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  1. Preheat your oven to 500°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line it with parchment.

  2. In a large mixing bowl, blend the dry ingredients together thoroughly.

  3. With a pastry blender, pastry fork, a mixer or, most easily, your fingertips, work in the butter until the mixture is unevenly crumbly. If you're adding any "extras" (see tips below), toss them in, stirring to distribute.

  4. Take about 20 seconds to stir in the liquid. The dough will be rough and shaggy but that's the way it should look.

  5. Turn it out onto a well-floured board. Flour your hands and the surface of the dough well. Knead it very gently about 10 times, just enough to bring it together. It is not supposed to be smooth and springy like bread dough. Sprinkle on more flour as you need it to keep the dough from sticking.

  6. Cut the dough in half, and press or roll each piece gently with a well floured rolling pin into a circle about 6" x 1/2". You can tidy up the edges with the palms of your hands if you want, but do it gently. Half the charm of scones is their "shagginess."

  7. Cut each circle into 6 wedge-shaped pieces with the edge of a bench or bowl scraper (or spatula), pressing down firmly without sawing. You'll find it easier if you dip your cutter in flour after each cut. Make sure you press it into the dough quickly, without twisting or sawing. This shears the dough cleanly rather than pressing it together, which allows the scones to rise higher.

  8. Transfer each piece gently to the prepared baking sheet, leaving a half inch or so between them. Put them in the oven, reduce the temperature to 450°F, and bake for about 13 to 15 minutes, until they're a light golden brown.

  9. Remove the scones from the oven, and serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. Wrap any leftovers airtight, and store several days at room temperature; freeze for longer storage.

Tips from our Bakers

  • The name "scone" probably comes from the Gaelic word "sgonn" (which rhymes with gone), meaning a shapeless mass. And the early scone probably was. Because wheat doesn't grow well in Scotland, scones were originally made of oat or barley flour — both of which, lacking gluten, made dough that was probably just plopped onto a hot griddle without shaping.
  • What's the difference between a biscuit and a scone? It seems in this country, in most cases, that when a baking powder biscuit is either plain or savory, it remains a biscuit; and when it's sweetened with sugar and fruit (or chocolate, or cinnamon, or...), it becomes a scone. Whatever you decide to call them, biscuits or scones are unbelievably easy to make; they bake in minutes, and, if we slow our lives down enough to enjoy them with a leisurely breakfast, a savory supper, or with a cup of tea in the afternoon, we'll have adopted a tradition worth keeping.
  • Suggested additions
    Fruit: A traditional British scone contains an added cup of currants or raisins. An American counterpart might be 1 cup of blueberries, fresh or frozen; cranberries, fresh or dried; chopped apple, or peaches.
    Spices: To use alone or to vary the flavor of a fruit scone, add up to a tablespoon of spice (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves or a combination) to the dry ingredients.
    Nuts and/or seeds: A cup of halved or chopped pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, or almonds, either alone or with fruit, add great flavor and texture. So will sunflower or pumpkin seeds or pine nuts or pistachios. Add these as you would the fruit.
    Lemon or orange zest: Add a teaspoon of grated lemon or orange peel to your dry ingredients. If you want the flavor of lemon or orange but not the grated knuckles, use our orange oil or lemon oil.
    Cheese: A cup of grated sharp cheese, such as Cheddar or Parmesan, is a great addition. A teaspoon of dry mustard blended with the dry ingredients, or prepared mustard beaten into the liquid, adds to and intensifies the flavor. Use just 1 teaspoon sugar for this version (or any other savory scone).
    Herbs: Two teaspoons of dried or a tablespoon of fresh herbs, alone or in combination with cheese, makes a wonderful variation.
    Savory combinations: Add 1/2 to 1 cup chopped ham, hard sausage, or crumbled bacon to your dry ingredients as you would fruit or nuts.
    Chocolate or other chips: Add 1 to 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (or other flavored chips), and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
  • The maximum temperature rating for most parchment paper is below 500°F, and at temperatures between 450°F and 500°F parchment’s exposed edges begin to char. To be safe, keep a close eye on anything being cooked at temperatures above 450°F (especially anything on an upper rack). Burned edges can also be minimized by trimming away excess parchment before baking.