Buttermilk Scones

I have been on a scone kick this spring.  I think it all began when my rhubarb exploded early this year with our spring that started some time back in mid-January.  And, then this popped up in my Instagram feed one fine day and I haven’t looked back.  So, thanks Julie van Rosendaal – your Rhubarb Cream Scones are divine.  (Check out her post on Rhubarb Custard Pie with an Oatmeal Cookie Crust from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book …divine… ever been to the pie shop?)

But, I often don’t have cream in my fridge.  A shame, I know.  I’ll work on that.  I do, however, always have buttermilk because it makes the best pancakes and muffins and lasts forever (even past the expiry date…!) and it works out just great to have on hand for baking so that we don’t overuse our weekly regular milk supply (because I try to do groceries only once per week).

I turned to my dear old friend, Fanny Farmer, for advice and found one of her scone recipes in my falling apart book (that I picked up for $1 about a decade ago at a street sale on Blvd. St Laurent in Montréal, yes!).  With a bit of crunchy demerara sugar pizzazz on top, à la JVR, I think that I’ve developed my favourite scone recipe yet.  It is moist, but not like a muffin.  Not too crumbly.  Just right!

I often like to bake these for breakfast.  My kids like to help me measure and stir, if they are awake.  They’re quick and flexible, delicious plain or add whatever smattering of fruit that you have kicking around (I used a handful of fresh raspberries this morning).  Eat as is or smear with butter and homemade jam.  Enjoy!

Ultimate Buttermilk Scones

Servings: 8-10
Time: 30 mins
Difficulty: easy
Simple, moist scones. Great for breakfast or tea.
Adapted from the Fanny Farmer Cookbook

  • 1 1/2 c unbleached flour
  • 1/2 c barley flour
  • 1/3 c butter, room temperature
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 scant cup buttermilk
  • 1-2 tbsp demerara sugar, for the top
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix dry ingredients.
  3. Mix in the butter with your fingers until you have an oatmeal-like texture.
  4. Add a handful of fresh or frozen fruit, if desired, and toss to coat.
  5. Add buttermilk to dry, stir, then knead lightly until mixed and forms a ball.
  6. Place it on a floured surface.  Gently press down to make a circle. Sprinkle demerara sugar on top, if desired (but, seriously, do it), then flatten until the circle is about 1 inch thick.
  7. Cut into about 10 triangles (like a pie) and transfer to a baking sheet (feel free to use parchment).
  8. Bake 18 mins with no fruit; about 20 mins if you included fruit.
  9. Cool on a rack.

Don’t worry about the temperature of the butter, it seems to work fine cold or warm; the original recipe calls for shortening which is more like the texture of soft, room temperature butter.

I grew up on barley flour because my aunt and uncle brought it to market in Canada, way back before alternate grains were trendy.  They have since sold the company, Hamilton’s Barley Flour, but it is still produced and can be found in some Calgary grocery stores.  It has a nice soft texture and reminds me of whole wheat pastry flour, or even light rye.  If you don’t have any barley flour on hand, you can replace it with whole wheat flour, unbleached flour, or whole wheat pastry flour – you may need to reduce the amount of liquid if you use unbleached flour, closer to 3/4 cup.

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