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.
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 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.