The perfect step by step recipe for date scones that gives you crispy on the edges, flaky and tender in the center scones studded with caramelized dates.
I love scones! The concept of a pastry that you can put together quickly, bake, and enjoy with cream and jam is genius. I went through a phase of binging the Great British Bake Off and making sure I’d have scones in the oven right before watching an episode, so I could watch these adorable people baking amazing concoctions while I happily munched on a warm scone. This phase wasn’t the best for my diet, so I learned to watch without eating, but that doesn’t mean that scones don’t hold a special place in my heart, and make the occasional appearance on our table.
I have been in Saudi for the past couple of weeks, in all this uncertainty with Covid-19, and I’ve spent the majority of time in my mother in law’s house. I don’t like to infringe on my in laws kitchen, but I dreamt up the idea for these scones and I couldn’t resist some comfort baking.
Why add dates to scones?
I love a good plain scone. Something I don’t like is a scone that has raisins in it. I will always pick out any raisins or currents in scones. Dates are different. They become a little jammy when baked, and add a beautiful toffee infused sweetness to the overall scone. Date scones are miles better than raisin scones. They also play homage to the Gulf region of the Middle East. Especially when enhanced with my spices of choice, cardamom and cinnamon powder. It’s just a little something extra that allows you to make scones with not a lot of sugar in them, but that are still more than sweet enough to enjoy plain.
Ingredients in date scones:
The scone base is divided into dry ingredients, butter, and wet ingredients:
Dry ingredients: Flour- All purpose flour. I highly recommend scaling this to get an accurate measure so that your dough texture will be spot on.
Baking powder- a good tablespoon so that the scones rise well and remain fluffy.
Apinch of salt for flavor, a little sugar for sweetness, and cinnamon and cardamom to compliment the dates.
Butter: I got the method of adding frozen grated butter from Sally’s Baking Addiction’s recipe for master scones. The reason for using frozen butter, and for making sure the wet ingredients are cold is to keep the dough from getting too warm- this answers a common question in scone baking:
Wet ingredients: Heavy cream which adds richness, an egg, and vanilla extract for flavor.
Add ins: I obviously added chopped dates to mine. You can use any type of dates! The squishiest ones will be difficult to chop but taste sweet and delicious. I used a type that’s very similar to Medjool. Still soft, but drier on the outside and easy to chop. You can substitute the dates with something else entirely. Try cranberries and orange zest, chocolate chips, pistachios, or keep the recipe plain!
How to make scones:
The first thing we need to keep in mind, is that texture is so important in scones. You don’t want gummy scones, or hard dry scones. The important thing is a crisp interior and flaky soft interior. You also want enough height to the scones so they aren’t flat disks.
How do I keep my scones from flattening out or spreading too much?
Make sure the dough isn’t overworked, and that the butter doesn’t melt too fully into the dough. You need little pieces of butter to remain intact so that when the dough goes in the oven, the butter melts there and create pockets of steam which results in that flaky dough. We don’t want the butter melting BEFORE going in the oven. Using frozen butter is what accomplishes that, and also the fact that you are using grated butter which is easier to work into the dough with your fingers.
Another factor is chilling the shaped scones before baking them, to ensure the dough goes into the oven cold.
The steps go like this:
Mix together dry ingredients in a bowl. Add in the frozen grated butter and work the butter into the flour with your fingertips, almost like you are massaging the butter gently. Stop once you have the butter incorporated, with some little pieces the size of peas still intact.
In a different bowl, mix together heavy cream, egg, and vanilla. Dump the mixed wet ingredients into the flour/butter bowl, and add the chopped dates. Stir until just combined. You might give it a knead or two with floured hands.
Onto a floured surface, dump out the scone dough. Pat it into an 8 inch circle. The dough won’t be dry and crumbly, and it won’t be too sticky that you can’t handle it.
If you feel the dough is too dry: Add a drizzle of heavy cream until you get the consistency desired.
If you feel the dough is too wet: Add a tbsp of flour at a time until the dough can be worked with.
Once the dough is in the shape of an 8 inch circle, using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut it evenly into 8 wedges. Don’t worry if the size isn’t exact, but you want them to be close.
Place the dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet, and let the dough chill for 15 minutes in the fridge. Heat the oven while doing this (400F, 200C).
Once dough is rested, brush the surface of each scone with additional heavy cream, and sprinkle with some sugar (you can use coarse sugar if you have any on hand, or just normal granulated sugar like I did). This will give them that golden brown appearance and a little crunch from the sugar on the exterior.
How long to bake scones for?
You want them to look like the photo- light golden brown edges and top. If you lift one from the parchment, you’ll see that the bottom is dry and a light golden brown as well. Don’t over bake, you still want a soft inside.
What to serve scones with?
Traditionally, scones are served with clotted cream and jam. The good thing about this recipe, is that the scones are so moist and the dates add the perfect hint of sweetness, that these are delicious plain.
I also cut some in half, and spread with some cream- I didn’t use any jam. I just had fresh cream (Nestle and KDD), not clotted cream and it did the trick. You can even try mascarpone cheese or regular butter.
How to make scones ahead:
You can prepare the dough all the way to cutting it into wedges (before brushing with cream) and refrigerate overnight, loosely covered, to bake the following morning.
You can also freeze the scone dough by letting the wedges freeze on a baking sheet until hard, then placing in a freezer safe bag. Bake from frozen as directed, adding a few minutes to bake time.
You can also bake the scones, then freeze them once cool. You can warm them in a hot oven for 10 minutes or in a microwave for 20-30 seconds.
- 2 cups flour 250 g
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 3 tbsp white sugar 40 g
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1/8 tsp ground cardamom
- 1 stick frozen butter, grated on the large side of a box grater 115 grams
- 1 egg, cold
- 1/2 cup heavy cream, cold
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup pitted, chopped dates 150 grams
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, cinnamon and cardamom.
- Add the grated frozen butter into the flour mixture, and wokr it in with your fingertips until it resembles wet sand, see post above for visuals.
- In a separate bowl mix together heavy cream, egg and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients and the chopped dates to the flour, and mix together until combined with a spatula or fork.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and pat it into an 8 inch circle. Cut the circle into 8 wedges, and place onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Place the sheet with the dough on it into the fridge to rest for 15 minutes.
- While dough is resting, heat oven to 400 F (200C). Take scones out of the fridge, and brush the top of each with a little heavy cream, and sprinkle with some sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until edges and top are a light golden brown.
- Serve warm, either plain or with some clotted cream and/or jam.
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