How to Make Scones
My Dad has been baking scones for as long as I can remember. He makes them super moist and full of nuts, fruit and chocolate chips. His scones are dense yet cakey, which is the perfect scone texture in my opinion. So after we visited the Helvetia Lavender Farm this summer, I thought I’d use some of the dried lavender flowers in my own batch of scones. These lemon lavender scones are soft with tons of layers from the butter. The light floral flavor from the lavender is balanced by the zing from my Dad’s recipe for lemon glaze. I’m telling you, these were all eaten up within a few hours, so I need to make another batch soon!
What is the Secret to Making Good Scones?
If you’re ever made homemade pie crust before, you’ll know the importance of the temperature of butter. It is important to keep butter cold to ensure flakey layers of dough. When cold butter hits the hot oven, steam rises from the water within the butter. This steam causes the dough to rise and lift, resulting in beautiful delicious layers. This cold butter technique works in scones similar to how it works in pie crust. And if you’ve never had a scone, imagine a flaky biscuit with layers that are more cakey, dense, and even a little crumbly.
So the biggest secret to making great scones is to keep your butter cold. I recommend to cut your stick of butter into half-inch cubes, then refrigerate it again until you’re ready to incorporate it into the dry ingredients. And if you notice that the butter in your lavender scone dough is melting before it goes into the oven, feel free to refrigerate the dough for about 15 minutes, until the butter can cool and harden again. Taking the time to chill scone dough before baking it could save you from having the soft butter melt into a puddle of oily mess on your baking sheet. But if your butter is still hard, go ahead and pop your homemade scones right into the oven.
How Do You Make Scones More Moist?
Whenever my Dad and I grab coffee together, there’s often a scone or two on the table to share. Since my Dad is the scone master, it’s fun to try new scone flavors or recipes. But sometimes scones can be really dry and crumbly. If you sneeze, your whole scone just blows away in a cloud of dust. So how do you make scones moist and soft? Buttermilk. Milk and lemon juice are mixed together and left to curdle for about 10 minutes in order to make homemade buttermilk. The acidity from the lemon juice in buttermilk compared to regular milk helps break down gluten. This results in softer, more tender scones.
The acidity in buttermilk also reacts with the alkaline baking soda in this lavender scone recipe to help the dough rise. This creates a more airy, cakey texture.
Finally, the lemon juice added to create homemade buttermilk adds a bright lemony flavor to the scones. Lemon flavor is reminiscent of a light, summery vibe. So while the flavor doesn’t actually soften the scone dough, it adds a layer of zingy citrus to these delicious lemon lavender scones.
Last year I experimented with lavender-infused butter to make buttercream frosting. So when we picked a new harvest of lavender this summer, I was thrilled to be able to try something new! Lavender-infused sugar is much easier to make than lavender-infused butter. Instead of simmering and straining, all you have to do is crush sugar and dried lavender flowers together. I used a mortar and pestle, but you could use a food processor, coffee grinder, or even a heavy-bottom glass on a cutting board.
As the lavender is ground with sugar, the floral aroma of the flowers are released. It smells like a summer dream! You could make extra and use it to sweeten drinks or other baked treats.
How to Make Lemon Lavender Scones
All right, so your cubed butter is cold and hard in the fridge, like we talked about above. And your lavender-infused sugar is bursting with its intoxicating floral aroma. We’re off to a great start! Next, whisk all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Then quickly add your cold cubed butter to the bowl and toss the cubes in the flour mixture. Use your index fingers and thumbs to squish and break up each butter cube. For the best flaky scones, I recommend to stop squishing and tossing your butter once it looks like really thick cornflakes. The larger the butter pieces, the more flaky layers you’ll get. If your butter is in small pieces like the size of peas (or even smaller) then you’ll get more crumbly scones.
Lemon Glaze for Scones
Ready for the secret ingredient to make the best lemon glaze? A pinch of salt. That’s right, this sweet and citrusy glaze gets a pinch of salt thrown in. Salt brings out the flavors of everything else in the glaze, so the bright, summer lemon flavor is intensified. Plus, while we’re adding freshly squeezed lemon juice we may as well add the zest of that lemon as well. The lemon glaze on its own is a bit tart, but it perfectly balances the sweet lavender scones once it’s drizzled on top.
I hope all the science behind the baking techniques that I shared in this post help you to create the best moist scones on the planet. If you’re looking for substitutions for this lemon lavender scone recipe, here are a few I would suggest.
You can substitute the milk or non-dairy milk + lemon juice with store bought buttermilk. But the added lemon juice adds that citrus layer to balance the sweet glaze and scone dough with the floral lavender.
If you’re vegan, the only ingredient you’d need to substitute to make these scones vegan would be the butter. My friend Eva made delicious vegan mango scones with cold coconut oil years ago that I still make every so often.
Just note that while butter is around 18% water, coconut oil has 0% water. Therefore there’s no water in the oil to steam and evaporate, so your vegan scones will be a bit more dry and crumbly. But by adding fruit like fresh mango, you can add moisture back in, making your scones 100% delicious.
- Lemon Juice
Please please please do not use the jars of lemon juice from the store. There are all kinds of additives and preservatives in those bottles that I think give a weird chemical taste to your deliciously moist scones.
If you don’t have lemons, you can make buttermilk by mixing milk with vinegar. And you can make glaze in any flavor. You could substitute another citrus like orange juice. Or use milk to thin the glaze and add your favorite spices like cinnamon or cocoa powder.
Lemon Lavender Scones
- ½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
- 1 scant cup milk or non-dairy milk
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 2 tsp dried lavender flowers
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- zest of 1 lemon
- pinch salt
- Cut the butter into ½-inch cubes, then return it to the fridge to stay cold and hard. In a small bowl or cup, combine the milk (or non-dairy milk) and one tablespoon of lemon juice. Allow this to sit and curdle and turn into buttermilk while you prepare the rest of the ingredients (at least 10 minutes).
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.
- Grind the lavender and sugar in a mortar and pestle, food processor or coffee grinder until the lavender is fragrant after about 30 seconds.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk the lavender and sugar with the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- Toss the cold butter cubes in the flour mixture. Use your index finger and your thumb to squish and flatten the butter cubes. Continue tossing and squishing until the butter looks like thick cornflakes.
- Add your buttermilk (the milk + lemon juice) into the dry ingredients and mix with a spoon just until combined. You don't want to overmix the dough as this can cause your scones to lose their flaky, soft texture. Mix until the dough sticks together and no big pockets of dry flour remain.
- On a lightly floured work surface, tip the dough out of the bowl and shape it into a large flat round, about 1 to 1½ inches thick. Slice the dough round into 8 equal pieces, and transfer the pieces to your prepared baking sheet.
- Bake for 18 – 22 minutes, until the scones are golden.
- While the scones are baking, prepare the glaze. In a small bowl, mix the powdered sugar, two tablespoons lemon juice, lemon zest and pinch of salt.
- Once the scones come out of the oven, allow them to cool for 10 minutes, then drizzle the glaze on each scone. Enjoy!