The Easiest Scones

June 22, 2010 · 3 comments

A broken record, I am: Father’s Day really snuck up on me this year. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time at all, you might well-deduce that I’m not a very good planner when it comes to token relational holidays. While quite gifted at the arts of over-committing, under-estimating, and getting distracted, I’ve never figured out how to use those traits for good and not evil. If you know me personally, and have a birthday, you might notice that I will never give you a card or gift. If you happen to be married to me, you are not immune to this bad habit, it will just seem even more thoughtless and — dare I say it — man-like than if you were just a random friend. My own children, of course, are completely excluded from the phenomenon — but not enough so that I’m not usually icing their birthday cake as the first celebratory guests arrive.

So, like many years past, I woke up on Father’s Day, wondering what in the world I could throw together for breakfast so that the father of my children would find it believable that I’m very happy he exists. My eldest daughter was trying to help me think while I waited for coffee to steep — but all our ideas were thwarted. His favorite muffins? No blueberries. Pancakes? He makes them himself almost every weekend. But we had fresh apricots, and I wanted to whip up something that Tim — the weekend-breakfast king-of-our-house — never makes himself. Scones it would be (are you surprised?).

Cream scones are the easiest scones to make. Because they don’t contain butter — meaning nothing to “cut in until the mixture looks like meal with no clumps larger than peas” — the only technique that must be mastered is not over-mixing. And to do that, all you have to do is show a little restraint; the dough will look rough, but it’s ok. If you’re a scone virgin, or looking to improve your skills, then when the dough just — and I mean just comes together, put the spatula down and WALK AWAY. Take a deep breath or two and get a pep talk if necessary before walking back to shape your dough. Then, when shaping, handle the dough almost like a hot potato — this is not like kneading bread, it’s like handling a delicate photograph that you want to touch as little as possible.

You can substitute dried apricots, but the fresh ones make very different scones, and since they’re coming into season I use them often this time of year. I used natural cane sugar to sweeten the scones, which is obvious from the tiny brown specs in the photograph — but white sugar or turbinado is fine in equal amounts. Feel free to use all whole-grain or sprouted flour, with a slightly heavier texture as an end result.


Fresh Apricot Scones
(adapted from a recipe in Joy of Cooking)

  • 1 cup whole wheat or sprouted flour
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup natural cane sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh apricots (from 2-3 apricots, unpeeled)
  • zest of 1/2 orange
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream (plus another Tbsp for brushing)

Preheat oven to 425º with rack in center of oven.

Whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add the apricots and orange zest, tossing well to combine and coat the apricot pieces with flour.

Pour in the cream, all at once. Using a rubber spatula, stir and fold gently, until the dough just comes together. Turn out onto a floured surface, gently patting the dough and any extra pieces into an 8″ round, about 3/4″ thick. Cut into 8 wedges. Brush the tops with extra cream, and sprinkle with a little sugar.

Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet or baking stone for about 15 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes on a rack before serving warm or at room temperature.

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Sarah June 26, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Hey Katy,
I just realized that today has been “Katy Carter Recipe Day!” I made the salmon and penne pasta for dinner tonight (see comment) and also made a version of these scones for breakfast.
Nathan made chai, so I wanted something spicy to go along with it. I used the basic recipe, which was so easy and then added 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of cloves and 1 tsp of vanilla. They smelled more intense than they tasted, but were a nice compliment to the chai. So maybe next time, I’ll add more spice!

Sarah June 26, 2010 at 7:20 pm

These were my first scones, by the way!!

katy June 27, 2010 at 6:01 pm

So glad you liked them! They really are the best scones to start with. Once you get the dough-handling down, you can venture into butter-cutting.

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