Classic English Scones - A Complete Tutorial

Thursday 4 October 2018

No English Tea Party would be complete without a tray of beautiful Scones.  Is it scone that rhymes with "on", or is it scone that rhymes with "stone"??  Who knows for sure!!

It sounds mighty delicious no matter which way you say it. If asked what the difference between a scone and a North American baking powder biscuit is, I would have to say first and foremost, it is in the preparation.  I thought it would be fun today to do a tutorial for you on how to prepare and bake the classic English scone.

North American baking powder biscuits generally use all vegetable fat, and sometimes cream. Scones usually use all butter, and sometimes butter and cream.  

The two things are not the same thing at all, no matter how similar they might look.  Scones are sweeter as well, which makes them perfect for enjoying with a hot cuppa.  Biscuits are flaky and Scones are crumbly.  They really are not the same thing at all, no matter how similar they may look.

When making scones, the first thing you will want to do is to sift your flour baking powder and salt into a bowl  I find that aerating the flour in this way makes for a lighter scone. Sifting it together with the baking powder and salt ensures that all are mixed together evenly.  

I do this from about 6 to 8 inches above the bowl, which really helps the air to get in there.  I also always use self raising flour. You can buy it ready made or make your own. I give instructions on how to that on the main page.

Once you have done this it is time to add the butter. I will be honest here, I have never really been able to tell much difference between using sweet or salted butter. 

But then again, I use Lurpak, lightly salted and that is not very salty to begin with.  I love Lurpak. It is a danish butter and is always my butter of choice.

Make sure your butter is really cold. right from the refrigerator.  Cut it into cubes quickly.  I just measure it and then using a sharp knife cube it right into the bowl.  Remember you want it to stay as cold as possible. 

If you think it has warmed up too much, stick it onto a plate and pop it back into the refrigerator or even into the freezer for a few minutes. Warm hands can be somewhat of an enemy here, as well as when you are making pastry.

Once you have the butter in the bowl take  your thumb and first two fingers on each hand and rub the butter into the flour using a snapping motion.  Snap, snap, snap.  Use the tips of your fingers.

When you are done it will look like fine dry bread crumbs. You really don't want any larger bits if you can help it. It should also look a bit like wet sand.

It is then that you can take a round bladed knife and stir in the sugar.  You might think it is strange stirring the sugar into the flour mixture like this. It does seem a bit backwards.


But trust me when I tell you to do it this way. Scones have been made this way for years and years with great success.

It is now also that you will stir in the raisins.  I like lots of raisins in mine. But people also use dried currants (which are smaller) and sometimes other dried fruit and berries.  Stir them in with the round bladed knife also. 

If you are not fond of raisins you can use another dried fruit such as dried blueberries or dried cranberries. Chopped dried dates also work well. For this particular recipe you do not want to use wet fruit.

Then you are going to make a hollow in the middle of this mixture and pour in your wet ingredients, stirring them in once again with a round bladed knife, to give you a soft, slightly tacky dough that holds well together. 

Don't be afraid or think you have done something wrong because the dough is tacky or a bit sticky. This is as it should be.

Tip this out onto a lightly floured board and knead gently for a couple of turns.  Lightly floured is best. You don't want to add to much additional flour to the dough by using too much.

You also only knead it for a very few times. If you overhandle any dough such as scones or pastry (or even biscuits) you run the risk of toughening them.

 Once it has all come together nicely you can then pat it out to a  one-inch thickness. I favour patting it over rolling it.

Its time to cut them out now. I use a 2 or 3 inch sharp round cutter, and I prefer the straight edge rather than the fluted edge of the cutter.  Using a sharp up and down tapping motion, cut out as many as you can from this first patting out.  

Once you have cut them out, you can gently rework the scraps and cut out more, but bear in mind that they will not be as nice as the first cut, so do try to get as many as you can from the first cut.  

DO NOT twist the cutter. If you twist the cutter when you are cutting them, your scones will bake all lop-sided. 

Place them evenly spaced on a paper lined baking sheet.  I brush the tops lightly with an egg beaten with a tiny bit of water. 

Make sure you only brush the tops and don't let the egg wash drip down the sides.  This will hamper the rise.

That's it.  Its all up to the oven now.  Just pop the scones on the baking sheet into the pre-heated oven and bake as per the recipe.  

If you look at the sheet of finished baked scones above you can clearly see which ones were from the first cut and which from the second. (I would never cut three times.)  The first cut are even.  The second cuts a bit rougher looking. 

At the end of the day perfect or rough, these scone, no matter how they look, they will be delicious.  You will want to enjoy them with some cream and jam, for the ultimate English experience.  

Over here tea-rooms make a good business out of serving scones with cream and jam.  Clotted cream if you can get it is beautiful, but you can also use whipped heavy cream.

That's what they call a "Cream Tea" over here in the UK, and there is much debate about which goes first onto the split scone . . .  the cream or the jam.  

Wars have been fought over that choice. Just kidding, however there has been some very heated discussions about this topic!

This can vary greatly according to which part of the country you come from.  Each county has their own idea of what is proper and what is right.  It is a subject of much debate.

If you put the jam first, the cream tends to slide off . . . 

I like to put the cream on first myself, as it helps to cradle the jam and keep it in place . . .  but at the end of the day it doesn't really matter I don't think.  

It all ends up in the same place.  Jam first or cream first.

They are delicious no matter which you put on first.  I personally like strawberry jam with mine, but lemon curd is also very nice.  Some people like cherry jam, others honey. 

The sweetness of whatever you choose to use helps to accentuate the richness of the cream.  And of course all of it goes beautifully with those rich crumbly fruit studded scones.

I don't think there is a prettier or a more delicious sight than a fabulously light and perfectly baked scone topped with cream (clotted or whipped) and some jam.  This is heaven to me!

Put the kettle on for there is only one perfect thing to enjoy with these delicious delights!  A pot of hot teas, steaming.  Will that be one lump or two?

Yield: 10

Classic English Scones

prep time: 20 minscook time: 10 minstotal time: 30 mins
These are buttery and flaky tender with just the right amount of sticky sultanas.  Serve with cream and jam for a real treat!


350g self raising  flour ( 2 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
75g of cold butter (5 1/2 TBS)
30g Caster sugar (2 1/2 TBS, superfine sugar)
75g sultana raisins (1/2 cup)
approximately 150ml milk (scant 2/3 cup)
2 large free range eggs, beaten
granulated sugar to sprinkle plus flour for dusting


Preheat the oven to 220*C/425*F/ gas mark 7.  Butter a large baking tray.  Alternately line it with greaseproof paper.

 the flour into a bowl along with the baking powder.  (Pour the flour in
 from on high to aerate it.)  Whisk together.  Drop in the cold butter
in bits.  Using your fingertips rub the butter in quickly until the
mixture resembles fine dry bread crumbs.   Stir in the sugar and

Beat the eggs.  Remove and set 2 TBS aside.  Add
100ml (scant 1/2 cup) of the milk to the eggs and beat together.  Add
this to the flour mixture.  Mix together with the rounded end of a
butter knife to form a soft but slightly tacky dough.  Only add the
remainder of the  milk if your dough is too dry and you want to absorb
any dry bits in the bowl.  The dough should NOT be too wet, but not too
dry either.  Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently a
couple of times to bring well together.  Gently pat out to 1 inch
thick.  Using a sharp round 3 inch cutter, cut out rounds, using a
direct up and down motion.  Do not twist the cutter.  Place the cut out
scones an inch or so apart on the baking sheet.  Gather any trimmings
together and repeat until you have 10 scones.

Brush the
tops of the scones with the reserved beaten egg and sprinkle with a bit
of granulated sugar.  Don't let the egg drip down the sides. 

 for about 10 minutes, until risen and golden on top and bottoms. 
Remove to a wire rack to cool.  Store in an airtight container.  Best
eaten on the day.  Any leftovers can be frozen for several months.
Created using The Recipes Generator

If you follow my directions and use a light hand in the preparation you are going to be rewarded with beautifully risen, light and fluffy scones.    With jam, honey or lemon curd, you are in for a real treat.

 These are perfect for teatime, coffee break, breakfast, elevenses, etc. In short, they are perfect for enjoying ANY time!

Classic English Scones

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  1. Thank you, Marie! I've never made scones but always liked the idea. Few people over here in America know how to make their scone light like yours, so I rarely bought any at a bakery. They're too heavy and filling. I'll try your recipe later this week!

    1. You are welcome and in for a real treat Jo! xo

  2. Thanks for posting so many pictures. Baking is my thing but Scones have always been a thorn in my side. Yes they are edible but they aren't light and always disappointed at how high they don't rise. Hopefully tomorrow i'll finally have success.

    1. I hope so too! I have my fingers crossed for you! Light handling is one of the secrets, as with pastry, too much handling toughens them. Let me know how you get on! xo

    2. You could make lemonade scones. They work well and are super simple. This recipe is a preschool teacher's staple. I use soda or plain mineral water as I am diabetic and I don't miss the sugar.

    3. I have heard of these. The lemonade used here is the same as soda pop, its a carbonated lemon soda, kind of like Seven Up!

  3. The great scone debate. I sometimes make mine using soda water, cream and sr flour. That's it. Our scones are never sweet, no sugar at all. Fruit is rarely added although some people make pumpkin scones which can be nice eaten with just butter. I did learn to make scones the way you do. I break the rules by using a food processor as my hands and fingers are hot. It is so quick it seems like a waste of time. Mum cuts her scones in squares and rounds them with her hands. She never has to make second or third batches.

    1. I know some people do use the food processor and that generally works well. I like to get my hand in there. You could pat any scone recipe into a square and then just cut into squares. That also works very well! xo

  4. There's also a tradition in some parts of the country to replace the jam with a spoon of black treacle! Never tried it myself though.

    1. I can't imagine that with black treacle although back home we put molasses on everything (which is like a very mild black treacle), so its not all that far fetched. Black treacle has such a strong flavour however, for me it would take some getting used to! I remember making molasses cookies with it when I first moved over here and they were awful! lol

  5. I have tried so many recipes and love them all:) LOL..These of course are perfection!!

    1. They are pretty darned good if I don’t say so myself! 😉

  6. Great recipe. I usually make baking powder biscuits sometimes with 50% butter but I'll have to give these a try. What I like is that scones and biscuits both are so simple to make you can have them in the oven before you finish your first cup of morning tea.

    1. These are lovely Pat! I love Baking Powder Biscuits also Pat! I love my mum’s recipe for those! They are the best!

  7. I made these these today and they are lovely. Mine didn't rise as high as yours, but I did get a higher rise than I usually get, so your tutorial definitely helped. Absolutely perfect with my morning coffee. :)

    1. So happy you made them and enjoyed them! Thanks so much for taking the time to come back and share your experience! xo

  8. Great recipe! My first time making scones and they turned out good. I used currants in mine and also made clotted cream using fresh unprocessed Jersey cream. Also used Wilkin and Sons strawberry preserves and I’ve never had anything better I don’t think. The cream tasted like a mix between butter, whipped cream and almost like a fresh caramel for some reason. My scones didn’t rise as tall as yours did, but still had the natural “split” in the middle and rose high enough for me. They were so rich with the cream that I was only able to eat the two halves with cream and jam. Thanks again!

    1. That's great Nate! Happy that your first experience was a good one and pleased I was a part of that! Scones with cream and jam are the ultimate taste experience in my opinion! Thanks so much for taking the time to come back and share your experience with us!

  9. 8 tablespoons of sugar seems an awful lot, can I try with less? Yes, I say to myself!! and isn't castor sugar and superfine sugar the same? or are you saying superfine is icing sugar?

    1. Sorry for the late response. I only just got this! Scastef sugar is super fine granulated sugar and that is what the recipe calls for!

  10. Would this recipe work if frozen berries were used instead of raisins?

    1. I don't recommend using anything but dried fruit in these. Authentic British Scones only use dry fruit. If you want to use berries I have recipes on her for blueberry scones and others!

  11. The body of the article says to sieve the banking powder, flour and salt together but the list of ingredients does not mention salt. How much salt should be added?

  12. Sorry about that! 1/2 tsp salt. I have amended the recipe!

  13. Some recipes of English scones call for room temperature butter instead of cold? Pretending cold butter is used for American kind of scones! Thoughts? Thanks!

    1. For this particular recipe you use cold butter. I cannot speak for other people's recipes. You don't want the butter to melt into the flour until it is baking in the oven, which makes for a flakier scone. If you start with room temperature butter then the butter melts when you are rubbing it into the flour and yields a tougher scone.

      Some scones don't use any butter at all, only cream. This recipe I am sharing today is a classic scone and uses cold butter.

  14. I’m interested in knowing how YOU pronounce scones. 😊

    1. I say sc"ons" not sc"owns" but there is no right or wrong way to be honest!


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