Strawberry Buttermilk Scones with Lemon Glaze

Sunday, March 22, 2020


Although it feels like gloom and doom out there, the first week of spring is finally upon us. (At least that's what I hear. Michigan weather doesn't play by the same rules.) It's the little things that are worth getting excited about right now. Think fresh-baked scones, finding time to bake with your kids and strawberry season. Few things are better than the first bite of a strawberry that actually tastes like a strawberry! Seasonal eating is something to consider embracing during this pandemic. It typically costs less to buy fruits and veggies that are in season, because supplies are plentiful and the food doesn't have to travel as far. An even more enticing reason is that it often tastes much better too. You want the strawberries that came out of the ground when nature intended them to, ideally from farms near you. The Seasonal Food Guide allows you to select your state and the time of year to see what produce is available. In Michigan for example, the best strawberries will start showing up in farmer's markets mid-May. In warmer southern states, you will see them in late March. If you start paying attention, you'll notice throughout the year how sales on fruits and veggies typically line up to seasonality. That's when there's usually a surplus. Take advantage, save money, and eat produce that really tastes like it's supposed to. By the way, I just wrote a piece for The Washington Post on freezing produce at home so that you can enjoy it at peak quality later in the year. If you find yourself with more fresh strawberries on hand than you can reasonably consume before they go bad, freeze them on a sheet pan until solid and transfer to freezer-safe containers.


As for these scones, they were a yummy distraction from the madness of the past week. If you've made my buttermilk biscuits, you can make scones. The process is essentially the same, maybe even easier because you don't need to worry about cutting them just right. Similar tips apply: Don't overwork the dough, keep it cold so as not to melt the butter, and use your instincts to gauge how much liquid to add. The glaze portion of the recipe is simple enough for a child to follow, as you'll be able to tell from the little hands in my photos below.

Because ingredients may be harder to come by these days, here are some notes on substitutions:

Strawberries - Frozen berries are fine here. Chop them up and add to the dough while they're partially frozen. Other soft fruits would also work, like peaches or blueberries.

Buttermilk - Use full-fat buttermilk if you've got it, low-fat is fine otherwise. No buttermilk? You've got plenty of options: Try kefir, plain yogurt thinned out with cream or milk, or shelf-stable powdered buttermilk dissolved in milk or water. It's also fine to use all heavy cream for a richer scone. Evaporated milk can be subbed in if nothing else. If you replace the buttermilk in the recipe with another type of cream or milk, add a tablespoon of lemon juice for acidity.

Heavy cream - If you can't find heavy cream, use all buttermilk instead.

Eggs - The egg contributes to texture and richness in flavor. Omit if you don't have, and add an additional three tablespoons of buttermilk or cream.

Flour - I used White Lily, which is a soft winter wheat flour resulting in a light, fluffy texture. Any regular all-purpose flour will do. You can also substitute cake flour for half of the all-purpose flour, to mimic the White Lily results. I have not tested this recipe with gluten-free flours.

Butter-flavored shortening - This helps keep the scones tender. If you don't have shortening, just replace it with additional unsalted butter. Unflavored shortening is fine too.

Butter - Use butter with the highest fat content, such as the European brands. Any butter works. If all you have is salted butter, cut back on the additional Kosher salt. You can replace the butter with butter-flavored shortening. (Plain shortening will technically work, but the flavor won't be as good.)

Powdered sugar - You can make your own powdered sugar. Pour some granulated white sugar in a blender and give it a whirl on high speed until it becomes a fine powder.

Lemon - Meyer lemons are wonderful, regular lemons work too. Any other citrus can work here. If you omit, use extra cream or milk to make the glaze.

Of course, just keep in mind that the more substitutions you make, the harder it is to predict whether results will be the same. If something works well for you please feel free to share in the comments for others!




Strawberry Buttermilk Scones with Lemon Glaze

Ingredients for the scones:
1 cup diced strawberries
2 cups flour, plus additional for flouring the surface
1 TBSP baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp cracked pepper 
3 TBSP sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
2 TBSP butter flavored shortening
6 TBSP unsalted butter, frozen
1 large egg
3/4 cup buttermilk, ideally full-fat
1/4 cup heavy cream; more as needed

Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar 
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 TBSP lemon juice
1-2 TBSP heavy cream or buttermilk

**See notes in the recipe introduction above for substitutions.**


Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Yield: Makes about 8 scones
Recommended equipment (affiliate links): Zester, box grater, heavy-duty sheet pan, parchment paper or a silicone liner, dough scraper, large mixing bowl, silicone spatula, pastry brush, whisk


Recipe instructions:
  1. Chop the strawberries into quarter-inch pieces, then set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, black pepper, sugar, and lemon zest. 
  3. Cut the shortening into the flour. Use your fingers to rub the shortening into the flour until it resembles wet sand.
  4. Grate the frozen butter into the flour using the coarse holes of a box grater. If your butter is not frozen, cut it into small chunks and use your fingers to cut it into the flour until pea-sized pieces of butter are dispersed throughout.
  5. In another container, whisk together the buttermilk, heavy cream, and egg. Pour the liquid ingredients over the flour, tossing the ingredients together gently to form the dough. Stop when the dough is moist, but not soaking wet. If the dough is too dry and a lot of flour remains, add more buttermilk or cream.
  6. Fold the chopped strawberries into the dough. 
  7. Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Dust the dough lightly with flour.
  8. Working quickly so as not to let the butter melt, use floured hands or a dough scraper to fold the dough over on itself three times.
  9. Press the dough out into a circle, about an inch or so thick. Use a dough scraper or sharp knife to cut the dough into eight wedges.
  10. Transfer the cut wedges to a lined baking sheet, allowing for at least two inches of space between each scone. Press the remaining strawberries into the tops of the scones. Brush with the leftover buttermilk mixture, or use some extra cream.
  11. Transfer the sheet pan to the fridge or freezer for at least 15 minutes, while preheating the oven. Bake at 425°F for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the scones are golden brown and no wet areas appear. Allow the scones to cool for a few minutes before glazing.
  12. To make the glaze, combine the powdered sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, and cream in a small bowl. Use more or less cream to get a thick, pourable consistency.
  13. Drizzle the baked scones with glaze. 
Notes: Scones are best served same day. Store leftovers in an airtight container. Unbaked scones can be frozen on a sheet pan until solid and transferred to a freezer-safe bag or container. When ready to bake, do not thaw. Frozen scones may need a few extra minutes in the oven.


Step-by-step photo gallery:

Chop the strawberries into quarter-inch pieces, then set aside.



In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, black pepper, sugar, and lemon zest. Cut the shortening into the flour. Use your fingers to rub the shortening into the flour until it resembles wet sand.


Grate the frozen butter into the flour using the coarse holes of a box grater. If your butter is not frozen, cut it into small chunks and use your fingers to cut it into the flour until pea-sized pieces of butter are dispersed throughout.


In another container, whisk together the buttermilk, heavy cream, and egg. Pour the liquid ingredients over the flour, tossing the ingredients together gently to form the dough. Stop when the dough is moist, but not soaking wet. If the dough is too dry and a lot of flour remains, add more buttermilk or cream.


Fold the chopped strawberries into the dough. 


Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Dust the dough lightly with flour.


Working quickly so as not to let the butter melt, use floured hands or a dough scraper to fold the dough over on itself three times.


Press the dough out into a circle, about an inch or so thick. Use a dough scraper or sharp knife to cut the dough into eight wedges.


Transfer the cut wedges to a lined baking sheet, allowing for at least two inches of space between each scone. Press the remaining strawberries into the tops of the scones. Brush with the leftover buttermilk mixture, or use some extra cream.


Transfer the sheet pan to the fridge or freezer for 15 minutes, while preheating the oven. Bake at 425°F for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the scones are golden brown and no wet areas appear. Allow the scones to cool for a few minutes before glazing.


To make the glaze, combine the powdered sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, and cream in a small bowl.


Use more or less cream to get a thick, pourable consistency. Whisk until no lumps remain.


Drizzle the baked scones with glaze.


Notes: Scones are best served same day. Store leftovers in an airtight container. Unbaked scones can be frozen on a sheet pan until solid and transferred to a freezer-safe bag or container. When ready to bake, do not thaw. Frozen scones may need a few extra minutes in the oven.




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