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Homemade Buttermilk Scones

Light and tender Homemade Buttermilk Scones made from scratch in just 20 minutes ! Afternoon tea wouldn’t be complete without a batch of warm scones fresh from the oven.

An easy, foolproof recipe for light and fluffy buttermilk scones with step by step instructions to make perfect scones every time.

Buttermilk Scones are quick and easy to make so they’re the perfect choice when time is short and you need almost instant results because you fancy a sweet treat but the cake cupboard is bare.

A cream tea set out on a table outdoors - jam, clotted cream and a homemade buttermilk scone cut in half spread with jam and cream.

Make a batch of scones and pop them in the oven – 12 minutes later you’ve got warm scones ready to eat. Simply split open and spread with butter. Delicious any time of day, we’ve even been known to have them for breakfast.

For an extra special treat, try them in a traditional cream tea with rich and decadent clotted cream I’ll leave it up to you whether to put the jam or the cream on first.

Fresh from the oven, a batch of Homemade Buttermilk Scones on a baking tray

Baking tips for light and fluffy scones

If you want to avoid the disappointment of dense, flat or dry scones, here are my top tips:

  • BUTTERMILK and light handling are the key to success with scones. Buttermilk reacts with the bicarbonate of soda to create carbon dioxide that causes the mixture to rise. It also helps break down the gluten strands resulting in soft and tender scones.
  • There’s no need to use a mixer, your hands and a bowl are all that’s required. You don’t even need a rolling pin, just a gentle pressing of the dough with your hands does the job.
  • Use butter at ROOM TEMPERATURE. It’s much easier and quicker to rub room temperature butter into the flour. The quicker you blend the ingredients and the less your scone dough is handled, the better.
Scone mix in a mixing bowl with a spatula ready for buttermilk and egg to be added
  • SOFT AND STICKY is best when it comes to the consistency of your dough. A dry dough won’t be able to rise as well as a wet dough, resulting in those dense scones you want to avoid.
An image to show a soft and sticky dough in a mixing bowl.
  • DON’T twist the pastry cutter, you want your scones to stand nice and tall. Twisting the pastry cutter risks giving a lopsided scone which won’t rise so well.
Raw dough on a silicone mat with a pastry cutter.
  • DON’T space your scones too far apart on the baking tray. Firstly, placing them side by side on the baking tray, about 2.5cm / 1 inch apart gives a higher rise and straighter sides. Secondly, placing like this helps prevent the scones from drying out as they retain moisture more readily.
  • DON’T OVER BAKE. Scones are baked at quite a high temperature and don’t need long in a hot oven. Bake until a golden brown on top but still quite light in colour on the sides. You want moist scones and over baked dark scones are dry. If you not sure whether your scones are cooked, take one off the baking tray and break it open. The centre should feel moist but not ‘doughy’ or wet.
Scones brushed with egg wash on a baking tray.

Can you use normal milk instead of buttermilk ?

Absolutely ! To substitute buttermilk, simply use the same quantity of regular milk with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or white wine vinegar. This gives it an acidity similar to that of buttermilk which is essential for working with the bicarbonate of soda to give you light and fluffy scones.

Add the lemon juice or vinegar to your milk, give it a stir and then leave for five minutes. The milk will have become thicker and clumpy and is ready to use in your scone mixture.

Alternatively, you can use a 50 / 50 mixture of yoghurt and milk as a buttermilk substitute.

A collage of images to show how to make a buttermilk substitute. Ist image is milk in a jug, 2nd is a spoonful of vinegar being added, 3rd is a timer set with 5 minutes next the jug of milk with vinegar, 4th is a top shot of the curdled milk in a jug with zero time left on the timer.

Can you freeze buttermilk ?

Yes, you can ! Buttermilk freezes really well for use in baking and will last in the freezer for up to three months. Although the recommendation on the container is not to freeze, it is safe to freeze. Like other dairy products it won’t maintain its qualities for drinking but it does retain its acid content which is what you need for scones.

My scone recipe calls for only a small amount of buttermilk so freezing the rest is the perfect option.

Make sure you freeze the buttermilk within the best before date. I freeze mine in an ice cube tray with a one tablespoonful (15 ml) portion to each cube. Once frozen, keep in a ziplock bag labelled with the date. It’s ready to be defrosted and used for the next time you bake.

A pile of homemade buttermilk scones on a cooling rack.

How to serve Homemade Buttermilk Scones

Serve fresh from the oven. Split in them in half and simply spread with butter and homemade strawberry jam.

Enjoy as part of a cream tea or afternoon tea.

Homemade Buttermilk Scones with jam and clotted cream on a tea plate. A pot of jam and cream in the background.

How long do they keep ?

Scones are best eaten as fresh as possible but you can keep them for a couple of days in an airtight container. Refresh for a few minutes in a hot oven before serving.

Can I freeze them ?

Yes, you can !

Pop your scones into a freezer bag and they will keep for up to three months in the freezer.

Refresh in a hot oven before serving.

If you like Homemade Buttermilk Scones ……you might also like:

Pink Peppercorn Shortbread

Homemade Belgian Buns

A traditional fruit loaf – Guernsey Gâche

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Homemade Buttermilk Scones

Light & tender Homemade Buttermilk Scones made from scratch in just 20 minutes ! Afternoon tea wouldn't be complete without a batch of warm scones fresh from the oven.
An easy, foolproof recipe for light and fluffy buttermilk scones with step by step instructions to make perfect scones every time.
4.88 from 78 votes
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Course: Afternoon Tea
Cuisine: British
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 12 standard size
Calories: 218kcal
Author: Sarah James
standard size

Equipment

  • Mixing Bowl
  • Pastry / Cookie Cutter
  • Pastry brush
  • Baking sheet

Ingredients

Scone Dough

    • 450 grams self raising flour or plain flour / all purpose flour plus 2 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda / baking soda
    • A pinch salt
    • 175 grams butter diced and at room temperature
    • 4 tbsp caster sugar
    • 150 ml buttermilk – plus a little extra when mixing can be substituted with half milk and half yoghurt
    • 1 large egg beaten
    • milk or egg wash
    • 100 grams sultanas Optional

    Instructions

    • Preheat your oven to 425°F / 220°C / 200°C Fan / Gas Mark 7
    • Sift the flour, bicarb and salt into a large mixing bowl.
    • Using your fingertips, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
    • Add sugar and stir with a spatula.
    • Add sultanas if using and stir again.
    • Form a well in the centre of the mix with your spatula.
    • In a small bowl beat the egg and buttermilk (or yoghurt and milk) and pour into the centre of your scone mixture.
    • Quickly pull the mix together – I tend to start mixing with the spatula and then go in with my hands to form the mixture into a ball.
    • The scone dough should be slightly sticky and soft. Add a little extra buttermilk if you find the dough a little dry.
    • Keep mixing to the absolute minimum.
    • Turn your dough onto a floured board.
    • Pat out your dough gently, maintaining a thick dough of 3 cm (1 ⅓ inch)
    • Cut out your scones using a circular pastry/cookie cutter. Push down your cutter quickly using the palm of your hand and don’t twist the cutter.
    • For large scones use a 70 mm (2 ¾ ins) cutter or 58 mm (2 ¼ ins) for smaller scones.
    • Bring the trimmings back together and cut the rest of your scones. Don’t over work or you will end up with tough scones.
    • Place your scones onto a greased baking tray.
    • Brush the tops of your scones with milk or egg wash.
    • Bake in the oven for 15 minutes (large) or 12 minutes (standard) until golden brown.
    • Cool on a wire rack.
    • Serve with jam and cream or butter.

    Video

    Notes

    • The recipe is for 9 large or 12 standard size scones.
    • For the perfect soft scone, keep mixing to the minimum.
    • Buttermilk can vary in its consistency. I use traditional buttermilk in this recipe, which is much thinner than thick and yogurt like cultured buttermilk. If you’re using cultured buttermilk to make these scones, you may need add more than 150ml.
    • To substitute buttermilk, simply use the same quantity of regular milk with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or white wine vinegar. This gives it an acidity similar to that of buttermilk which is essential for working with the bicarbonate of soda to give you light and fluffy scones.
    • Alternatively, you can use a 50 / 50 mixture of yoghurt and milk as a buttermilk substitute. You may need to use a little extra milk if you use 50/50 yoghurt and milk.
    • Scones are best eaten as fresh as possible but you can keep them for a couple of days in an airtight container. Refresh for a few minutes in a hot oven before serving.
    • Buttermilk scones freeze well. Pop your scones into a freezer bag and they will keep for up to three months. Refresh in a hot oven before serving.
    Nutrition information is approximate and meant as a guideline only.
    Calories: 218kcal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 34mg | Sodium: 150mg | Potassium: 89mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 298IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 33mg | Iron: 1mg

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    Two images, first image is a cream tea set out on a table outdoors - jam, clotted cream and a scone cut in half spread with jam and cream. Second image is of a batch of freshly baked scones cooling on a rack.
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    Recipe Rating




    FH PERKINS

    Monday 19th of September 2022

    Ive been at this for about a year and a half, this searching for the perfect soda bread and buttermilk scone recipes online. Its been challenging. The flour and the buttermilk seem to be key factors for the results. However, I finally broke down and bought self rising flour and followed your recipe with very good results. I used store bought buttermilk one time and buttermilk that I made from culture. Both times I needed more milk than 150mls of buttermilk. Almost double the amount. I am definitely going to stay with your recipe. I like that the scones are cloud like and not too sweet. What's more, they are still soft the next day. I really tried to avoid having to buy self rising flour but now I am a convert. Many thanks from an old man in California.

    Sarah James

    Monday 26th of September 2022

    After a bit more investigation into commercially available buttermilk, it seems there are two types of buttermilk. Cultured buttermilk, which is thick and yogurt like, and traditional buttermilk which is much thinner. This might explain why you've had to use more buttermilk than the quantity listed in the recipe. I've updated the recipe card to include a note about the two types of buttermilk.

    Sarah James

    Sunday 25th of September 2022

    Thanks for getting in touch, I'm so pleased you enjoyed my scones and plan to make some more. I love using buttermilk as it really does help to make the scones fluffy and light. It's a pleasure to share my recipe.

    Julie Hardman

    Monday 25th of July 2022

    Hi I have just made these scones and had to use more buttermilk than in the recipe. I used 250 ml and they came out light and fluffy. Gorgeous 😍

    Sarah James

    Tuesday 26th of July 2022

    Hi Julie, thanks for the feedback. Always good to hear reader's scones turn out light and fluffy. Can I ask if you used a buttermilk substitute ? A substitute has a different viscosity to buttermilk so you would need to use a little extra liquid.

    dimitra lalopoulos

    Sunday 29th of May 2022

    My scones tasted delicious, however, they didn’t rise and flattened. What did I do wrong?

    Sarah James

    Tuesday 14th of June 2022

    Hello Dimitra, Thanks for getting in touch. Apologies for my delayed response but our spam filter seems to have been a bit over zealous and some comments ended up in the spam folder. Could I just check your oven was preheated to 425°F / 220°C / 200°C Fan / Gas Mark 7 as this is the most common explanation for flat scones. If your oven temperature runs a bit low or your oven isn't preheated for long enough this could well be the reason for your scones not rising. Something else to check - is your flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda 'in date' ? Hope this helps, Sarah.

    Momma G

    Thursday 5th of May 2022

    This is hands down the best scone recipe I have ever tried. The scones rise in the oven beautifully, and they are absolutely delicious. Even for a beginner scone maker, you will be delighted. Fit for the Queen!

    Sarah James

    Monday 9th of May 2022

    Hello Momma G, Thanks for such a wonderful comment. So pleased to hear your scones ticked all the right boxes for you, it's still a genuine buzz for me to hear my recipes are being used.

    Happy baking, Sarah.

    Sara

    Monday 25th of April 2022

    I agree with Carole, had to use approx 250ml of buttermilk to get a sticky dough. Also was a little confused with baking powder listed as an ingredient when using self raising flour. Other than that they tasted great.

    Sarah James

    Monday 9th of May 2022

    Hello Sara, Thanks for your feedback. I'm pleased to hear your scones tasted great, albeit after sorting out your buttermilk. Both you and Carole mentioned the quantity of buttermilk but I have to admit I'm a little bit stumped. As I mentioned to Carole, she unnerved me a little so I actually went off and made a batch of scones before replying to her comment. Similarly, just this morning before typing this, I asked my sister how much buttermilk she uses (she serves up a lovely scone) and she confirmed she follows my recipe. I can feel an in depth investigation into the properties of buttermilk being added to my to do list - where's my Harold McGee ?

    In terms of baking powder, this is an ingredient because scones are better with more raising agent than is generally found in self-raising flour. The quantity of raising agent in self-raising flour is to cover a range of applications, working well in some recipes (a sponge for example) but not quite as well for other recipes.

    Thanks again for getting in touch, Sarah.