Last week, my mom invited me to attend a ladies' tea at her church. Always up for a good tea-and-fellowship afternoon, I happily agreed . . . and was summarily recruited to bring scones. For forty. No problem - of all the things I could have been asked to bring to a tea party, scones are probably my favorite to make.
Of the countless versions of basic scone recipes out there, I tend to like cream scones, which I find stay fresh and moist a bit longer than the butter-based variety. Because scones are at their best eaten soon after they leave the oven, I knew I wanted to bake them on the day of the tea, which didn't leave me a lot of time for preparation. Again, no problem - with this recipe, I didn't need it.
The night before the tea, I prepped four batches of the base recipe (below), combining the dry ingredients in resealable plastic bags. I decided on four varieties: Lemon-Poppy, Ginger Spice, Almond, and Cranberry-Orange-White Chocolate Chip. With everything set up and ready to go, I left the mixing and baking for the morning.
If the lighting in these pictures looks a little strange, it's because I decided to leave the natural early-morning light unadjusted. How I love to bake before anyone else in the house is awake! Just me and my mug of bracing black coffee, the cat waiting more or less patiently for her breakfast, the oven ticking as it preheats. And then, the inevitable sleepy voices calling, "Mom, are you baking? What's for breakfast?" The rest of the family gets up on the right side of their respective beds, lured by the scent of freshly baked scones. Which, in this case, they were forbidden to touch. (Kidding!)
This base recipe can be customized any number of ways; I've included four here. The cream in this recipe acts as both fat and liquid, so please don't try to replace it with a lower-fat substitute like whole milk - the results will be disappointing.
Refrigerating these (and most other baked goods) will hasten staling, so keep any leftovers tightly wrapped on the counter or freeze them if you want to store them for a longer period.
Cream Scones ~ Basic Recipe
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream or whipping cream, plus additional for brushing
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
- Combine flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl. Pour cream over dry ingredients. Mix just until dough clings together. Flour hands and fold - don't knead - dough over a few turns until it coheres. (You really do not want to overhandle the dough - just pat it into shape. Kneading will develop the gluten in the flour and give you tough scones.)
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Pat or roll into a 1-inch-thick round (about 8 inches in diameter). Cut into 8 or 10 wedges or use a circular biscuit cutter to cut into rounds.
- Place scones on baking sheet, spacing them about an inch apart.
- Brush scones with cream; sprinkle with sugar if desired. Bake for about 15 minutes, until tops and bottoms are golden.
- Let scones cool slightly on rack; serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes 8 to 10 scones.
~ Lemon-Poppyseed ~
- Add 1 tablespoon lemon zest and 2 tablespoons poppyseeds to dry ingredients. Stir 1 teaspoon of pure lemon extract into cream before adding to flour mixture. Combine 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon of lemon zest and sprinkle over scones after brushing with beaten egg (instead of cream); bake as directed above.
~ Almond ~
- Add 1 teaspoon of pure almond extract to cream before adding to flour mixture. Brush scones with beaten egg and sprinkle with turbinado sugar and sliced almonds before baking as directed above.
~ Ginger Spice ~
- Add 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon ground ginger to flour mixture. Brush scones with beaten egg and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar before baking as directed above.
~ Cranberry-Orange-White Chocolate Chip ~
- Add 1/2 cup white chocolate chips and 1/3 cup dried sweetened cranberries to flour mixture. Stir 1 teaspoon orange extract into cream before adding to flour mixture. Brush scones with beaten egg before baking as directed above.