There’s nothing like fresh scones slathered with butter and jam, so we made sure to get our fill of the classic teatime treats during our trip early last year through the Irish countryside with our friends from Tourism Ireland and Bake from Scratch Magazine. We traveled south from Dublin to County Cork, the culinary capital of Ireland, to spend the day at the renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School.
We toured the sprawling 100-acre organic farm and made scones in one of their four full-service kitchens. The school’s instructors guided us through the recipe for Sweet White Scones as the school’s founder and one of Ireland’s most beloved chefs, Darina Allen, visited us in the kitchen to offer her tips. “With our two hands, lift the dry mixture up” she demonstrated, as she aerated the floury mixture. The recipe, passed down from Darina’s mother, is all about technique. Here, we share everything we learned for mastering traditional Irish scones at home, and just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.
5 Tips for Perfect Scones
- Grate the chilled butter.
Use a grater for small, uniform pieces of butter that will stay cold as they’re incorporated into the flour to encourage a light and tender interior.
- Aerate the butter and flour mixture.
Lift the flour mixture in small handfuls from the bowl while rubbing in the butter, allowing the dry ingredients to fall back into the bowl. Aerating the dry ingredients during mixing will result in a light and fluffy texture after baking.
- No need to knead.
Maintain a light touch with the dough to ensure your scones stay tender.
- Cut the scones straight down.
Keep the biscuit cutter straight and steady when cutting the scones. Avoid a twisting motion, which could disrupt the layers and result in flat scones.
- Strategize each cut.
When cutting out the scones, stamp them out with as little waste as possible, since the first scones will be lighter than those that have been rerolled.
Sweet White Scones
Serve the scones split in half, topped with orange butter (see recipe below), or serve with some homemade jam and either butter or a dollop of whipped cream.
- 3 1/4 cups (1 lb/450 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) (3 oz/90 g) cold unsalted butter
- 2 small free-range eggs
- 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. (7 fl oz/200 ml) whole milk, plus more as needed
- Demerara sugar or coarse granulated sugar for sprinkling
Preheat an oven to 475°F (250°C).
Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together into a large, wide bowl. Using the large holes of a box grater, grate the butter into the flour mixture, occasionally dipping the stick of butter into the flour if it starts to get sticky.
Using your fingertips, rub the butter and flour mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs, lifting the mixture as you go to keep it light and aerated. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture.
In small bowl, whisk the eggs until combined. Transfer the eggs to a 2-cup (500-ml) liquid measuring cup and add the milk to bring the liquid up to 1 1/4 cups (10 fl oz/300 ml). Set aside 2 Tbs. of the mixture to brush on the tops of the scones.
Add the milk mixture, in one go, to the dry ingredients and mix with your hands, to form a soft dough. If the dough seems too dry, add a bit more milk; the dough should be tacky but not stuck all over your hands.
Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Don’t knead it, but gently shape it into a round. Using a rolling pin, roll into a circle about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick and 8 inches diameter (20-cm). Using a 2.5-inch (6-cm) round cutter, cut out scones. Dip the cutter into flour if it gets sticky. (Cut them as close together as possible, as any scones you cut after rerolling the dough will be less tender). Transfer the scones to an ungreased baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches (5 cm) apart, and brush the tops with some of the reserved milk mixture (this will help them brown in the oven). Sprinkle each with Demerara sugar. Reroll the scraps and repeat to cut out more scones.
Bake until golden on top, 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Makes 8 to 10 scones.
- 12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) (6 oz/180 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 Tbs. finely grated orange zest
- 1 3/4 cups (7 oz/200 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and orange zest on medium speed until combined. Stop the mixer. Add the confectioners’ sugar and continue beating on medium speed until fluffy.
Recipe adapted from Darina Allen, Ballymaloe Cookery School