The first memorable scone I had was at afternoon tea at the Four Seasons.
My coworkers had thrown me the most lovely wedding shower at our offices. It was an afternoon tea theme and they went all out, taking over not only a large conference room, but the lobby foyer as well to create the special event. This location was also a bit tricky since they had to keep me away from an entire side of the office building for fear I would ruin the surprise. It was quite grand by office shower standards; what else might you expect from teams of merchants, designers and product developers? They were very skilled at creating a vision and executing it beautifully. (I had such a great team!)
One of the gifts I received that day was a gift certificate for afternoon tea at the Four Seasons. My husband and I enjoyed that gift quite thoroughly one Valentine’s Day weekend as we sipped champagne, sampled exotic teas and nibbled on sandwiches and sweet treats. (I realize the word “nibble” creates this vision of restraint…and while we ended up taking quite a bit home with us, I will admit that neither of us was hungry again until the following day.) I remember the scones being buttery and tender. They were so good with the Devonshire cream and lemon curd that was served with them. I asked if I could get the recipe, but to no avail. And thus the search for the perfect scone recipe commenced.
Scones started to gain quite a bit of popularity in the following years and everyone seemed to have their own favorite coffee shop scone. Many complained about dry scones, which I’ve luckily been able to avoid most of the time. I came to love a dense, buttery scone and my favorite, easily accessible scone, was Panera’s cinnamon scone. I had tried many scone recipes and most of them were quite good, but none had that dense, almost shortbread like richness that was tender and melted in your mouth. Many of them were more fluffy…still good, but to me, more like a biscuit and less like the scone I was after. I kept searching the internet and my cookbook library for a “dense buttery scone.” None of them were dense enough…and while dense is hardly a pretty word to describe a scone, it was the best description I could offer.
What I learned is that I was looking for a “short scone” or a scone that had a higher ratio of butter to flour (I suppose that’s why shortbread is named as it is.) The short scone recipes I found were good, but not “short” enough for me :)
It took two years of research and trials (it takes that long because you can only make, eat and give away so many scones in a given time frame before everyone involved starts rebelling, so pacing is necessary…) before I came up with what is now my favorite short scone recipe. I tried different milks, different ratios of liquid, with an egg and without, with just an egg yolk and with different ratios of butter to flour. I’m glad I finally figured it out because Panera has changed their cinnamon scone recipe and drenched it in a heavy dose of sugary glaze. I’m not fond of the new scone, but I’ve heard it’s selling 10 times better than the original, so I don’t expect it will ever switch back. But this recipe, yes these are currently My Favorite Cinnamon Scones.
Because I love scones so much, I will be sharing other favorite scone recipes in the future. But this is the one I labored over (and will likely still continue to tweak.) It’s buttery and tender and decadent and rich and worthy of a fancy afternoon tea.
It’s been more than a few years since I had that scone at the Four Seasons. I need to get back to see if
their scone still measures up ;)
My Favorite Cinnamon Scones
- 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1/3 cup sugar or up to 1/2 cup if you like a sweeter scone
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 10 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces
- 1/2 cup cinnamon chips
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup or more of heavy cream
- additonal heavy cream for brushing and cinnamon for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
Cut in butter with a pastry cutter, two knives or you can rub the butter in with your fingertips, until the mixture is crumbly and you have varied size butter chunks no larger than peas.
Stir in cinnamon chips.
Crack an egg in a glass measuring cup then add cream until you reach 1/2 cup. Mix with a fork until well blended.
Make a well in the center of flour mixture and pour in the egg/cream mixture. Toss gently with a fork until you've distributed the liquid well and mixture begins to hold together a bit. Your mixture is going to seem to be too dry, but try to resist adding more liquid. Your scones will not hold shape with too much liquid.
Use your hands to knead the mixture in the bowl until it comes together. This may take a couple of minutes, but as you work the butter and cream mixture, it will begin to come together. You don't want to melt the butter, so if you have hot hands, try using a large spoon or a spatula to fold the mixture onto itself in between using your hands.
Once the dough comes together with no crumbs, on a lightly floured surface, pat the dough into a large square or circle about 1" thick.
If you find your dough has gotten too soft from handling, you can put the bowl back in the refrigerator before you shape it so that the butter can get firm again, or roll, cut and place on the cookie sheet, then slide it into the refrigerator or freezer for 10 -20 minutes.
Using a floured sharp knife, cut into 8 triangles, wedges or your desired scone shape and place on an ungreased baking sheet leaving 1-2" of space between for spreading.
Brush with additional cream. Sprinkle with raw sugar and cinnamon.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden on the edges. Allow to cool and set up for a few minutes on the baking sheet, then remove to a rack to finish cooling.
*I use King Arthur Flour cinnamon chips because they have no trans fats and I think they have the best flavor. I also love using their cinnamon flav-r-bites for a more intense burst of cinnamon flavor.
*Store baked scones covered at room temperature, but not air tight. Because of the high butter ratio, these will still be good the next day or even two.
*They can be reheated in a toaster oven to bring back a bit of the crisp edges, if desired.
*You can also freeze them after you cut and separate them on a tray, then put them in a zipped freezer bag to bake at a future time. Just add a couple of minutes to the baking time.
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