British

More Than 210,000 of These Iconic British Scones Get Served Every Year

And we got the recipe!

March  4, 2019
Photo by Rocky Luten

I'm known around the office to start my day with a bit of "breakfast cake," my term for any manner of easy-to-eat baked goods (see: olive oil cake, pound cake, cinnamon rolls). I pay no mind to the shower of flaky pastry that invariably ends up on my lap when I bite into a particularly shatter-friendly croissant or Kouign Amann. And I've even written before about my affinity for cookies, which reached an all-time high during my pregnancy.

But of all the "breakfast cake" out there, one of the best accompaniments to my morning coffee is a simple, buttery scone. In New York, my favorite can be found at Balthazar Bakery, a tried-and-true go-to for all types of baked goods and viennoiserie, a fancy term that refers to a category of French yeast-leavened pastries made in the Viennese-style, like croissants and brioche. Balthazar's "butter scone" borders on biscuit territory (a near-transgression I happily pardon, for the record), which is to say, it's perfectly buttery, crumbly, and almost exhibits layer-ridden flakiness. The Balthazar scone is a diminutive thing, looking ever so humble, yet packed with a flavor and richness that belies its small size. (Take a look at the cuties here for reference.)

I hadn't found a scone I loved so much as Balthazar's until a recent trip to London found me and some friends sitting in a corner banquette at Claridge's, the legendary Mayfair hotel favored by royalty and heads of state since 1856. We were there for high tea—our posh attempt to push through nagging jet lag—and we had high expectations.

We polished off the delicious assortment of finger sandwiches in no time (all hail the coronation chicken on malt bread!), before moving onto the scones and handmade pastries, where the union of traditional English recipes and classic French techniques were on full display.

I will be 100 percent honest and admit that I wasn't expecting much from the little scones, which alternated between plain and raisin varieties. Boy was I glad to be proven wrong. Served on a long plate, they were housed next to Cornish clotted cream and Marco Polo tea gelée, a "lip-smacking preserve of bergamot, strawberry, vanilla, and pepper," made by the Parisian jam geniuses at Mariage Frères. It's an incredible spread we all loved so much, we bought multiple jars to bring back home with us.

We made quick work of all the scones, and were even tempted to ask for more. Their small size, coupled with a pure butter flavor, were superlative enough on their own—topped with a generous dollop of the clotted cream and jelly, and we were over the moon.

"I’m not usually a scone person," fellow tea-goer and resident Books and Special Projects Editor Brinda Ayer tells me. "They can often be a little dry and have a cardboard-like flavor." These scones, though? "These changed my mind entirely. They’re little puffs of buttery, flaky joy. So. Tender. So. Flavorful. I had trouble stopping at just one." (This is true, we finished them all.)

Here is Brinda going in for the lofty, golden scones.

Turns out, we're not the only fans. According to Claridge's, the hotel serves up more than 210,000 of these tender scones every year. I obviously needed to get my hands on the recipe, and was happy to find that (1) Claridge's had recently published an entire book of great recipes (simply called Claridge's: The Cookbook), and (2) the scones couldn't be easier to make with readily available pantry and supermarket-friendly ingredients. (No magic wand necessary.)

If you're a scone fan—and even if you're not—I encourage you to try these on for size. (I preferred the plain, but the raisin version also has staunch supporters.)

What's your favorite scone recipe? Please share it with me in the comments below!
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