Breakfast? Dessert? Tea? Cozy, versatile Lemon Hazelnut Scones

by Terry B on December 30, 2009

Light, flaky scones flavored with lemon juice and zest and toasted hazelnuts make a delicious, not-too-sweet treat with tea in the afternoon or your morning coffee. Recipe below.


Scone. Whether you rhyme it with John or with Joan [both are common], there’s just something about the word. Scone. It sounds at once homey and comforting, a cozy treat to enjoy with tea by a fire, but also somehow more sophisticated, more elegant than, say, a muffin or biscuit.

It also sounds wonderfully plummy and British, even though scones originated in Scotland. Where, by the way, rhyming it with John is the preferred pronunciation.

There are about a bazillion variations on scones. Some are puffy wedges [which to me, makes them distinctive], some are round [which makes them look too much like biscuits for my liking]. Depending on who’s doing the baking, they use milk, buttermilk or heavy cream in wildly varying amounts. One egg, two eggs, no eggs… Some even use shortening with or instead of butter, which to me is totally in biscuit territory.

But one thing they all share [at least the sweet ones—there are savory scones too] is that they’re not overly sweet. Most recipes call for about 1/4 cup of sugar with about 2 cups of flour. By way of contrast, most cake recipes use a cup of sugar or more to 2 cups of flour.

And I like that about them. I prefer desserts that don’t hit you over the head with sugar, obscuring the other flavors. Scones have a satisfying density to them too, crusty on the outside and almost bready [but more crumbly] on the inside. They’re usually meant to be served with jam—or clotted cream, if you’re going full on UK. Personally, though, I like them plain. If you’d like a little additional sweetness, you could drizzle these scones with the simple frosting of lemon juice and powdered sugar from my Lemon Flaxseed Cake recipe.

Lemon Hazelnut Scones
Makes 8 scones

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
zest of 1 lemon, about 2 teaspoons
juice of 1 lemon, about 2 to 3 tablespoons
1/4 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces [see Kitchen Notes]
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted, husked, coarsely chopped [see Kitchen Notes]
1 egg, beaten to blend
1/2 cup half & half [or milk or heavy cream]

special equipment: parchment paper

Preheat oven to 400º F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in deep bowl. Stir in zest. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal [see Kitchen Notes]. Stir in hazelnuts. Blend in egg and lemon juice. Blend in just enough half & half to form soft but not sticky dough [see Kitchen Notes]. You may or may not use the entire 1/2 cup of half & half.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Using floured hands, knead gently until dough comes together, about 5 turns. Pat into 7 to 8-inch round, slightly mounded in the center. Using sharp knife, cut into 8 wedges. Wiggling the knife slightly as you cut helps make cleaner cuts—sounds weird, but you’ll see what I mean when you do it.

Transfer wedges to parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing apart. Bake scones until golden and crusty, about 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool slightly. Serve warm.

Kitchen Notes

Butter—keep it cool. You want the butter nice and cold so it doesn’t completely blend with the flour. This will make the scones more flaky when they bake. I cut the butter into about 1/4 to 1/2-inch cubes, then stored it in a bowl in the fridge until I was ready for it.

Toasting and chopping hazelnuts. Arrange them on a rimmed baking sheet and toast them in a 375ºF oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Your nose will tell you when they’re done. Transfer to a shallow dish and let them cool completely. Remove the husks by squeezing the hazelnuts gently in your fingers. Some will give up their husks readily; others will hang on to them stubbornly. That’s fine. Chop them with a knife. A food processor will turn them to meal, which you don’t want.

Cutting in the butter. This is a hands-on process. If you’ve got a pastry blender, great. If not, use a couple of forks, mashing the butter through the tines and occasionally scraping the forks against each other to remove chunks of butter. You won’t really be able to see how well it’s going, so at some point, get your hands in there to check for errant lumps of butter. Washing your hands with cold water is good too—the less you warm the dough before it goes in the oven, the better.

Kneading the dough. I did add the entire 1/2 cup of half & half, and it must have been a little too much. The dough was fiercely sticky. So in addition to flouring the work surface and my hands, I sprinkled a little more flour onto the dough as I worked it. Gradually, that did the trick. I’m not a big baker, as you know if you read me even semi-regularly, but scones seem to be quite forgiving, I’m happy to report.


{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Natanya December 30, 2009 at 2:31 pm

Scones are such a nice breakfast option and a great break from the usual. They also travel well so they are nice to take to friends or to the office. I hadn’t thought of hazelnuts before for scones, but I could see where they would be lovely, particularly with the lemon. What a comforting recipe.

altadenahiker December 30, 2009 at 3:31 pm

I had better skip this and go straight to the clemmies. I’m following the Mark Bittman routine of eating nothing but fresh fruit and vegetables until the sun goes down. Then the sky’s the limit.

joe allen December 30, 2009 at 8:38 pm

Instead of milk and butter, Patan ghee can be used for the better taste and the better fragrance…

Terry B December 30, 2009 at 11:13 pm

Natanya—You’re right, they do travel well. These actually came out of the oven around 10:30 last night, so one traveled with me to the office for an afternoon snack today. It heated up nicely in the microwave.

Altadenahiker—Bittman said he’s dropped about 15 pounds doing what he calls “vegan before six” and gotten cholesterol and other problems under control. He also eats grains, I understand. Personally, though, I would be ravenous without animal protein all day long.

Thanks for stopping by, Joe Allen! The Patan ghee sounds like an interesting variation.

ellen December 31, 2009 at 3:54 am

My WASPY husband loves scones. Can’t wait to take a crack at this recipe!

Dani H December 31, 2009 at 5:11 am

I love when you bake, Terry. And I love this plate – very English tea time. I’ve never made scones with nuts, but it sounds like a wonderful idea. My family does brunch quite often so we will definitely be trying these.

Terry B December 31, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Ellen—I tend to think of scones as more Brit than WASP. But maybe the whole anglophile thing in America is just a sign of latent WASPiness.

Thanks, Dani. I bake infrequently, as you know, but I’m finding myself more intrigued and less intimidated by the whole process these days. Especially when there are simple recipes like this.

Toni December 31, 2009 at 4:03 pm

Oh Terry, if you’re going to bake, scones are such a perfect thing to do! I have a ginger lemon scone that’s been my go-to for scones, but I adore hazelnuts. I should probably make some of each, as they seem to disappear so quickly!

And I adore your photo….That plate is perfect! Very High Tea…

Madame Fromage December 31, 2009 at 7:00 pm

Mmmmm…these look superb. I love all the detail for perfecting these, too. Can’t wait to try them. Happy New Year!

Terry B December 31, 2009 at 11:31 pm

Thanks, Toni! It really is a lovely plate, isn’t it? It felt so perfectly British for this shot.

Happy new year to you too, Madame Fromage! I’m so glad I found your wonderfully cheesy blog.

katrina January 1, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Oh, what an enticing new scone recipe – lemon AND hazelnuts! I’m mad about scones, so you made the first brand new day of the brand new year a happy one!

kitty January 2, 2010 at 3:25 am

I love scones and used to make them all the time. I brought them into the office where my boss would call them ‘sconces’ (light fixtures) by mistake, lol.

They are great to make because you can do it virtually in one pot, and only need a cookie sheet. Happy 2010, Terry! I look forward to a year full of scrumptious recipes from you.

Jason Sandeman January 3, 2010 at 1:46 pm

I love the scones you present here, as they are in line with what is in season. Better yet, I have a meyer lemon on my tree that is dying to see use, perhaps this would be nice.
Another thing I have seen is the use of tangerine/clementine peel, dried. I wonder if that would be a nice dimension for the scone as well?

Terry B January 3, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Happy new year, Katrina!

Kitty—And what readers here may not know about your boss’s faux pas is that you work in an architecture or design firm, making it that much funnier.

Thanks, Jason! The tangerine or clementine peel sounds like a good idea. So does orange zest, I think, and there’s no drying involved.

Melissa January 3, 2010 at 3:41 pm

I absolutely love scones. And it is so hard to find a good one in Chicago, that I am apt to just make them myself. You say you are not a baker, but you took on the scone recipe. That sounds very brave to me, as it is so hard to get the texture right. They look amazing. The perfect breakfast pastry. Thanks Terry.

Terry B January 3, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Thanks, Melissa! To me, scones are a sort of rustic baked good—unlike beautiful cakes, for instance, that have to look pretty as well as taste good. So they’re less intimidating that way. Also, there’s no yeast and rising and pounding down and rising again. So far, that’s been a deal breaker for me and baking. Maybe this year I’ll get over myself and give a simple bread a try.

zpc January 5, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Mmmmm, scones. I like cheese scones with butter – none of yer southern clotted cream nonsense here, thanks – but my husband likes sweet scones. My favourite was a kind of compromise – blue cheese & cranberry sauce for flavourings. But lemon, now that’s an unusual idea – although I’ll probably just work the flavourings into my standard dough, I have to admit!

(PS: “British, even though scones originated in Scotland” – well, a Scottish name would sound British, by definition. 😛 Are you acquainted with Scone-the-place & the saga of the Stone? It’s quite interesting, if you’re into that kind of thing.)

(PPS: Can you enlighten me, what the difference is between scones & US-biscuits? ‘Cause I have yet to find anyone who knows what both are, & as you say, they look pretty similar…)

Terry B January 5, 2010 at 5:53 pm

What an entertaining comment, zpc! First, how funny to hear “none of yer southern…” applied to the UK and not the US. Regarding the Scottish/British question, scones first appeared in the early 1500s, and the Kingdom of Scotland was an independent sovereign state until 1707. Hence the separation of scone and state. Regarding biscuits and scones, there are probably more similarities than differences. But scones tend to be richer, often using cream instead of the milk or buttermilk used in biscuits. Also, they’re usually served with tea or for dessert, while biscuits are most often a side bread for breakfast or dinner. And finally, in my admittedly limited experience with scones, they are more likely to be sweetened or flavored than much more straightforward biscuits.

zpc January 5, 2010 at 8:02 pm

Oh, yeah, we have a north-south divide – although of course it’s on different lines; I don’t think anybody here puts coffee in gravy. 😛 And having no convenient state lines to draw upon, we have to resort to other means to trying to determine where the border is – the scon/scone pronunciation difference, coincidentally, being one of them 😀

(‘scuse my grumpiness, there; I think my hindbrain suspected I was seeing that all-too-frequent gloss of ‘british’ for ‘english’)

…y’know, I’m now fairly sure they’re about the same thing, at least as I make ’em – my scone recipe is self-raising flour, eggs, and a little oil, plus flavourings, I love it for its simplicity – and I’ve used them for just about every meal of the day – including as dumplings in a casserole – a desperation move (my suet dumplings bear some resemblance to bricks) but it works.

Erika from The Pastry Chef At Home January 5, 2010 at 10:03 pm

Hi Terry!

Your scones look and sound mmm mmm good (but not in the crappy Campbell’s soup kind of way). Lemon and hazelnut is an unusual (for most people) but great combination. I always have to correct my scone prononciation when I visit the UK! Happy New Year!

Terry B January 5, 2010 at 10:16 pm

zpc—Your scone recipe sounds like a nice, straightforward approach.

Thanks for dropping by, Erika! And for introducing me to your blog and your beautiful scones.

Nadia January 6, 2010 at 1:07 am

Love your picture of the scones on the blue china! Beautiful! I love how you’ve added kitchen notes, a great addition that most certainly helps us :).

Debi January 26, 2010 at 10:24 pm

These look great. I haven’t made scones in a long time- thanks for the reminder. I might try adding some rosemary to them as well. mmmm…

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