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Sweet on scones: Americans adopt a U.K. tradition

Although Scotland, Ireland and England all claim scones as their own, no one is sure just where this cross between a biscuit and a muffin originated. Scones  are everywhere in the United States including coffee shops, tearooms  and bakeries.

Although Scotland, Ireland and England all claim scones as their own, no one is sure just where this cross between a biscuit and a muffin originated. Scones are everywhere in the United States including coffee shops, tearooms and bakeries.

Although Scotland, Ireland and England all claim scones as their own, no one is sure just where this cross between a biscuit and a muffin originated.

It doesn’t seem to matter on this side of the Atlantic. Today, Yanks clearly are smitten with the British import. Scones are everywhere, including coffee shops, tearooms and bakeries.

“People love that they are not fried, not gooey and have a fresh, clean flavor. And they are so diverse and versatile,” says master baker Ben Hershberger of The Phoenician resort in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Scones can be served with coffee for breakfast, or with tea for an afternoon pick-me-up. Savory varieties baked with herbs make welcome substitutes for dinner rolls.

Hershberger also attributes their recent spike in popularity to Americans’ newfound infatuation with “all things English,” including the strength of the pound, TV chef Gordon Ramsay, fashion and tea.

“The English love their scones, and now so do we,” Hershberger says.

Scones – said to have taken their name from the Stone of Destiny, or Stone of Scone, that was connected with the crowning of Scottish kings – originally were griddle-fried oatcakes. Today, they are made with wheat flour, sugar, baking powder or baking soda, butter, cream and eggs, and baked in the oven – in the traditional wedge form and in round, square and diamond shapes.

They typically include raisins or currants but often are plain, relying on jam, preserves, lemon curd, honey or a touch of clotted cream for additional flavor. Contemporary versions are made with dried fruit (such as cranberries and dates), nuts, orange rind, chocolate morsels and other flavorings.

According to Hershberger, scones must be baked properly, or else. “If you get it wrong, everyone will know,” he says.

For Sheila Mitchell, a retired London hairdresser who lives in Mesa, Ariz., baking scones is simple.

“Nobody should be intimidated,” she says. “Once you get the recipe and technique down, they are easy to turn out, and they are so wonderful.

“But they are not something you want to grab and eat on the run. Having a cup of tea and scone is such a wonderful way to slow down and enjoy life.”

Basic scones

3 eggs

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cream

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 cup butter

1 cup of garnish of choice, from blueberries and cranberries to chocolate chips

Mix eggs and cream. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients with room-temperature butter. Mix until butter is evenly incorporated.

Slowly add liquid, mixing until the batter reaches the consistency of cornmeal. While mixing, add garnishes to taste.

Remove dough from bowl, and roll out to about one-half-inch thick. Cut into 2 1/2-inch rounds. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. Makes 12 servings.

Source: Ben Hershberger, master baker, The Phoenician resort in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Olive Scones

Nonstick cooking spray

1 1/2 cups red onion, finely chopped

6 eggs, plus 1 egg for egg wash

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons cream

5 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

3 1/2 cups oats

4 tablespoons sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons baking powder

3 tablespoons rosemary

2 teaspoons black pepper

1 tablespoon salt

1 2/3 cups butter

1 cup chopped kalamata olives, chopped

1 cup Parmesan cheese

Heat medium saute pan on medium high, coating with cooking spray. Add onion and saute lightly, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, add 6 eggs and cream. Set aside.

In a separate mixing bowl, blend flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, rosemary, black pepper, salt and butter. Mix until butter is evenly incorporated.

Next, slowly add liquids to dry ingredients. Mix to blend. Stir in olives, onions and cheese.

Remove from bowl and roll to about one-half-inch thick. Cut into 2 1/2-inch rounds. Mix 1 egg and use a pastry brush to wash unbaked scones.

Place egg-washed dough on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. Makes about 24 servings.

Source: Ben Hershberger, master baker, The Phoenician resort in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Phoenix chocolate-chip scones

Nonstick cooking spray

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 cup unsalted butter

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 to 1 cup whipping cream

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips


3 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, melted

3 ounces white chocolate, melted

Confectioners’ sugar, garnish

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Stack two baking sheets together and line top one with parchment paper (if baking scones free-form). Or spray 6 to 8 3 1/2-inch individual tart tins with non-stick cooking spray.

In a food-processor bowl, place flour, sugar, salt and baking powder together and process to combine dry ingredients. Add in the butter and pulse to cut butter into dry mixture. Process briefly until you have a coarse, mealy texture.

Turn mixture out into a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add egg, vanilla and cream. Stir to make a soft dough, adding in chocolate chips at the same time.

Dough should be on the borderline between a dough and a firm batter. Using an ice-cream scoop, scoop scone dough into tart tins or scoop them free-form onto parchment-covered baking sheet.

Bake until nicely browned, about 15 to 18 minutes. Remove and cool in tart shells or on baking sheet until they can be handled. Drizzle dark, then white, chocolate on top of each scone. Let set, then dust on confectioners’ sugar.

Baker’s note: If you have clean tuna cans on hand, you can scoop the scone batter into these for a different, gourmet look. Makes 8 to 9 servings.

Source: The Arizona Republic.



• Measure accurately. Although most Americans measure by volume, Ben Hershberger, master baker at The Phoenician resort in Scottsdale, Ariz., recommends measuring by weight. Use a simple conversion chart to turn tablespoons into ounces.

- Always mix the dry ingredients with butter before adding other ingredients. Do not melt butter, but rather allow it to soften to room temperature and then cut it into the flour mixture. The goal is to coat the flour with butter, a fat that prevents the gluten from becoming tough.

• Avoid mixing too long and rigorously. Otherwise, the result will be chewy, dry scones.

• If using fresh raspberries, freeze first to prevent them from spilling into the scone.

• Serve as soon after baking as possible. They are best fresh, because they dry out quickly.

The ruling on three scone mixes

• Cherry scone mix hits mark (just go easy on cream)

The cherry Iveta Scone Mix called for 1 cup of heavy cream to be worked into the mix. The resulting dough was slightly sticky and not easy to work with, and the scones seemed to flatten a bit in the oven. If a perfect scone shape is important, use a bit less cream.

The texture of the finished scone was lovely, slightly crisp on the outside with a tender crumb inside. The scones were delicious: not too sweet, with a rich flavor.

The dried cherries are rather large, and a few fell off during the journey from bowl to oven to mouth, but they provide a lively burst of flavor. www.iveta.com

- Mary Beth Faller

• Maple-oat scone mix is flaky, tasty

A good sign: The ingredients list for King Arthur Flour’s Vermont Maple-Oat Scone Mix is short and contains no unpronounceable items. You add an egg, milk, butter and salt.

The instructions advise working the butter into the mixture with a fork or electric mixer. It took about five minutes to get the proper crumbly consistency with a pastry blender. Using a fork would have been a lot more work. (If you use a mixer, make sure your bowl is deeper than it is wide or flour may go flying.)

You’re also instructed to cut the dough into pieces and separate them before baking. That seemed fussy; other scone recipes advise simply patting the dough into a round and cutting after baking.

No matter. The scones were tender and flaky inside, just sweet enough, and with a pleasing maple taste and aroma. Whole oatmeal flakes add texture without making the scones dense.

A box makes eight scones and costs $6.95. Avid bakers could make their own for less, but these scones taste better than many store-bought varieties that cost $2 or $3 each. And you know exactly what’s in them. www.kingarthurflour.com

- Jill Cassidy

• Traditional scone mix worth a bit of work

Stonewall Kitchen’s Traditional Scone Mix is almost like making it from scratch. You cut in a stick and a half of butter, add cold water and gently knead into a ball of dough.

If it’s an add-water-and-stir mix you’re looking for, this isn’t for you. But if working with dough is second nature or almost, then this mix delivers yummy, crumbling, buttery-tasting scones fresh from the oven. Their texture is denser, but these scones are moist.

If you want cranberries, raisins or chocolate, you’ll have to add your own. No mix-ins are included. At $6.89, this is pricier than some scone mixes, but it’s worth it. www.stonewallkitchen.com

- Susan Felt

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