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Homemade Buttermilk Scones

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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.
4.84 from 131 votes
Print Pin Rate this Recipe Save Recipe
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, baking powder, 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




    Heather Moffett

    Wednesday 17th of April 2024

    I could never make really good scones and it annoyed me immensely! Until I tried this recipe! I have always used buttermilk but the dough was never very sticky and I think was why my scones previously were quite dense. Having a wetter dough seems to make them light. These scones are like none I've ever eaten, anywhere, and I live in cream tea country, South Devon! When I've given one to friends, as they bite into it and it melts in the mouth, their eyes pop open in amazement! Thank you for showing me that I can actually make fantastic scones!

    Shiv

    Thursday 22nd of February 2024

    I made these today. So quick and simple. Light as a feather. Have saved the recipe as this will be my go to.

    Sarah James

    Monday 26th of February 2024

    Hi Shiv, that's great to hear and so pleased my scones will be your go to recipe. Thanks for taking the time to make a review, it's much appreciated, Sarah.

    Kat

    Sunday 18th of February 2024

    I made these today exactly as the recipe indicated. They were very easy and turned out great!

    Sarah James

    Monday 26th of February 2024

    That's great to hear Kat, I hope you enjoyed our buttermilk scones as much as we do. Thanks for taking time to write a review, it's much appreciated, Sarah.

    Anna

    Monday 29th of January 2024

    Absolutely fantastic! I followed the exact recipe and they turned out delicious. Thank you! Greetings from the Netherlands!

    Sarah James

    Wednesday 31st of January 2024

    Thanks Anna, so pleased you enjoyed our scones and great to hear from the Netherlands. Returning your greetings from West Wales, Sarah.

    Engela Claassen

    Tuesday 28th of November 2023

    This is by far the best scones I've ever eaten. Light, fluffy and delicious! I doubled it about 4 times and it came out perfectly. Thank you for sharing.