These lemon poppy seed scones are buttery, flaky and tender. Oh, and did I mention that they are full of tart lemon flavor, crunchy poppy seeds and a little ginger? For a long time, I thought scones were just okay. They were either too sweet or too dry or just kind of bland. After working on this recipe I think scones don't get the love that they deserve. When made right they are perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack and because the dough is sturdy different flavors that can be added to create wonderful taste combinations. To me, scones should be slightly sweet, flaky and moist. Adding butter or a fruit curd is a great addition, but you shouldn't have to add anything to have a great tasting scone.
The inspiration for this Lemon Poppy Seed Scone recipe and blog post started with a cooking class I took as part of the Tastemaker Conference in Portland, OR. Included in the menu were blueberry and lemon scones. They were the best scones I had had in a long time. They were tender, slightly crumbly, but not too sweet, and full of blueberries. Since it was a hands-on class I easily made note of the ingredients and in what order they were added. I didn't take notes, because we were getting the written recipes as part of the class.
A couple of weeks later I finally looked at the printed scone recipe and it was different than what we had done in class. I tried contacting the school about the proportions, but I didn't hear back. And then it was time for holiday baking. You know, pies, cakes, and Christmas cookies. So the project got delayed.
In January I was back on it, ready to recreate the scones from the class. First I tried a hybrid of the written recipe and what we had actually done in the class. The scone was flatter and make cake-like than what I remembered. My husband, my chief taste tester liked it, but I knew I wanted something different. I then went into research mode and discovered there are two types of scone. Those made without eggs and those made with eggs, also known as Devonshire scones. I tinkered with the recipe again but decided to do two versions back to back. One with eggs and one without. My husband liked the one with egg, my co-workers were kind of split. I preferred the one without eggs. I wanted a scone that was flaky and tender and the recipe with eggs made it more cake-like.
The next scone recipe version used heavy cream and butter. One of the best tips I learned from the cooking class was to use frozen butter and grate it into the dry ingredients. When it came time to knead the dough I treated it like biscuit dough and did a couple of folds to help create more layers. In the end, I ended up with a scone that is flaky, tender and moist.
How to Make a Delicious, Flaky Scone
The basic recipe for the scones is pretty easy. Butter and heavy cream are used to create a moist, rich and flaky scone. For my first post, I chose the combination of Lemon and Poppy Seeds. But you can easily try other flavor combinations. Here are some of my tips for a successful bake.
- Use cold ingredients. Use frozen butter and cold cream. Use a box grater to grate the butter directly in the dry ingredients.
- Don't add too much liquid. The recipe specifies the amount of liquid, but I add about two-thirds of it, mix the dough and then add more if needed to make the dough come together, without it being too wet. This is similar to how I make pie dough.
- Fold the dough. After kneading the dough, fold the dough two times to create layers when the scones are baked.
- Don't overwork the dough. Overworking the dough will cause gluten to develop which will result in a chewy scone. If the dough starts shrinking as you are rolling or patting it out, it means you have overworked the dough.
- Use a cake pan to shape the scones. In the recipe, I used an 8-inch round cake pan to shape the dough before cutting it into wedges. This step ensured that I did not spend a lot of time trying to shape the dough or risk overworking it.
I use an egg wash for this recipe but did not add a glaze after baking them. I decided to forgo the additional sugar because I love the buttery taste so much. If you want to add a glaze combine 1 cup of powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to create a simple glaze. Drizzle it over the scones after they have cooled slightly. These taste really good with a delicious with homemade lemon curd or strawberry jam.
Lemon Poppy Seed Scones
- 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest about 1 or 2 lemons
- 2 1/2 cups (354 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
- 8 tablespoons (114 grams) unsalted butter, frozen
- 1 1/2 cups (345 grams) heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- 1 (50 grams) large egg
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream or milk
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly butter an 8-inch round cake pan.
- Place the sugar in a large bowl and zest the lemon directly on top of the sugar. Use your fingers to rub the sugar and lemon zest together. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, ground ginger and poppy seeds to the bowl and whisk the ingredients together for about 30 seconds.
- Use a box grater to grate the frozen butter into the dry ingredients. Use your fingers to toss the butter and flour together. Measure the heavy cream into a 2-cup measuring cup. Add lemon juice and whisk to combine. Add the cream mixture to the dry ingredients and use a rubber spatula to mix the ingredients together until just blended and most of the flour is mixed in. The dough will look shaggy and there will still be some flour not mixed in.
- Dump the dough onto a work surface and the knead the dough to mix in the remaining flour. Form a square (approximately 8 x 8 inches). Fold the dough in half and use your hands to pat it into an 8 x 8 square. Fold the dough again in half. Place the dough into an 8-inch round cake pan and use your hands to pat the dough to the edges of the pan. Invert the dough back onto the working surface. You now have a perfect 8-inch circle. Cut the dough into 8 wedges.
- Place the scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Combine the egg and heavy cream and whisk together. Brush the tops of the scones with the egg wash. Bake for 23-27 minutes until the tops are golden brown and the scones have increased in height.
- Serve the scones warm with butter or lemon curd.