I have had several friends tell me that I need to write a post on my cream scones. Today seems like a good day to do it. It's Mother's Day. I make breakfast for my mother every year and of all the things I make, cream scones are her favorite. On a day when I would go the extra mile and make homemade Danish, or an elaborate coffee cake, she requests the easiest thing of all the baked goods I make.
There is something about these scones—I have to agree that they are special. People who have declared to me that they don't like scones, like these. I wish that I could say that they are "my" scones, but I can't. I can't even claim to have adapted them too much from the original recipe. I came across the cream scone recipe because of a cream biscuit recipe. When I worked at The American Restaurant we occasionally made little mini biscuits to stuff with various savory things as part of an hors d'oeuvres/appetizer spread. The biscuits were a simple cream biscuit from Marion Cunningham's The Breakfast Book. Cunningham credits James Beard's cooking classes with the original recipe and says the biscuits are "superior" and that "they are so ridiculously simple" that "no student ever failed to make good ones". And it's true. At the restaurant, we could give the task of making these biscuits to the greenest of cooks and they would turn out well.
A few pages over from the recipe for Cream Biscuits in Cunningham's book is a recipe for Dried Fruit Cream Scones. The recipes are nearly identical. Having had such good experience with the biscuits, it seemed a no-brainer to try the scones. They too are superior. While any well-made scone is good when hot from the oven, these scones are good even after they have been sitting around for a while. I would describe them as more cake-like than "flaky"—there is no butter in the recipe to create the hallmark flakes of traditional biscuits or scones, but I don't miss that because these are so soft and tender.
Like the biscuits, the scones turn out well even in the hands of an unskilled baker. I remember one time observing a couple of novice bakers, to whom I had handed off the recipe, making up a large batch. As I watched, my heart sank. They were fairly enthusiastic with their kneading and handling of the dough. I thought that if the scones were ever going to turn out badly, that this would be the time. But they were still very good. Anyone who knows much about baking and pastry knows that over-handling of a dough will produce leaden or tough results. But not these scones. I don't recommend over-working the dough—like any pastry they are best when given a light touch—but honestly, even if you have never made a scone or a biscuit before, you can make these.
A few years ago I was in the habit of making cream scones as an occasional mid-morning pick-me-up for my co-workers. Everyone loved them, but whenever I offered to share the recipe I was met with statements like, "Oh, there is no way I could make them and have them turn out like yours do." Then, one year for Christmas, I made up small gift bags of the dry mix and gave them as presents along with the recipe. Over and over I heard back enthusiastic reports of success.
The original recipe is for an all dried fruit scone, but I almost always make mine with half dark or white chocolate. I made dried tart cherry-chocolate chip for my mother this morning. Another favorite combination is dried apricot-white chocolate. Katrina at Baking & Boys has made them with toffee, chocolate and almonds. Give them a try and you will soon come up with your own favorite versions.
(adapted from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham)
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. “mix-ins”, see below
1 ¼ c. heavy cream (no substitutions), plus more for brushing
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling
Bake at 425°until golden brown and springy to the touch—about 15 minutes.
“Mix-ins”: dried fruits, nuts and chocolate bits. Some favorite combinations—
• Dried tart cherries with golden raisins
• Chocolate chips
• White chocolate chunks with quartered dried apricots
• Chocolate chips with dried cranberries or tart cherries
• 1/2 c. dried currants along with the zest of one orange
Note: For a smaller scone, divide the dough half and form two rounds. Cut each round into 6 wedges.