These ham and cheese sourdough scones are light and flaky with crispy crumbly edges and are filled with pockets of salty ham, gooey cheese, and sharp green onions.
They are a perfect way to use up leftover holiday ham and excess sourdough discard.
Pair these scones with a cup of coffee or tea, an egg or two, and a bowl of fruit for a perfectly delicious breakfast.
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What are scones?
Scones are a type of quick bread. This means scones can be made and baked quickly using chemical leavening instead of yeast to help them rise.
Scones are very similar to biscuits in the ingredients they include and the techniques used to make them. They typically have fruit or other add-ins mixed in.
Scones are crumbly and golden brown on the outside with a soft center. Like a cross between a biscuit and a muffin.
Really love scones? Try one of these.
What is sourdough?
Sourdough is a leavening method typically used for sourdough bread. Sourdough relies on the naturally occurring yeast and bacteria in flour to leaven baked goods.
If you’re feeling nervous about starting your sourdough journey and wish you had someone to walk you through the process step by step, I recommend this free course from Heather at Leavenly.com. Her course titled Trouble-Free Sourdough Starter will give you 10 Days of written step-by-step easy-to-follow instructions to help you create your sourdough starter from scratch.
As you get to know your starter you can adjust your process to suit your routine. Because I wanted to reduce the amount of discard I generate I have actually converted my starter to a micro starter which you can read more about at Cooks Illustrated.
What is sourdough discard?
Sourdough discard is the part of your sourdough starter that you usually throw away when you feed it. I feel guilty about throwing away food and am always looking for ways to reduce food waste.
Sourdough discard adds tons of incredible flavor to baked goods. The lactic acid bacteria found in sourdough discard adds flavor and tenderizes wheat proteins.
This recipe can use sourdough discarded from any step in the sourdough starter process. It can be bubbly and freshly fed, dormant from sitting in your refrigerator, or anywhere in between. It also doesn’t matter what type of flour your starter has been fed with. All-purpose, whole wheat, or any variety of flour will work.
Sourdough Tip: Keep a glass jar in your refrigerator to store your sourdough discard. Continue adding to it until you have enough to make your chosen sourdough discard recipe.
If you are looking for more simple ways to use your sourdough discard, try these sourdough crackers, some sourdough flatbread, sourdough oatmeal pancakes, or this sourdough snickerdoodle cookie recipe.
Flour: Nothing special here regular all-purpose flour will work perfectly.
Granulated Sugar: Just a little sugar is necessary to help with browning.
Baking Powder and Baking Soda: Both baking powder and baking soda give the scones lift making them light and flakey rather than thick and dense.
Salt: I add at least a pinch of salt to all of my dessert recipes. Salt complements and intensifies the other flavors. For all of my recipes, I use Morton Kosher Salt which is saltier than Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt. If you are using Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt you will want to double the amount of salt you add.
Ground Mustard Powder
Unsalted Butter: For flaky scones, you will want to make sure the butter is chilled. Keeping the scone dough as cold as possible prevents over-spreading and preserves the scone’s flakiness.
Ham: You can use lunch meat or leftover holiday ham. They even sell already cubbed ham in most grocery store meat departments. Although you may need to chop it smaller. Crumbled bacon would also be a delicious substitution.
Cheese: Shredded cheese can get lost in a scone. I prefer to use diced cheese in my scones so that there are pockets of melted cheese throughout the scone. There are several types of cheese that would work well. Try using cheddar, swiss, or gouda.
Green Onions: Green onions offer a sharp crisp contrast to the rich scone.
Sourdough Discard: Different starters can have different consistencies depending upon their age. The viscosity of your sourdough discard will affect how much heavy cream you add.
Heavy Cream: The amount of cream will vary based on how liquid or thick your sourdough starter is. Drizzle in just enough cream until the dough becomes cohesive.
Egg: The addition of an egg is nontraditional. But I think it adds richness and creates a lighter less dense scone. The additional fat will also help stop the scones from drying out.
White Vinegar: Vinegar reacts with the baking soda giving the scones an extra bit of lift.
Kitchen scale: Kitchen scales make baking faster and neater. Accuracy matters in baking. Scales are more precise than measuring cups. Too much flour or not enough sugar can dramatically change a recipe. The most accurate way to bake is to measure your ingredients by weight rather than volume.
A kitchen scale also reduces the number of dishes you will need to wash because you are measuring each ingredient directly from the container into the mixing bowl without the use of measuring cups.
This scale from OXO is the one I use after it was recommended by Alton Brown. What makes this scale great is the display pulls out to make viewing measurements easier when using a large bowl.
You could cut the butter into the dry ingredients using a pastry blender, but I prefer to use a food processor. It is much faster and creates a finer more even mixture. Just be careful to not overwork the dough.
Mixing Bowls: These are some of my favorite mixing bowls. They come in a huge range of sizes, nest together for easy storage, and are easy to clean.
Pastry Brush: I am partial to silicone pastry brushes because they are heat resistant and dishwasher safe. I like them over bristled brushes because I don’t have to worry about them leaving stray bristles behind.
Mix the dry ingredients together. Add the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, kosher salt, baking soda, and mustard powder to the bowl of your food processor.
Cut in the cold butter. Cut the butter into 4 pieces and add it to the food processor. Pulse a few times to chop and incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients. Continue processing until the butter pieces are the size of peas.
Add the mix-ins. Fold the ham, cheese, green onions, and garlic into the dry ingredients.
Add the sourdough discard, egg, and vinegar to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
Slowly stir in the heavy cream as you stir the dough together. The amount of cream will vary based on how liquid or thick your sourdough starter is. Drizzle in just enough cream until the dough becomes cohesive.
Squeeze the dough, when it holds together with no crumbs left in the bottom of the bowl, you’ve added enough cream.
Knead and shape the dough. Pour the dough onto the counter and lightly flour it. Knead the dough a few times until it begins to come together and smoothes out a bit. Flatten the dough and fold it into thirds like you would a letter. Give the dough a quarter turn and repeat this flattening and folding process two more times.
By folding the dough you will literally be creating layers of flour and butter, creating flakey layers, and encouraging the scones to rise. The dough will be a bit sticky, do not add extra flour. The moist dough gives the scones a soft texture and helps them to rise.
Pat into a disc approximately 1 inch thick and cut into eight wedges using a sharp knife or use a circle biscuit cutter to cut out about 10 scones.
I think cutting scones into circles looks nicer but you will always have at least one wonky-looking scone that is made by mashing all of the scraps together. Cutting scones into wedges is easier and has the added bonus of not creating any scraps. How you choose to cut your scones is up to you.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Transfer the scones to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. To prevent the scones from spreading chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Brush tops with heavy cream. Brushing with heavy creams will encourage browning.
Bake until golden brown. Bake for 18-20 minutes.
- A food processor makes blending the butter into the dry ingredients a million times easier. And allows you to work with colder butter without hurting your hands. Try putting the butter in the freezer for an hour before blending it into the dry ingredients. The texture of your scones will be even better.
Bonus Tip: I store extra butter in the freezer at all times. Which means I always have frozen butter ready to be used in scones or pie crusts. Butter can be frozen for up to six months.
- If you don’t have a food processor, use a box grater to create small strips of butter that will be easier to cut into the flour with a pastry blender.
- If you don’t have any sourdough discard, you can substitute 1/2 cup of heavy cream and a 1/2 cup of all purpose flour for the 1 cup of sourdough discard.
- If you don’t have heavy cream, you can substitute milk or half and half.
- Don’t overwork the dough. Overworking the dough creates gluten which will result in chewy rather than flaky scones.
- Don’t use a rolling pin. Pat the dough out with your hands to avoid overworking the dough.
- To help scones keep their shape, chill them in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before baking.
- Bake scones on parchment paper or a silicone mat to avoid overcooked bottoms.
- Baking times will vary depending upon your oven. It is helpful to know your oven and worth purchasing an inexpensive oven thermometer. Oven temperatures can vary as much as 50 degrees plus or minus.
- If the bottoms of the scones are browning too quickly slide a second baking sheet directly under.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are a few reasons why your scones may not have risen.
Check your baking powder. For maximum efficacy, the baking powder should be used within six months of opening. To test your baking powder, drop a small amount into hot water. Look for bubbles and fizzing. If a reaction occurs it’s still good to use.
Kneading the dough for too long will make them tough, dense, and shorter.
Using too much flour will make the dough too stiff to rise to its full potential. I recommend using a kitchen scale to measure your ingredients by weight rather than volume. Accuracy matters particularly when baking.
Yes, scones can be in advance and frozen either before or after baking. See below for additional instructions on how to make and save scones made in advance.
Scones are best the day they are baked.
Leftover scones can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.
To freeze baked scones, let them cool completely and then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in a zip-top bag labeled with the date and contents. Freeze scones for up to 3 months.
Thaw on the counter for a few hours, and then warm in the oven to get the best texture.
To freeze unbaked scones, cut the scones out and arrange them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze them until solid and then transfer them to a zip-top bag labeled with the date and contents. Scones can be frozen for up to 3 months.
To bake frozen scones, bake the scones directly from frozen adding an extra 2-3 minutes of baking time.
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