Tuesday, March 4, 2014

TWD: Buttermilk Scones

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking with Julia
by Dorie Greenspan 
Contributing Baker: Marion Cunningham

This recipe is courtesy of Marion Cunningham, author of the famed (revised) Fanny Farmer Cookbook. This was my very first cookbook (over 30 years ago!), and I still refer to it today. I posted on this book back on 2011, when I made her Fluffy Egg Nest - so fun! I love her simple, no-nonsense approach to recipes.

Photo from my 2011 post.

These babies are something you can throw together on the spur of the moment; they are made up of mostly pantry staples: flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; the rest of the ingredients are butter, buttermilk (if don't have buttermilk, you can substitute this for the buttermilk), and citrus zest (I have lemon zest on hand in the freezer, thanks to generous friends whom bestow lovely lemons on me from their trees - and I added some dried cherries to the mix).

In an half-hour (if that), you can have these made from start to finish. They're that easy - there's no excuse not to have fresh scones with your morning coffee, or as the English do, with tea.

The dough appears to be extremely dry when mixing. I was tempted to add some milk, but refrained. As you can see it came together beautifully. I'm thinking, if I were to make these again, and there is a good chance (just so many recipes to make, and so little time!), I may cut the circles into eight pieces rather than six. 

The recipe calls to bake the scones for ten to twelve minutes, or until the tops and bottoms are golden in color. As all ovens vary, my scones baked for about fourteen minutes; they could have gone a couple minutes more, for they were not all that golden; but I did not want to over-bake them - knowing how dry scones can be.

I had my doubts as to whether these really were scone-like. I have never had a scone that was not dry, somewhat hard, and crumbly (I thought that is how scones were). These on the other-hand are the exact opposite - soft, moist, and tender, almost biscuit like, with a crunchy crust from the sugar topping (my favorite part). After a little research, I have found that they indeed are supposed to be soft and tender; not like the ones I am used to getting in coffee shops.

These are best the day they are baked. The next day they were still soft, and I thought, the flavor was a bit more enhanced, though the crust does lose its crunchy texture. These tasted fine at room temperature the following day, but heated in the microwave for a sheer five seconds or so, gives them that warm, fresh baked feeling. I think heating them in the oven (I was at work, so the microwave had to suffice) would bring back the crunchy outer layer it loses overnight.

I can't wait to make Starbucks knock-off pumpkin scones next! Our daughter told me about these back (again) 2011! I cannot believe it was that long ago... I was hoping to make them and add them to this post as well; however, I just did not get around to it. :(  And there really is no excuse!! Scones are so easy to make!! Good things come to those who wait... right? :)

This recipe is adaptable to many flavors and/or additions. I can't wait to see the results of my fellow bakers - there is always a wide variety of variations to the recipes we make, due to either dietary restrictions, ingredient availability, or just personal preference.

You can see their results as well, by visiting the TWD website and looking for the LYL Link: Buttermilk Scones, or better yet, just click here to be taken there directly.

Buttermilk Scones
Makes 12 triangular or 24 rolled scones

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1½ sticks (6 oz.) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon grated orange or lemon zest

½ stick (2 oz.) unsalted butter, melted, for brushing
¼ cup sugar, for dusting (I used demerara sugar)

4 tablespoons jam or jelly and/or 4 tablespoons diced or small plump dried fruits, such as currants, raisins, apricots, or figs, for filling (optional – for rolled scones).

Position the oven racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 425°F.

In a medium bowl, stir the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together with a fork. Add the cold butter pieces and, using your fingertips (the first choice), a pastry blender, or two knives, work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. It’s OK if some largish pieces of butter remain – they’ll add to the scones’ flakiness.

Pour in 1 cup buttermilk, toss in the zest, and mix with the fork only until the ingredients are just moistened – you’ll have a soft dough with a rough look. (If the dough looks dry, add another tablespoon of buttermilk.) Gather the dough into a ball, pressing it gently so that it holds together, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface, and knead it very briefly – a dozen turns should do it. Cut the dough in half.

For triangular-shaped scones: Roll one piece of the dough into a ½-inch-thick circle that is about 7 inches across. Brush the dough with half of the melted butter, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and cut the circle into 6 triangles. Place the scones on an ungreased baking sheet and set aside while you roll out the rest of the dough.

For rolled scones: Roll one piece of dough into a strip that is 12 inches long and ½ inch thick (the piece will not be very wide). Spread the strip with half of the melted butter and dust with half of the sugar. If you want to spread the roll with jam and/or sprinkle it with dried fruits, now’s the time to do so; leave a narrow border on a long edge bare. Roll the strip up from a long side like a jelly roll; pinch the seam closed and turn the roll seam side down. Cut the roll in half and cut each piece into six 1-inch-wide roll-ups. Place the rolled scones cut side down on an ungreased baking sheet, leaving a little space between each one. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Bake the scones for 10 to 12 minutes, until both the tops and bottoms are golden. Transfer the scones to a rack to cool slightly. These are best served warm but are just fine at room temperature.

If you’re not going to eat the scones the day they are made, wrap them airtight and freeze; they’ll stay fresh for a month. To serve, defrost the scones at room temperature in their wrappers, then unwrap and reheat on a baking sheet for 5 minutes in a 350°F oven.

Baking with Julia/Dorie Greenspan/Marion Cunningham


  1. Great idea adding the dried cherries. They look wonderful. It's true, they are no-nonsense and so easy and take such little time, that there is no excuse to not make them more often. I am putting some to reheat in the oven right now. Seeing your scones makes me hungry :-).

  2. I am not sure why I have never put zest in the freezer - that is brilliant and I will have to do it today with some oranges I intend to juice! Thank you! I also loved these - they will definitely make repeat appearances in my home!

  3. I agree that these were much, much better eaten immediately. We had them again the following morning, and while they were still delicious, not having that crunch detracted from the overall "scone-eating experience." Your scones look lovely!

  4. Beautiful scones!!!
    So moist, soft and tender! For me a bit buttery, the next time I'll skip the extra butter...
    I look forward to your Starbucks scones!!!

  5. Perfect scones! I'd love them with dried cherries, too!

  6. Lovely scones! Yours look beautiful. Mine could have gone several minutes longer as well but my fam loved them. My husband did say he expected hard and crumbly as well but was very happy with these!

  7. Beautiful fluffy scones. I've found reheating the scones in an oven for a few minutes the next day works pretty well for leftovers, it helps provide a bit of the crunch on the outside again.

  8. Beautiful!! Dried cherries would be perfect. :)

  9. I had similar thoughts as you as baking them: debating to add more buttermilk, wondering whether to bake them a little more, and amazed at how soft and fluffy they were. Love the lemon zest in the freezer idea: but what do you do with all the lemon juice?

    1. Lauren, if I'm not making lemon bars (which takes about 6 or 7 lemons!), I freeze the juice as well in ice cube trays. Each compartment holds about one tablespoon. :)

  10. Oh I just love how you added the pictures of your old cookbook! Your scones turned out great and I too loved the sugar top! :)

  11. Great post. And great pics! Your scones look wonderful. Love them cut like that. These really were good scones. I totally enjoyed them and will be making them again.

  12. Lovely scones! They're dangerously easy to make, aren't they? This is a keeper recipe for me. I love how fluffy they are and the little hint of lemon is perfect.

  13. Did I miss the success meter for this recipe! The scones look great and I so love the stained pages of your Fannie Farmer cookbook!

    1. No, you didn't miss it. I stopped with the success meter. I felt it wasn't really fair to the recipe - especially when I made changes. This however, was definitely a three! (I do show the success meter under "labels" for my reference.)

  14. they look perfect! I thought these were quite delicate, too--really nice.

  15. Your scones look delicious...dried cherries sound like a great addition to these. I also found the texture to be wonderfully light and flaky.

  16. They're looking wonderfully flaky. And I agree with you regarding the size. In hindsight I would have like them a bit smaller, too..... although, mine were gone in an instant!

  17. I love scones and I think buttermilk adds a lot of moisture. These sound wonderful!

  18. I think the buttermilk did add a moistness to these that is not typical in many scone recipes - I am with you, so many recipes and so little time!

  19. Ups, I thought I had already commented your post - but probably I was dreaming of your old book: I love old "used" books ... they've all have interesting "histories"....
    Your scones looks great, perfect and delicious.

  20. Now I'm off to google Starbucks knock-off pumpkin scones. I can't remember if I've tried those or not, but I love the idea of a pumpkin scone.


Thanks for visiting! Would love to hear from you - feel free to comment.