Scones get a seriously bad rap. People think they’re bland, dense, and/or crumbly. People think you can only enjoy them if you have a mug of coffee or tea with them. Branny told me that her husband thinks they taste like chalk. And these people aren’t completely wrong – some scones are pretty terrible. As for the whether they need to be accompanied by a hot drink, I happen to think that everything even a little sweet is better with coffee or tea. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy a cookie without coffee.
Like a lot of foods, you might have to make scones yourself to get good ones. I can’t personally attest to the scones at coffee shops, but if they’re on par with every other baked treat I’ve ordered from a national coffee shop chain, they’ll be stale and bland. Don’t judge scones based on this example.
Scones are similar to biscuits, although many scone recipes have eggs included, which is rare in biscuits. In both, the dry ingredients are mixed first, and cold butter is cut in, then cold liquid is gently stirred in. Compared to the last scone recipe I made, this one has less butter, but richer dairy (cream as opposed to yogurt + milk).
The cream changes the texture from flaky to melt-in-your-mouth tender. They’re sweet, but only slightly so, and studded by juicy, tart bits of rhubarb. There’s nothing bland, dense, crumbly, or chalky about these scones, and while I enjoyed mine with my Saturday cup of coffee, a hot drink is not required to appreciate these. If you think you don’t like scones, try these.
I only used 1½ cups (2 stalks) of rhubarb, but it wasn’t nearly enough. I would even err on the high side of 2 cups.
Update 5/8/2012 – While many people have had good results with this recipe, a few commenters have complained that their dough was too wet. This might have to do with imprecise volume measurements of flour, variability in rhubarb juiciness, or perhaps the size of the eggs used. Regardless, start with ½ cup of cream, then add more until the dough comes together but holds its shape. It might be sticky, but you should be able to pat it out with floured hands.
2½ cups (12 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar (3.5 ounces) plus 3 tablespoons
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
2 cups diced rhubarb (¼-inch cubes), about 3 stalks
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup heavy cream (see update)
1. Preheat oven to 400F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Adjust a baking rack to the middle position. In a small bowl, mix the rhubarb with 3 tablespoons sugar.
2. In a food processor, pulse the flour, ½ cup sugar, baking powder, and salt a few times, just to mix. Distribute the butter evenly over the dry ingredients and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer to a large bowl.
3. Stir the rhubarb into the flour mixture. Lightly beat the egg, yolk, and cream together in a bowl (use the same one you used for the rhubarb), then add this mixture to the flour mixture. Stir until just combined.
4. On a well-floured surface with floured hands, pat the dough into a 1-inch-thick round (about 8 inches in diameter). Using a 2-inch round cutter or rim of a glass dipped in flour, cut out as many rounds as possible, rerolling scraps as necessary. Arrange rounds about 1 inch apart on baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until pale golden. Transfer the scones to a cooling rack and let them cool slightly before serving.