If it’s not broken, tdon’t fix it. This pertains to great recipes, baking techniques and, more specifically, these scones. I discovered this recipe years ago, published by Cooks Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen, and it’s a keeper. Since then, I have made these scones countless times with only the tiniest of tweaks. And, like any tradition worth repeating, these dense, moist and crumbly scones have become a part of our breakfast rotation when the family is gathered together over the holidays, when it’s a wintry day outside, or we are expecting friends for brunch.
All ingredients should be as cold as possible. And while the method has steps that dance around this requirement, the good news is that the scones can be formed, cut and then frozen in advance of baking. Simply pop them into zipper bags and freeze for up to one month. The morning of serving, remove the scones from the freezer and bake them frozen, adding an additional five minutes or so for baking to compensate for their chilliness.
The original recipe calls for blueberries, which are a lovely springtime addition. I am partial to currants, so often add them instead, along with a generous sprinkle of lemon zest.
Active Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Yield: Makes 8
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) frozen butter, plus 2 tablespoons melted butter for brushing
1/2 cup dried currants
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl and stir to blend.
Whisk the milk and sour cream in a separate bowl and refrigerate while you grate the butter.
Coarsely grate the frozen butter and place in a bowl. Freeze for 5 minutes and then add the butter to the flour mixture. Quickly mix with the tips of your fingers to combine. Pour in the milk and stir until just combined.
Transfer the mixture to a floured work surface and knead several times until the dough holds together in a ragged ball. Roll the dough out into a 12-inch square, adding a little flour as needed. Fold the dough 3 ways into a rectangle, like a business letter, using a metal spatula to lift the dough from the surface as necessary. Fold the short ends of the dough into the center, overlapping, so you have an approximate 4-inch square. Freeze the dough for 5 minutes.
Roll the dough out again on a floured surface into a 12-inch square. Sprinkle the currants over the dough, lightly pressing them in to adhere. Roll the dough up into a tight log, then press into a 12-by-4-inch rectangle. Cut the rectangle into 4 equal sections and then cut each section on the diagonal to form 8 triangles.
If freezing, place the triangles in one layer in a large zipper bag, press the air out, and freeze for up to 1 month. When ready to bake, remove from the freezer and proceed with next step.
Transfer the triangles to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the tops with the melted butter and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Bake on the middle oven rack until the tops and bottoms are golden, about 20 minutes (or 25 -27 if frozen).
Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay area, where she lives with her Danish husband, two children, a cat and a dog. She studied cooking at Le Cordon Bleu Ecole de Cuisine in Paris and worked as a personal chef, culinary instructor, and food writer in Switzerland and Denmark. Her favorite activities include hiking, cooking dinners for her friends and family, and planning her next travel destination.