RECIPE: Here’s how to bake a better scone

Credit: Sarah Dodge for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Sarah Dodge for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Scones tend to get a bad rap in the U.S., and for good reason. Often, American scones mimic a fluffy Southern buttermilk biscuit, or they come out dry and lacking in flavor. That isn’t the goal of a scone.

Originating in the British Isles, the scone was historically a lightly sweetened, lightly leavened, farm-fresh pastry served with the afternoon tea. It was a light, yet dense, crumbly bite that, when paired with the tea, turned into the perfect combination. Families had their own cherished scone recipe, so there were lots of interesting variations, especially in terms of the dairy usage (some people had more butter to spare, while others had more clotted cream or buttermilk) and available inclusions like fruit or nuts.

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To translate that tradition into a workable pastry, there are a few notes to help bring success. First, pay attention to the combination of fats; good butter, buttermilk and heavy cream are all important for this recipe. High-quality butter such as Plugra, Kerrygold or locally made Banner Butter produces crumbly layers. Buttermilk reacts with the leavening agents to give a good rise. And heavy cream helps bind it all together. The heavy cream can be replaced with clotted cream, which adds a lovely taste. Clotted cream is sold at Capella Cheese and the Grant Park Farmers Market, among other places.

Lastly, do not work the dough too much. Doing so will result in hockey puck scones and nobody wants that. Mixing until just combined and gently patting them out while you’re shaping is the key to these light, yet dense, baked goods.

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Sarah Dodge is an Atlanta-based bread baker, pastry chef and baking instructor. She is the owner of Bread is Good, which offers bread subscriptions to the general public and wholesale baked goods to local markets and restaurants.

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