These sourdough scones are light and flaky with crispy crumbly edges.
They make a delicious breakfast treat or pair beautifully with your favorite tea.
Eat them plain or top them with your favorite jam and cream. There are also a variety of ingredients that can be mixed in before baking these fluffy tall scones.
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Sourdough scones are so quick and easy to make and a great way to use up sourdough discard! Just toss some flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into your food processor or blender, blend in some butter, stir in sourdough discard, egg yolk, and heavy cream, shape the dough, and bake.
Other great ways to use up sourdough discard include:
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. You can add any dried fruit, nut, and/or chocolate chip or chunk combination you like.
This sourdough scone recipe was created as a generic base for whatever seasonal fruits, spices, or other flavorings you have available. Letting you decide what additional flavors to add in. You can make them sweet or savory. They are a great way to use up produce before it goes bad.
Scones are crumbly and golden brown on the outside with a soft center. Like a cross between a biscuit and a muffin.
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 discard 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.
Most of the ingredients in this are pretty standard for scones: flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, kosher salt, butter, and heavy cream.
For a savory scone with a stronger sourdough flavor you can reduce the sugar to two tablespoons. You could also use brown sugar but will need to whisk it into the wet ingredients until there are no lumps.
For flaky scones, you will want to make sure the butter and heavy cream are chilled. Keeping the scone dough as cold as possible prevents over-spreading and preserves the scone’s flakiness.
By reducing the amount of heavy cream and flour and adding sourdough discard we are able to turn a basic scone recipe into an excellent way to use up extra sourdough discard.
The addition of an egg yolk 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.
Optional: You could also add 1 teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract for additional flavor. Skip it if you’re making savory scones. Depending on the other mix-ins you decide to use, you could also add other herbs like dill, parsley, and oregano or spices like cinnamon, cardamom, or nutmeg.
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, and kosher salt to the bowl of your food processor.
Cut in the cold butter. Cut the butter into 4 pieces and added 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.
Whisk the wet ingredients together. In a large bowl whisk together the sourdough discard, heavy cream, and egg yolk.
Mix wet ingredients and dry ingredients. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and fold together being careful to not over mix.
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 circles using a 2.5″ cutter. You can reshape the scraps and cut out additional scones but they won’t be as flaky.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. To prevent the scones from spreading chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.
Brush tops with heavy cream. Brushing with heavy creams will encourage browning.
Bake until golden brown. Bake for 13-15 minutes.
These scones are perfect as they are. But you could also add additional ingredients to change up the flavor.
Sweet flavor additions
- Walnut Cherry Chocolate Chip: Knead in 3/4 cup dried cherries, 1/2 cup walnuts, and 3/4 cup white chocolate chips after mixing the wet ingredients into dry ingredients.
- Mixed Berry: After mixing the dry and wet ingredients together, add 1 1/2 cups of your favorite fresh or frozen berries. Gently fold the berries in to avoid bursting them.
- Cranberry Orange Scones: After mixing the dry and wet ingredients together, knead in 1 1/2 cups of fresh, frozen, or dried cranberries and 2 tablespoons of orange zest.
- Lemon Poppyseed: Mix in 2 tablespoons of lemon zest and 2 tablespoons of poppyseed into the liquid ingredients.
Savory flavor additions
Reduce the sugar to 2 Tablespoons and leave out the vanilla extract.
- Herb: Mix in 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/2 cup chopped herbs (rosemary, parsley, basil, etc.) into the dry ingredients before adding the wet ingredients.
- Ham, Swiss, and Green Onion: Add 1 cup of cooked cubed ham, 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese, and a 1/2 cup of chopped green onions to the dry ingredients before adding the wet ingredients.
- Zucchini and Cheddar Cheese: Mix in 2/3 cup of coarsely grated and drained zucchini and 3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese into the dry ingredients before adding the wet ingredients.
When it comes to flavor additions and combinations the sky is the limit. Use your imagination and try a combination of any of the following additions.
- Herbs: mint, basil, sage, cilantro, rosemary, thyme, etc. Mix herbs into the dry ingredients.
- Spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, clove, allspice, ginger, Chinese five-spice, Zaatar, everything bagel, curry, etc. Mix spices into the dry ingredients.
- Citrus Zest: orange, lemon, lime, and grapefruit Mix zest into the wet ingredients.
- Extracts: Replace the vanilla extract with a different extract like lemon, almond, anise, or mint.
- Fruit: Fresh, frozen, or dried If the fruit is particularly wet blot it with a paper towel before tossing with the dry ingredients before adding the wet ingredients.
- Grated Vegetables: Grate in carrots, zucchini, beets, or other vegetables. Because vegetables are mostly water wrap them in a cloth towel and squeeze most of the moisture out before tossing with the dry ingredients before adding the wet ingredients.
- Add-Ins: chopped chocolate (white, milk, semi-sweet, dark, or ruby), shredded coconut, chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios, etc.) Toss with the dry ingredients before adding the wet ingredients.
There are so many delicious topping you could add to these scones.
- Lemon Curd
- Clotted Cream
- Whipped Cream
- Powdered Sugar
- Jam or Marmalade
- Herbed Butter
- Chocolate Sauce
- Hazelnut Spread
- Powdered Sugar Glaze
- 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.
- When cutting the scones, push straight down without twisting the cutter. Twisting the cutter seals the edges together and will prevent them from rising,
- 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, 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 at room temperature 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 warmed 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 baking time.
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