Sassenach Scones

An iced pumpkin ginger scone.

With a family name of “Douglass” on my mother’s side and my married name of “McKinnon”, being enamored of scones is almost mandatory; with shortbread coming in a close second. I think my obsession with all things Scottish stems from the frustration of being denied a bagpipe in my youth, though in all fairness, my folks did try to get me lessons–but were refused because I was a girl. That’s okay…I probably would have ended up with even chubbier cheeks and been the dork bringing up the rear in the high school band.

If your only exposure to scones comes from a booth at the fair or a trip through Starbucks, you’re missing a whole sensory experience of combined flavors and textures. Fair scones are wonderful; basic biscuit-like pastries that melt in your mouth. I have nothing bad to say about fair scones, except that you can only indulge in them once or twice a year. The Starbucks scones I’ve tried, however, aren’t worth the exorbitant price they charge. They come in a variety of flavors, but are crumbly, cold, and taste like leavening. Bleh.

Most store-bought scones are made with the American taste bud in mind: too sweet and sometimes too salty. We expect to bite into a pastry and have it scream “sugar!” This is fine if you’re eating a cupcake (don’t even get me started on Costco muffins) but is really not what a scone is all about.

One of my favorite scone recipes is from an old Pillsbury cookbook. I refrained from playing with the recipe, faithfully presenting it here in all its glory. OK, a few teeny tiny changes. Somewhere along the line small cans of evaporated milk switched from 5.33-oz. to 5oz., so I changed that. And I bumped the oven temperature from 400 F to 425 F. Oh, and sometimes I leave out the currants, and I changed the instructions a little…but those are the only changes I made, honest! This recipe makes a lovely basic scone, perfect with butter and jam, and would also be ideal for strawberry shortcake. I love crunch, so I bake mine at least 20 minutes, and sprinkle the scones with lots of sugar before they go in the oven.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold butter
2/3 cup dried currants (optional)
5-oz. can evaporated milk (chilled)
1 egg

  • Heat the oven to 425 F.
  • In medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; blend well. Using pastry blender or fork, cut in butter until mixture is crumbly.

Blending the butter into the dry ingredients.

  • Stir in currants, if desired.
  • Combine evaporated milk and egg; add all at once, stirring just until moistened.

Add liquids to dry ingredients.

  • Mixture will be a little dry. With your hands, knead it a couple of times to bring it together to form a ball. Place dough on a floured cookie sheet and flatten into a circle, about 1 inch thick.
  • With a floured knife, cut into 8 wedges, cutting straight up and down. You may leave the dough as is, or separate the wedges with a spatula if you prefer crunchy sides.

Scone wedges, separated for crunchy sides.

        • Sprinkle with sugar and bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Serve warm with butter and jam!

A warm scone with butter and homemade raspberry jam.

Now, see? Wasn’t that easy? They’re just a glorified biscuit, waiting for butter and jam. Or in a perfect world, clotted cream. Unfortunately we live out in the sticks, and (just my luck) the closest store to us appears to be completely out of clotted cream.

With fall rapidly approaching, I find myself dreaming up recipes for comfort foods. Here’s a recipe for Spicy Pumpkin Ginger Scones that made my husband fall down and kiss my feet. Yeah, yeah…slight exaggeration. But he did eat his way through a lot of test scones, since it took me three attempts before I was happy with the outcome.

Spicy Pumpkin Ginger Scones

Spicy Pumpkin Ginger Scones

2/3 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling!)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 egg
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup cold butter
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger,(you’ll find this in the spice aisle)
Milk or cream to brush on finished dough

      • Heat the oven to 425 F.
      • Lightly flour a cookie sheet.
      • Mince the crystallized ginger and set aside.

Mincing crystallized ginger.

    • In a small bowl, mix together the pumpkin, cream, and egg until well combined. Place in the refrigerator to keep cold.
    • In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.
    • Cut the cold butter into small cubes and toss in the bowl of dry ingredients. With a pastry blender or two butter knives, work the butter into the flour. It should be crumbly – you don’t want to see any chunks of butter.
    • Stir in the minced crystallized ginger.
    • Add the chilled pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients all at once. Stir just until combined. You may need to use your hands to gently knead it into a ball.
    • Place the dough on the floured cookie sheet and press into a circle approximately 1 inch thick.
    • With a floured knife, cut into 8 wedges, cutting straight up and down. You may leave the dough as is, or separate the wedges with a spatula if you prefer crunchy sides.
    • Brush with milk or cream and sprinkle with sugar.
    • Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.
    • Cool on rack.

Spicy Pumpkin Ginger Scones, fresh from the oven.

If you like your scones frosted, make a simple icing by adding milk , a teaspoon at a time, to a cup of confectioner’s sugar until you get the desired consistency. I like to add a few drops of vanilla (or booze) too. Drizzle it on when the scones are almost cool.

Since I now have bagpipes droning in my head, I guess I’ll have to continue with the Scottish theme and give you a shortbread recipe in my next blog. Soon!

May the best ye hae ivver seen be the warst ye’ll ivver see.
May the moose ne’er leave yer girnal wi a tear-drap in its ee.
May ye aye keep hail an hertie till ye’r auld eneuch tae dee.
May ye aye juist be sae happie as A wuss ye aye tae be.

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