Scones in America have the reputation of being thick, heavy, dry bricks. To enhance their appeal, they’re often disguised under a sugar shellac of achingly sweet glaze or filled with chocolate chips. Despite these feeble attempts to dress them up, it’s no secret that today’s coffeehouse confections are a far cry from what a scone should be: tender, flaky, and, if the season allows, filled with fresh fruit.
For the all-important light and airy texture, take a hint from puff pastry, where the power of steam is used to separate super-thin layers of dough into striated flakes. This comes from turning, rolling, and folding the dough several times, which creates hundreds of layers that steam apart from each other when the scone is baked. This lift depends on distinct pieces of butter distributed throughout the dough that melt during baking and leave behind pockets of air. For this to happen, the butter needs to be as cold and solid as possible until the scone enters the oven. There’s just one problem: your hands, which inevitably warm the butter as you touch it. The best way to avoid this is to start with very cold butter straight from the freezer and grate it on the large holes of a box grater. This method of distributing the butter keeps the interior of the scones tender and moist without being dense.
FREEZE THEN GRATE
Long shreds of butter are key to the flakiness of these scones and many pastries. To make grating butter easy, you need to first freeze a wrapped stick of butter until firm. Once firm, remove the wrapper over the portion of butter to be grated, leaving the rest of the stick wrapped. Using the wrapped end of the stick as a handle, grate the unwrapped portion on the large holes of a box grater. (To easily grate an entire stick of butter, we suggest freezing two sticks and grating just half of each.)
MAKING BERRY SCONES
1. Roll the dough out into a 12-inch square on a lightly floured counter. Fold the top and bottom of the dough over the center (like a business letter).
2. Fold up the sides of the dough to form a 4-inch square. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured plate and chill in the freezer for 5 minutes.
3. Roll the chilled dough out again into a 12-inch square on a lightly floured counter. Sprinkle the berries evenly over the dough and press them lightly into the dough.
4. Roll the dough up into a tight log and pinch the seam closed.
5. Lay the log seam side down, then press into a 12 by 4-inch rectangle.
6. With a floured knife, cut the dough crosswise into 4 rectangles, and then cut each rectangle into 2 triangular scones.