Ponder this: A scone is not a biscuit. You can’t just fold dried fruit into biscuit dough, sprinkle it with sugar, and call me for tea. A scone has its own unique texture. It should lean toward crumbly, not flaky, and should be sturdy enough to travel (on your way to work, or maybe just to the couch) and handle a good smear of butter, jam, or clotted cream. But tenderness is still key. That paradox forces you to walk the line between fat and structure—that is, you don’t want to sacrifice one for the other. Most scones get cut into shapes before baking, meaning the dough has to be dry enough to cut and firm enough to transfer to your baking sheet while still in its raw state leading to generally dense, dry, fruit-filled pucks that need so much butter that things can get unhealthy.
In the past, I’ve tried countless things to combat the inherent dryness—bumping up the butter, adding a couple of egg yolks to the mix—but bearing the extra weight, the scones wobble and slump as the fat melts in the oven. Then, I had a brainstorm after eating a friend’s grandmother’s Irish soda bread. It had the texture of my ideal scone, a golden craggy top, and sliced like a dream. Why couldn’t bake one giant scone and cut it into appropriate sized pieces after?
I modeled this recipe on that one, baked it in one big round and cut it into the requisite triangles after it came out of the oven. Baking in large format means I can start with a richer dough without worrying about losing shape. And while vanity isn’t everything, texture is. The bigger scone bakes up lower and slower, giving the butter more time to melt and preserving its interior moisture without sacrificing its form.
Feel free to play around with the flavorings: golden raisins and fennel seed are my favorite but you could add chopped dried apricots and fresh rosemary, or currants and orange zest. You could go savory and add some cooked crumbled bacon and a bit of grated cheese or you could just leave it plain. Serve it with plenty of softened salted butter and a bit of jam. These are just as good the next day, split and toasted and spread with even more butter.
Photo by Dave King via Getty Images
3 cups all purpose flour
¼ cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups whole milk
How to Make It
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly coat with non-stick spray. In a large bowl, whisk all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add raisins and fennel seed and whisk to combine. Add butter and, using your fingers, work into the flour until mostly sandy with a few small pea-sized pieces of butter remaining.
Make a well in the flour mixture, add milk, and, using a fork, stir until evenly combined (dough will be sticky). Transfer the dough to prepared baking sheet and shape into a 8–9” circle. Use a sharp knife to cut an X on top of dough and sprinkle with a little more sugar (about 1 tablespoon). Bake until golden and scone sounds hollow when tapped with your finger, 45–50 minutes. Let cool slightly before cutting into wedges.