This post required a proper pot of tea, a stack of cookbooks, and the fortitude to sift through various and strong opinions on scones.
First we have the difference between a true British scone and what you will find in a typical American coffee shop. According to a Cook’s Illustrated article it’s a fat to flour ratio issue and true British scones rarely have add-ins. They prefer their fat and sugar slathered on after baking in the form of clotted cream, butter and jam.
Then there is the debate about whether a scone and a biscuit are essentially the same thing. To make it even more confusing, let’s not forget that the British call their cookies, biscuits, which sounds like sacrilege to any good Southern cook. There are purists on both sides of the argument.
I read a great article in The New York Times that compares the relation between a scone and it’s cousin, the traditional American biscuit, in which a pasty chef is quoted as saying “They are pretty much spot on the same”. Those are fighting words for some!
Having been raised on buttermilk biscuits and sausage gravy I am a fan of a good Southern biscuit. But I’m also a tea drinking, Jane Austen reading, lover of all things British, so the scone has a place in my heart too.
In my cookbook collection I found more than a dozen recipes for scones. Some included egg in the ingredient list, others didn’t. Some require butter and milk and others only heavy cream. And then there are the flavors… lemon poppyseed, chocolate cherry, ginger spice, or the traditional English cream scone that remains au natural.
What’s a cook to do?
I say let’s not argue the technicalities of anything that tastes so darn good and embrace the tea-time treat in all it’s forms!
I will try every recipe that comes my way in the name of research but here I give you my family’s go-to scone recipe. It’s simple, delicious and versatile. The basic recipe is for chocolate chip scones but I have been known to add dried cherries with the chocolate. White chocolate chips and cranberries are tasty, and sometimes I add a little almond or citrus extract depending on my mood.
(click recipe name for printable version)
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose, flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup chocolate chips (or any desired add-ins)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 & 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 egg beaten
2 tablespoons sugar (I prefer a coarse sugar)
Preheat oven to 425°
Combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a bowl. Add chocolate chips.
Mix cream and vanilla, then stir into flour with a fork until the dough holds together. (You may need to add a tablespoon more of cream depending on how dry the dough is.)
Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead a few times. Pat into a 10 inch circle and cut into wedges. Brush tops with egg and sprinkle with sugar. In the photo below you will see that I went a little wild and sprinkled with a speciality chocolate sugar and sliced almonds.
Place on cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes, until golden.
And do serve with a spot of tea… y’all.