, according to your personal preference).
In this country, you’ll often see clunky, round biscuity “scones,” which in Britain, are not considered to be scones at all, but are called “Rock Cakes” or “Rock Buns.” In this instance, we side with our cousins across the pond and prefer more traditionally-shaped scones, which are first shaped into a flat disc, then quickly cut into equal-sized wedges (like a pie) with a sharp knife or pastry cutter. The sharper & quicker, the better, as the cleanly cut sides allow the scones to rise higher and come out flakier and lighter.
If, like me, you don’t usually consider yourself much of a baker, give these scones a try. They are just about fool-proof, even for those who find making toast an adventure. Treat your friends and family to some fresh-baked goodness and you don’t even have to tell them just how easy they are to make.
Maple-Oat Scones with Bourbon Smoked Sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting surface
- 1/2 cup quick-cook rolled oats
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp table salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup buttermilk
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 Tbsp Bourbon Barrel Foods Bourbon Smoked Sugar (optional, but HIGHLY recommended)
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Mix flour, oats, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter or two sharp knives, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the butter is the size of small peas. Make a well in the middle of the butter-flour mixture, and pour in the buttermilk and syrup. Working quickly, but gently, fold the ingredients together with a spatula to form a moist, slightly sticky dough. Stop when the ingredients are just barely hanging together. Resist the urge to overwork the dough, which will make the scones tough & chewy. We want our scones to be tender and flaky!
Lightly flour a table or work surface, and roll or press the dough into a round disc about an inch thick. You should see little lumps of butter in the dough (this is a good thing). Use a sharp knife or pastry cutter to cut the dough into eighths. Transfer the cut scones to the baking sheet, spacing them about 1/2 inch apart. Brush the tops with a little beaten egg and sprinkle with the smoked sugar, if using. Bake for 20 minutes or until the sugar is slightly melted and the tops of the scones are a warm golden brown.
Many of the ingredients used in this recipe, and other recipes on the Earthy Delights Blog, can be purchased online at our retail website, Earthy.com. We welcome you to visit the Earthy.com website to view our extensive selection of hard-to-find ingredients and our complete Recipe Collection of over 500 tested recipes.
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