5 Mistakes to Avoid When Baking Scones

updated May 1, 2019
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Scone with butter and jam on a plate alongside tea and a spoon
(Image credit: Quentin Bacon)

When scones are at their best, they can be life-changing. Anything that delicate, buttery, and oh-so-flaky can make a transcendent moment out of the five minutes it takes for you to eat it. I know people who won’t touch scones, though, because all they’ve ever had were the dense, puck-like ones that are all too often found in cafes and coffee shops.

Our recipe for buttery, tender scones is truly a revelation and will make a believer out of the most skeptical. With this recipe, we’re on a mission to rid the world of bad scones, starting with the ones we bake in our home kitchens. Armed with this recipe and a list of the mistakes you need to be wary of, this is how to make a scone that will make you close your eyes and sigh with delight.

1. Using anything but cold ingredients.

The secret to the flakiest scones is to start with cold ingredients — cold butter, cold eggs, and cold cream. Similar to making pie crust, using cold ingredients prevents the butter from melting before the scones are baked, leaving it instead to melt in the oven and create a super-flaky end result.

Follow this tip: Keep your butter, eggs, and cream in the fridge until you’re ready to make your scone dough. Heck, chill your bowl while you’re at it!

2. Only using all-purpose flour.

While all-purpose flour is likely what you already have in your pantry, if you really want to ace your scone game, reach for a combo for the best results. Different flours have different levels of protein and, generally, the higher the protein, the denser the baked good. Most all-purpose flour has a protein content of about 10 to 12 percent — if you use a flour that has less, you’ll get a lighter scone.

Follow this tip: For the lightest scones, opt for using pastry flour instead of all-purpose flour, or a mix of all-purpose and cake like we do in our recipe.

(Image credit: Quentin Bacon)

3. Overmixing the dough.

Overworking the dough will lead to scones that are tough and chewy, rather than light and flaky. The key is to use a light hand and work the dough until it just comes together.

Follow this tip: Expect your dough to have lumps and bumps in it — once it just comes together, its ready to be used.

4. Not chilling the dough before baking.

As previously mentioned, it’s crucial to keep the dough cold so that the butter doesn’t melt before the scones are baked. Using cold ingredients helps, but your hands can warm up the dough when you’re working with it. For extra precaution, it helps to chill the dough again before it’s baked.

Follow this tip: Cut the scone dough into wedges, place them on a baking sheet, and keep them in the fridge while the oven preheats.

(Image credit: Quentin Bacon)

5. Baking them ahead of time.

It’s tempting to want to get ahead on your brunch spread the night before, but scones are one component you’ll want to bake off at the last minute. Scones really are best when they are fresh and warm from the oven.

Follow this tip: Bake scones right before you plan to enjoy them. If you’d like to get ahead, you can make and shape the dough into scones ahead of time and leave them in the fridge overnight. Or you can freeze them on a baking sheet, transfer the frozen unbaked scones to a zip-top bag, and bake them straight from frozen, adding a couple of minutes to the baking time.

Try them for yourself!