An Easy Way to Shape Scones: bake first, shape after

Are you someone who blanches at the sight of a rolling pin?

Do you shy away from any baking that’s more involved than “mix – plop onto a pan – bake”?

Sure, we all take up the baking gauntlet at some point, challenging ourselves to make laminated dough for croissants, or to shape a perfect fougasse.

But often – well, there’s simply no time for fussing or fancying; we just need to get something yummy in and out of the oven FAST. (Soccer moms remembering the forgotten team potluck, I hear you.)

When you’re looking for a breakfast treat that’s not nearly as time-consuming as those tricky croissants, yet’s still a bit more special than muffins, I recommend scones – highly.

I bake after-Mass treats for my fellow parishioners at Our Lady of Hope in West Barnstable, MA one Sunday a month. And there’s absolutely no question, among the doughnuts, coffee cake, muffins, quick breads, and other breakfast pastries, which treat disappears first.

Yup, it’s the scones. Amid comments of, “How do you make these so nice and moist? Mine always seem to come out dry…” And that’s the issue with many scones, particularly store-bought; they’re dry.

Truth be told, classic British scones are drier than ours; crumbly, rather than moist. In fact, the original Scottish scone was nothing more than oat or barley flour and water, dry-fried on a griddle.

But here in America, land of plenty, we like our scones packed with butter and milk and eggs and sugar. American scones are closer to cake than Scottish classic.

You can roll or pat your sweetened, butter- and egg-enriched dough into a big circle and carefully cut rounds. Or fashion smaller circles, and cut wedges.

AnEasyWayToShapeScones via @kingarthurflour

Maybe you even have a scone pan, and you divide your dough and pat it, piece by piece, into the wells of the pan.

However you do it, you end up with crusty scones, baked on all sides.

But let’s harken back to those original Scottish scones. Called “bannocks,” they were simply shaped into a large round and fried; not until afterwards were they cut apart, yielding wedge-shaped scones with SOFT sides, rather than baked sides.

For both ease of preparation and texture, let’s go back to that method, shall we?

AnEasyWayToShapeScones via @kingarthurflour

1. To shape scones, divide your dough into several large pieces.

How large should the pieces be? Here’s how I figure it: Add up the volume of flour + any solid add-ins (e.g., chocolate chips, nuts, raisins, diced fruit, coarsely grated cheese, etc.). Then divide the total into 1-cup portions for smaller, “tea-time” scones, about 3″ long. Divide the dough into 1 1/3-cup oportions for larger (4″), more substantial scones.

Stay with me here. Say you’re making scones using 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 cup raisins, and 1/2 cup walnuts. That equals 4 cups of “solid stuff” (as opposed to milk, eggs, baking powder, etc.) Four pieces of dough will give you smaller scones; three pieces, somewhat larger.

However you manage it, shape each piece into a round 5″ to 6″ in diameter, and 3/4″ to 1″ thick.

Attention, worry-warts: this is neither rocket science nor brain surgery. Maybe your rounds are a bit larger, or somewhat smaller. Maybe they’re not quite 3/4″, or a touch over 1″ tall. No worries. Bake the scones and see how you like them. If they’re too large or too small, make a note to yourself and divide the dough differently next time.

AnEasyWayToShapeScones via @kingarthurflour

2. Brush the rounds with milk or cream, and top them with sugar.

I’m making two types of scone here: Fresh Apple Cinnamon, sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar; and Chocolate Chip, topped with coarse white sparkling sugar.

AnEasyWayToShapeScones via @kingarthurflour

3. Bake the scones.

Stick a toothpick into the very center to assess if they’re done. If the toothpick emerges clean, or with a very few moist crumbs, they’re ready. If the pick sports a thin sheen of raw batter/dough, let them bake a bit longer. If they seem to be browning too much for your taste, tent them with aluminum foil.

AnEasyWayToShapeScones via @kingarthurflour

4. Remove the baked scones from the oven, and cut them up.

A sharp knife, pizza wheel, or bench knife makes quick work of this task.

There’s a sweet spot as far as timing the cut; make scones this way often enough, and you’ll discover it. Too hot, and the scones tend to crumble around the edges. Too cool, same thing: they crumble at the edge. Just right – warm, but not piping hot – you can slice through scones with minimal crumbling.

I like to wait 2 to 3 minutes after removing scones from the oven before cutting them up.

AnEasyWayToShapeScones via @kingarthurflour

Look at those chocolate chips! You wouldn’t get that tantalizing meltiness in scones that were individually shaped before baking.

EasyWayToShapeScones-1

And here’s the finished product: one uncut round, surrounded by an assortment of ready-to-serve treats.

OK, some of them aren’t the most gorgeous examples of sconedom you’ve ever seen. But they’re moist and tender, and the same thing that might make them problematic to cut into perfectly shaped wedges – lots of chips, fruit, nuts, etc. – makes them all the more taste-tempting.

AnEasyWayToShapeScones via @kingarthurflour

Hint: Unexpected visitors? Frozen scone dough to the rescue.

Your best friend from college calls mid-morning on a Sunday. She and her family just happen to be in the area for the weekend and are wondering if they could drop by.

Don’t panic! You can have fresh, hot scones on the table within 30 minutes.

Let’s go back to that unbaked scone dough. After you’ve shaped the dough into rounds and placed the rounds on a pan, put the pan in the freezer. Once the dough rounds are frozen solid, wrap them securely in plastic, and store them in the freezer for up to a couple of months.

When you need fresh-baked scones, just pull however many rounds you need out of the freezer, plop them onto a pan, and bake. Frozen scones need 5 to 10 minutes more baking time than the recipe calls for (if the recipe doesn’t call for freezing).

Cut. Serve. Bask in the glow of compliments.

Want to make the scones you see here? Check out our recipes for Fresh Apple Cinnamon Scones, and Chocolate Chip Scones.

And please share any scone tips you have in “comments,” below. Let’s learn from one another!

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Robin

    I do the same with biscuits, shape the whole thing into one big round, bake for about 3/4 of the time, cut into wedges and finish baking. There’s no rolling so they stay tender.

    Reply
  2. Kalisa

    Interesting approach to baking scones! The KAF apple cinnamon scones are my standby (so easy because I don’t have to go buy cream) and I noticed the suggestion that you cut the scones, then keep them close together as they bake. I guess this is just the progression of that method.

    This is also great for scones with mix ins because they won’t burn or stick out of the scones like they do when cut before baking.

    Reply
  3. Rachael

    I do something similar to this, but I half-cut the rounds before I bake them. They still bake as a single round (and thus stay moist), but they easily break apart once they are cool. Thanks for the unbaked-scone-in-the-freezer idea–I’m definitely going to try that!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thank you also for the “half-cut the rounds before baking” tip. I am going to try the process this weekend. Love it when customers have great ideas that they past on to us!! We have the BEST CUSTOMERS EVER!! JoAnn@KAF

  4. Ricardo Neves Gonzalez - Petrópolis, RJ - BRAZIL

    Scones are not common at Brazil.
    But i must confess that i love them a lot! Specially savory salty ones! Talking not only about scones, but even biscuits and cookies i want suggest a test kitchen with the effects of the addition of baking soda, baking powder and both combined in the results of ready biscuits, cookies and scones. I sometimes feel confused about when and why to use these leaveners when baking these treats, and the differences at final results we get, whit each way we follow!
    Sometimes i see recipes asking for cookies with only baking soda, sometimes baking soda and baking powder, what´s really the best to choose?
    Nice post!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Thanks for your kind comments, Ricardo – as always! Baking soda and baking powder (which is baking soda + an acid, for activation) are used based on the remaining ingredients in the recipe. Baking soda is often the choice in a recipe with acidic ingredients, since the acid is needed to react with the baking soda’s base – which results in gases which leaven whatever you’re baking. So you can’t just choose whichever you want; your best bet is to follow what the recipe says, understanding that baking soda is more often used in the presence of acidic ingredients, while baking powder is less “fussy” about the other ingredients around it. PJH

  5. bakeraunt

    I have tried to freeze scones and then bake them with no success. The butter melted out the bottom, and the bottom of the scones burned. The recipe was the KAF Eggnog Scones. I initially blamed it on the oven at the place where we were staying, but I had the same result with our own oven. I posted about it on the KAF Baking Circle. Almost everyone else said that they freeze scones with no problems, although one other person had the same experience as I did. I would particularly love to be able to freeze the KAF apple scones, as they are only at their best hot from the oven. Any suggestions on how I can make this work?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      I’m puzzled as to why this might be happening. I’d say try freezing the apple scones; they’re one of my go-to scones, and I always have some in the freezer, ready to go. I’ve never had an issue with them leaking or burning. Might just be that eggnog recipe? Good luck – PJH

    1. Linda Leonard Hughes

      It is possible to use Gluten Free flour and just about any type that is now being sold in the grocery stores. I have even used coconut flour mixed with equal amounts of King Arthur flour. Experiment and come up with all sorts of great ideas!

  6. Noreen

    I pat mine into rounds, cut into wedges (8 pieces) but don’t move the wedges, I just leave them together. I bake and let cool. I just break the wedges apart later. The trick after is to first break in half and then each wedge. I just made some last night for my daughter’s birthday tea party.

    Reply
  7. Cat

    Interesting about your take on the Scottish history of scones – what you’re describing as a scone is more of a bannock, an unleavened oat-based thing that’s fairly uninspiring!

    A guid Scots scone (pronounced sconn as in con, not skone as in bone) is the lightest of creatures, a simple mix of flour, milk, sugar and a leavening agent, barely pulled together by hand into a mound or wee mounds, and baked briefly in a hot oven. No butter, no eggs, no funky fillers except perhaps currants if you’re very fancy.

    My only nod to modern life is to make them with buttermilk!

    These simple scones might not suit American church groups, I fear, but they are an essential part of afternoon tea, spread with butter and fresh bramble jelly in Scotland. 🙂

    PS you do know that the Scots invented the croissant, I hope. We call them butteries.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for sharing this delightful description of true Scottish scones, Cat! Barb@KAF

    2. Martha

      It has always been my understanding that the croissant was first baked by the Austrians to celebrate their victory over the Turks, hence the crescent.
      I do agree that the proper pronunciation is “sconn”. My mother and half her siblings were born in Glascow by way of County Antrim. They always said sconn.

  8. Jim Beard

    Why mess about? English tea-time scones are so simple. Make the dough, pat (not roll) onto the board about 3/4″ deep. Cut out with a circular cutter. Mine is a 2 1/2″ but depends on your preference and bake. My dough is fairly soft but not wet. It gives a soft moist scone, perfect with cream and strawberry jam.

    Reply
  9. Linda

    Like Noreen, I also pat out my scone mix in a round like a pie shape (do this on parchment paper) and cut into wedges, but don’t separate. Comes out very soft and tasty. I’ve also just made them like a drop biscuit – slightly crunch on the outside but soft on inside. Love raspberry scones. Humm, think I might just have to make some now!

    Reply
  10. Janice

    I use to bake scones 2 or three times a week, filled with coconut flakes, chopped candied ginger, walnuts and what ever else fell into the bowl. I called them pocket food that kept me going gardening. But, I became gluten intolerant with this habit and have only had scones 3 times in the last 4 years, made with gf flour. My kids grew up thinking I baked something everyday, pies were my specialty. The fun is missing from it now even though I have a cupboard of various gf options. Scones are the best

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Janice, your children are certainly lucky to have enjoyed so many homemade baked goods when they were growing up! I’m sorry you’re missing the fun of baking now that you’re gluten-free. The baking process is certainly a bit different, but we do have some wonderful gluten-free mixes and recipes to choose from. It might be worth giving some of those options in your cupboard another try! Barb@KAF

  11. Eileen

    We have a cottage bakery and when we make scones for the farmers markets we attend we scoop them out with a disher, flatten them slightly with a flat glass dipped in sugar them brush with milk and top with the sparkling sugar. We sell out of them quickly no matter what flavor they are.

    Reply
    1. Kathy McGee

      Good idea! I believe this is the method I wil try. Never made scones before. Everyone has inspired me to give it a try.

    2. Lynne

      Actually, an ice cream scoop is a disher!

      A disher is a calibrated scoop, that when level full, “dishes out” an exact measure, based on what fraction of a quart it dispenses, e.g. a #12 dishes out 1/12 of a quart which equals 1/3 cup. Useful for when you need quick, accurate portion control. They come in many sizes, from #100 (about 2 tsp) up to #4 (1 cup).

    3. 747Madison

      I use an ice cream scoop for scones. Several different sizes of scoops, great for cookies also. I like my cookies petite and all the same size looks great on trays and allows people to try a variety without wasting.

  12. Pat

    I use King Arthur scone mix and have also made scones from scratch. I used to make them in a circle and got 8 scones per batch until I decided to use an ice-cream scoop. I have a 2 1/2 inch scoop and use it all the time now and manage to get 12 scones from the mix. They always turn out nice and tender. I start by putting the mix in my food processor and add the cold butter; that is the secret and then put the batter in a bowl and add the liquid ingredients and fold in with a fork just until blended. I have neve had a failure.

    Reply
    1. mlaiuppa

      I freeze the butter. Then I grate it on a grater using the largest holes. This allows me to avoid having to cut it in and makes the butter much more uniform.

  13. Barbara

    I am a beginner Scone baker. One of mh recipes had me freeze the Blackberries in the freezer for about 1 hr. My Berries were whole maybe one or two were mashed when I served them. I have a problem mixing the butter & the flour with my fingers it takes a long, long time before the dough is like grain

    Would like to have some of your reipes that I can print out.l Thank you,

    Reply
  14. Barbara Mitzel

    I make a simple scone recipe and add the jammie bits with great success. Sometimes I want to stretch the recipe so I just use an large ice cream scoup and then bake. I have made these the night before and refrigerated or froze them until needed. My neighbors and family love them.

    Reply
  15. peggy mccarthy

    I use my 8″ round cast iron pan for my simple scone recipe but cut them before baking into 16 pieces with a knife that is floured and they always come out great. Of course, you can cut them whatever size you like. I top with an orange glaze. P.J. Hamel, your recipes are helpful and enjoyable and the other bakers’ comments are more useful than a cook book could ever be.

    Reply
  16. Amy

    I have a scone recipe from a book called “Flat Belly Diet” that uses white whole wheat flour.. The dough is filled with cranberries & pecans (for monounsaturated fats, supposed to be the key to the “diet”). The instructions are to put the dough into your 8″ round cake pan and “score” the dough into 8 triangles before baking. It’s very similar to Peggy’s suggestion above, about using an 8″ skillet, I suppose. The dough is relatively dry, so the scones stay separate in the oven despite being baked right together in the pan. I like the idea of using a scoop, or disher, though. The points of the triangles get a little thin when you try to divide a circle into more than 8 pieces! Will try some of the other methods people wrote in comments above, and some KAF recipes, soon!

    Reply
  17. Joyce

    Thanks for the info. I never thought to flatten the scones. Will do this today. Making strawberries and cream ones.

    Reply
  18. Joanna

    Maybe this is a good place to ask. I was introduced to scones in high school by my friend’s Scottish mother. However, instead of baking them, she made them into little rounds and then fried them on her round griddle. They were perfection and I’ll never forget that they made the best munchies ever.

    Anyway, is there a different name for these? She called them scones so that’s what I knew them as but they were not very American biscuity at all, not fluffy, more flakey and buttery.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The scones of your memory may be Welch cakes or griddle scones. The dough is very similar to scones, with currants, raisins or Sultanas and baked on a cast iron griddle (originally over the fire!). Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  19. Julia Gaczol

    Betty Crocker’s website recipe, Gold Medal Classic Scones has you shape the dough into an eight inch
    round. Then you cut it into eight wedges, but do not separate, until after baking.

    Reply
  20. Dianne

    I was privileged to attend an event featuring a former personal assistant to Queen Elizabeth, in which he told some fascinating stories about the queen and also instructed on how to do a ‘proper tea’. Later he served tea food and his scones were round, and apparently this is the norm.

    Reply
  21. Karen Howell

    Scones I had in Great Britain were not wedge shaped–they were round. Let’s not talk about clotted cream and strawberry preserves.

    So I scoop my scones with an ice cream scoop and drop them into a bowl of sugar mixed with spices. Then place on parchment paper sugar side up.

    Reply

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