If there's one breakfast treat that's perfect for preparing ahead, it's scones. The secret is freezing them at the point where they're shaped, but not yet baked. Then you can just pop them in the oven straight from the freezer and have a fresh-baked breakfast in mere minutes.
How to freeze scones
We’ll demonstrate with one of our most popular scone recipes: Harvest Pumpkin Scones (with some pumpkin spice chips to the dough, because why not?).
For purposes of testing, the dough is divided into six pieces, rather than the usual two. The rounds are still 3/4" tall, though, which will yield an optimally thick scone: about 1 1/2".
Brush the top of the scones with milk, and sprinkle with sparkling sugar, just as you would right before baking. Then cut each round into wedges.
Tent the scones with plastic wrap or a reusable cover, and freeze until solid, which will take a couple of hours.
Once completely frozen, wrap each round tightly in freezer wrap ...
... then bag the rounds as airtight as possible, such as sealing in a zip-top bag. This double layer helps ensure they stay airtight and don't dry out or take on any unwanted flavors in the freezer. Be sure to label and date the bag — your memory's probably not as good as you think it is! Your frozen scone dough is now ready to bake whenever you are.
How to bake frozen scone dough
Time marches on, and you decide it's time for some hot, fresh scones. Time to bake!
Transfer however many scones you want to a baking sheet. (Parchment reduces cleanup to zero.) Part of the benefit here is that you can bake off just a few scones at a time, instead of the whole batch at once. For crisp-sided scones, separate the wedges as pictured above. For softer scones, leave the wedges close together.
Preheat your oven; the scones will thaw a bit while the oven heats.
Bake the scones for however long the recipe calls for, adding a couple of minutes or so to the time to account for the scones being partially frozen. (Though if your oven is slow to heat, the scones may be pretty much thawed by the time they go in.)
Remove fresh-baked scones from the oven; serve hot. Now how easy was that?
How long can you freeze unbaked scones?
You can freeze unbaked scones for at least three weeks without any reduction in quality.
Here are baked scones that had been frozen (unbaked) for 1 week (left), 2 weeks (center), and 3 weeks (right). No discernible difference in rise, right? And their taste is identical — all moist and tender.
After three weeks in the freezer, things get a bit dicey. We've baked scones that were in the freezer for five weeks, and there was definitely a reduction in rise and moisture. Thus, we suggest freezing unbaked scones no longer than a month.
Even a short freeze can result in better scones
So, what if you're one of those super-organized people who has plenty of time to make scone dough in the morning and bake it right away, without freezing? Slip the pan of shaped scones into the freezer anyway — but just for about 30 minutes.
Why? Chilling hardens the scones' fat, and time relaxes the gluten in the flour, both of which contribute to a higher rise.
On the left, a scone baked directly after shaping; on the right, after 30 minutes in the freezer. See the slight difference in rise? Just as chilled chocolate chip cookie dough produces a better cookie, so does chilled scone dough make a better scone.