Big Little Recipes

Behold! The Lemoniest Scones in All the Land

June 15, 2021

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. That means five ingredients or fewer—not including water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (like oil and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Psst, did you hear we’re coming out with a cookbook? We’re coming out with a cookbook!

Odds are, if a recipe calls for lemon, the author will tell you to zest it or juice it or both. Look no further than these this creamy pasta or these speedy shrimp or this no-churn ice cream. But what about the rest of the lemon? Does it not deserve our attention, too?

It does. Just as you can eat banana peels and coffee grounds, you can eat the lemon leftovers—scraps, rejects, whatever you call them—that you’d normally toss in the trash. Don’t believe me? Just think of preserved lemons: slit, packed with salt, and cured for weeks. Or ask cookbook author Dorie Greenspan:

In Paris Sweets, she shared a Whole-Lemon Tart inspired by Rollet-Pradier, a pâtisserie in Paris. In the years since its publication in 2002, the recipe has soared to internet stardom, found on Smitten Kitchen, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. (Our site has its own version—à la Lazy Mary.)

Photo by Rocky Luten. Prop Stylist: Alya Hameedi. Food Stylist: Yossy Arefi.

While the tart calls for only one lemon, “it contains every bit of that lemon except the seeds,” Greenspan writes, “so you get the powerful flavor of the zest as well as the jolting freshness of the juice and pulp.”

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I currently have everything in the house to make this, except White Whole Wheat Flour. I have AP and Bread flour. Can I replace with one of those? ”
— Jennalynn

Today we’re applying that same smart logic to scones. Because why have lemon scones when you could have the lemoniest?

This template, spurred by another Big Little Recipe from a couple years back, is as simple as it gets: flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt, stirred together and drowned in cream. The seemingly absurd amount plays the role of liquid and fat, which eliminates the need for butter and, in turn, eliminates the usual butter pitfalls.

But before we stir the cream into the dry ingredients, we’re going to spike it. Not with lemon juice, nor lemon zest, but a whole lemon blitzed into an applesauce-like mush. Within seconds, the sloshy cream magically thickens into something that more closely resembles crème fraîche.

And we could stop there. We could. Why would we, though, when we could also reuse most of this little ingredient list for a puckery glaze? More cream, more sugar, and, yes, more lemon. Because when I said lemoniest, I meant it.

Which lemony treats are you most looking forward to making? Let us know in the comments!

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. As an Amazon and Skimlinks Associate, Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.
Order now

Put down those long grocery lists. Inspired by the award-winning column, our Big Little Recipes cookbook is minimalism at its best: few ingredients, tons of flavor.

Order now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • AliceToo
  • AntoniaJames
  • Bonnie
  • Jennalynn
  • Emma Laperruque
    Emma Laperruque
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


AliceToo July 16, 2022
These were yummy! Texture is more like a muffin though than a traditional scone but delicious anyway. I did use all purpose flour. Dough was very wet. And yes they are very lemony!
AntoniaJames June 16, 2021
Yes, yes, yes, please, and thank you! ;o)
Bonnie June 16, 2021
Looks amazing! ❤️
Jennalynn June 15, 2021
I currently have everything in the house to make this, except White Whole Wheat Flour.
I have AP and Bread flour.
Can I replace with one of those?
Emma L. June 15, 2021
Yep, you can use all-purpose. (The flavor will just be less nutty/wheaty.)
Jennalynn June 15, 2021
Thank you!
Jackie June 15, 2021
Wheaty? Oh, for god's sake. Is it that impossible for you to write about food without putting a "y" on it?
Jennalynn June 15, 2021
You seem quite upset about this.
Imagine you got what you wanted in regards to this issue.
How would your life change?
(BTW, she's the author of this recipe and this article)