This Tip is Supposed to Make Your Scones Rise Higher (2024)

by: Sarah Jampel

May25,2016

36Comments

36Comments

After a less-than-stellar experiment with a viral tip for softening butter, I started wondering about other pieces of advice—shared frequently, sometimes just copied and pasted from website to website—that do not work (or, to give the benefit of the doubt, that don't work quite as written).

And so, a tip for baking scones that I'd come across many times on various baking sites. Here it is, as one of "5 Tips for Baking Perfect Scones" on Oven Haven:

Tip #5: Arrange your cut-out scones close to one another

Much like cinnamon rolls, arranging your scones side by side, just touching one another, helps in making the scones rise evenly, and higher. Since the heat causes the scones to rise, if they are placed side by side, the scones will be forced to rise upwards, not outwards. Thus, scones arranged closer would rise higher than those baked apart.

And again, on the site Gourmet Getaways' "Secrets for Making PERFECT Scones":

Scones like to cosy up to one another in the baking tray. This helps them to rise evenly in the cooking process. When placing the scones in the baking tray they need to be touching.

The same tip is repeated on the blog Happy Home Baking, with similar language:

Arrange scones side by side on the baking tray, so that they are just touching each other. This will help keep the sides straight and even as the scones cook. They will also rise higher than scones that are baked spaced apart.

Without visual proof that the tip actually works—and with advice elsewhere indicating the contrary (in Alice Medrich's book Flavor Flours, she instructs many biscuits and scones to be spaced 2 inches apart on the baking sheet; in our own Baking book, mrslarkin's Featherweight Blueberry Scones are to be staggered 1 inch apart)—I was skeptical: The tip seems like it might make sense (the baking scones give off heat, and when they're all close together, steam from the neighboring scones helps everyone to rise higher)... but it also seems like it might not make sense: The scones don't have as much breathing room, making it harder for the heat of the oven to circulate in between the channels and cause the sides of the scones to heat up.

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I decided to do a very simple test by doubling the recipe for Midge's Naughty Rhubarb Scones. On one baking sheet, I snuggled up the scones (though not so extreme as belly-to-belly)—still, this was so close, it made me (and maybe the scones) a little uncomfortable. On the other sheet, I let them have some personal space.

Naughty Rhubarb Scones View Recipe

Ingredients

3 stalks rhubarb
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup vanilla sugar
2/3 cup heavy cream (up to 3/4 cup)
3 stalks rhubarb
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup vanilla sugar
2/3 cup heavy cream (up to 3/4 cup)

And when the two trays came out of the oven, there was no discernible difference in height or fluff. Both trays were light and lofty; the scones that baked with more room were a bit browner (even though I rotated the trays); and some of those on the crowded sheet pan spread into one another (but not in a problematic way).

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Top Comment:

“Professional pastry chef of 25* years. Second generation pastry chef.Retired owner of a retail bakery and a wholesale bakery. Blogger teaching professional baking at www.FearlessBakers.com http://www.fearlessbakers.com/ Former Host @ https://forums.egullet.org/forum/72-pastry-amp-baking/ etc...”

— Wendy D.

Comment

The conclusion? Maybe the tip works in some cases, but not always—and it didn't make a difference here. I'd love to know exactly when this tip would make a difference (or, if it never has a significant effect, how this rumor got started).

Tell me: What other tips have you seen over and over but that make you skeptical? Are there any on this site that you'd like to see tested?

Write it in the comments and we'll put on our science goggles and get to work!

Tags:

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Written by: Sarah Jampel

I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.

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36 Comments

judy September 23, 2017

When I make scones, I cut the recipe in half and make two round balls. Place them side by side on a cookie sheet. Slice through each ball 4 times across so I have 8 pieces. I just wiggle them apart slightly with each slice. Then I just leave them in the ball form. don't move them. Bake as directed. Allow to cool slightly then remove. They rise very well and are not so dry and crumbly. Got this from an aunt who was a great baker. I was 8 years old the last time I saw her before she died. I'm 62 and have used this technique with every batch of scones and Irish soda bread I have made since. Always wonderful!

Penny August 8, 2021

I have been making scones for many years from a recipe I got from a friend in the 1980’s. She taught me to press the dough into a circle, cut into wedges but don’t move them apart and then bake. They come out perfect every time!

Never S. April 6, 2023

For scones, when made and mixed and on a baking try, place in the fridge for 30 or 49 minutes. Then place in your preheated oven. They will always rise straight up. You can if you wish ambrysh the tops of the scones with a little melted butter, it gives a succulent finish to the scones.
Enjoy and leave some for the rest of the people in the house.

Archie1954 October 11, 2016

What about aerating the flour by picking it up in your fingers from the preparation surface and allowing it to drift back through your fingers. Doing this several times might result in a lighter, fluffier scone.

Alice May 31, 2016

This works with traditional British scones, i.e., cut in the round. They do indeed rise better and higher. The other tip I was given when you cut them with a round pastry cutter, is not to twist it into the dough. This skews them so they may rise unevenly. Press the cutter into the dough firmly and take it out without twisting. Perfectly, evenly risen scones. Final tip - strong white bread flour. I got this tip from cookery writer Rose Prince and it works a treat.

Sam H. May 29, 2016

Key word is "touching" - not just close. Just like tucking biscuits onto the pan, side-by-each, vs. spaced to allow sideways spread. The rhubarb scones look delicious, but if I used some of my gargantuan stalks of rhubarb, I fear they would quickly become a very sour pudding!

Laura415 June 11, 2016

Exactly! If you make wedge shapes I simply bake them in a cast iron skillet. Roll out scones dough in a circle to fit in your skillet. Cut into wedges. Fit into the skillet touching like biscuits. They won't brown on the sides much tho. Guess there are pluses and minuses to each method.

Connie B. May 29, 2016

I plan on making scones today and will use the idea Suse offered in all these comments - Seems to me to be the best solution to the entire dilemma!

Suse May 29, 2016

I hope it works for you, Connie!

Wendy D. May 26, 2016

As a baking expert myself, I saw no points made. 1. You didn't show an example of scones baked close together in any of the photos. Both trays are identically baked, separated with air between each scone. 2. If you split a batch of scones and put a couple more pieces of fruit in some scones then others, the ones with more fruit will slump more than the ones with less fruit. For this to be accurately tested they shouldn't have a fruit filling.

Elizabeth October 19, 2016

How are you a baking "expert"?

Wendy D. October 20, 2016

Professional pastry chef of 25* years.
Second generation pastry chef.
Retired owner of a retail bakery and a wholesale bakery.
Blogger teaching professional baking at www.FearlessBakers.com http://www.fearlessbakers.com/
Former Host @ https://forums.egullet.org/forum/72-pastry-amp-baking/
etc...

Claire May 11, 2022

I agree. Evidence should have been offered(before and after photos). Easy for someone to make a statement without proof. Thank you for sharing...I agree.

Mike H. May 26, 2016

hi

EmilyC May 25, 2016

I often bake my scones in a round that I've scored into wedges before they go into the oven, per Joanne Chang's currant scone recipe. They rise nice and high -- though I've never baked them side-by-side with ones spaced an inch apart to compare! http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-flour-bakerys-classic-c-132297

Mike H. May 26, 2016

hie

John T. May 25, 2016

As a scientist, I'd like to see some quantitative data and replication :-)

Suse May 25, 2016

I often leave the scone dough in one big circle, and put it in a heavy skillet. I then sprinkle with sugar and cut wedges almost all the way through to the bottom. After baking, I separate the wedges and put them on a heavy baking sheet, then back into the oven for about 10 more minutes. They rise a bit more and have nice crispy edges. I started doing this after making a skillet recipe for pumpkin scones . They didn't cook all the way through and were pretty doughy, even though a toothpick came out clean. I thought the baking sheet trick might work and it did. I bake all of my scone recipes this way now.

Laura415 June 11, 2016

Good idea for getting the sides browned. Thx.

702551 May 25, 2016

It makes some difference for certain things, but the pieces need to be pretty close together. If you do an Internet search for "hawaiian bun" or "homemade hot dog bun" you'll see examples.

Biscuits are another example where this works to some degree.

In a sense, having a close neighbor is like putting the dough in a cupcake cup or muffin tin. If you can expand outward, the only place to go is up. This is the same basic principle with a souffle. If you pour the souffle batter (a custard really) into a flat dish, it's not going to rise, it'll just spread to the edges as far as I can go.

Heck, it's the same basic principle about basic bread in a loaf pan versus laying it out on a sheet pan. Pizza is flat partly because it is rolled thin, but also because it doesn't (usually) go in a pan. It's ultimately just bread dough. If you want a thicker, fluffier pizza, you don't roll it so thin and you put it in a pan like Chicago deep dish pizza.

I use the same principle when I brine pork loin roasts in ziplock bags. Rather than leave the ziplock bag on a refrigerator shelf, I put the bagged, brining roast in a container a little larger than the roast. Since the bag can't expand flat, the liquid is forced up over the roast. This ensures the meat is completely submerged underneath the brine.

Anyhow, good luck with this.

thalia H. May 25, 2016

love this series! i've always been curious to know whether cake flour vs. normal flour adds a big difference to the outcome of cakes Xx

Pamela S. May 25, 2016

I find that cake flour can really make a difference, particularly in Biscuits!

Pumpkiness May 25, 2016

Agreed. I use Julia Child's recipe for biscuits and it calls for cake flour.

Claire May 11, 2022

Yes! In Europe we have more than one flour and this really helps in baking. Never understood having so few flour options.

Susan W. May 25, 2016

What about bakers who use a scone pan . . . either metal or silicone or ceramic . . . in which the scones are baked in walled, triangular wells? Would those scones rise higher than free form scones or does it matter more how fresh the baking powder and/or baking soda is?

I do not see this as a matter of one cause. There are many reasons why any batch of baked goods rises faster than other batches based on the same recipe or rises without falling.

Sipa May 25, 2016

I always cut my scones before and then place them just barely touching on a sheet pan. They rise very nicely and easily pull apart along the cut edges. The only issue is the very middle scones don't bake as fast as the scones on the edges.

Sarah J. May 25, 2016

A-ha! An interesting problem! I'm curious as to whether the different ways to bake scones in terms of pan placement have to do with different traditions (whether British scones were traditionally made in one way, for example).

Sugartoast May 25, 2016

I learned a great tip from Ovenly's "Rosemary Currant Scone" recipe (posted here on F52) where you fold the dough over itself a few times - almost like laminating pastry - to get really tall scones. Love this recipe and love the technique!

Kristin May 25, 2016

Hi Sarah! I would be curious to see you test this one again, actually. I've always interpreted this tip to mean that scones should be placed literally touching each other before baking, and so the sides line up and so you have to cut or pull them apart. Or with round scones, placed in a grid pattern. I think the idea is that each scone will lend structural integrity to its neighbors as it rises, pushing all of them higher. Like pull-apart dinner rolls, you know? (Actually, I wonder if dinner rolls are the origin of this idea.) The way you did them, they're not really lined up and just touching each other barely at some corners. That's not going to lend the kind of support that I think these tips are meant to get at.

Sarah J. May 25, 2016

Hi Kristin,
Thanks for reading! Yes, you're totally right: I should test it again with the scones truly touching! If they spread into each other a bit, do you recommend separating them with a knife? I guess it just seems counterintuitive to me to cut individual scones, then bake them so they all flow together again. And then these scones would, presumably, be fluffier than individuals? Then why not make a bannock? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bannock_(food)

Ron M. May 25, 2016

I don't know about scones, but when I make shortbread cookies, the cookies tend to melt a little. If I separate the cookies, they lose their shape (still taste great, but don't look as good). I cut my cookies into rectangles, and place them literally touching each other almost like one giant cookie. After cooking, they almost become one single cookie, but they are easy to cut apart as long as you do it while they are still warm.

Of course, with scones, the trade-off is that the scones won't have nice crispy sides. Personally, I'm not sure its worth it, even if they do fluff up a little nicer.

Sarah J. May 25, 2016

Interesting about the shortbread! Have you ever tried scoring the dough, then separating the cookie block with a knife after baking (rather than cutting fully, placing, then cutting again)?

Ron M. May 25, 2016

I've never tried that, but it is an interesting idea. My worry would be that the cookies might crack. While the cookies seem to merge into a single cookie, the cut that I originally made still seems to be there making the cookies easy to cut apart. Or maybe it would work if I used a sharp knife. (usually I just use a butter knife).

Kristin May 25, 2016

Hi again! Actually, I agree about the counterintuitiveness and I like crunchy sides, so I haven't tried the exact trick described in your quotes. However--there was a similar method recommended in the original version of Chocolate & Zucchini's Yogurt Scones (she has updated the recipe and changed the method now). She had you put all the dough in a cake/pie pan and then "score" scones before baking, but you didn't take them out of the pan, just baked them in there nestled together. You had to cut them apart again with a knife after baking. I spotted similar but not-quite-the-same methods on KAF: http://blog.kingarthurflour.com/2015/06/12/easy-way-shape-scones/ . I used to make those yogurt scones all the time and I do remember them rising very high.

Neither of those cake pan methods are exactly what the tips you quoted are describing, because they're only cut after baking, but I think the premise is somewhat similar.

Sarah J. May 25, 2016

Oh, so cool!! Yes, what KAF describes is more of a bannock and it makes really moist scones without the crusty edges! Guess it just depends on what you're looking for in a scone. I do want to try making more of a scone "loaf" though—sounds equally good.

witloof May 25, 2016

I learned a wonderful trick from a friend whose grandfather owned a bakery. She made shortbread and cut it into tiny little squares before baking. The shortbread's surfaces caramelized and was extra delicious that way.

This Tip is Supposed to Make Your Scones Rise Higher (2024)

FAQs

This Tip is Supposed to Make Your Scones Rise Higher? ›

Arrange scones side by side on the baking tray, so that they are just touching each other. This will help keep the sides straight and even as the scones cook. They will also rise higher than scones that are baked spaced apart.

How do I make my scones rise higher? ›

How to make scones rise high? Once you've cut out your scone shapes, flip them over and place upside down on the baking tray. This will help them rise evenly and counteract any 'squashing' that happened when you cut out the dough. Perfect scones should rise to about 2 inches high.

What is the best raising agent for a scone? ›

The two come in combination as bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) is an alkaline and needs the addition of an acid, such as cream of tartar, to create the carbon dioxide that causes the scones to rise. The amount of cream of tartar - 4 1/2 teaspoons - is correct.

Why do scones not rise straight? ›

The most likely reason I can think of is that you omitted the leavening, or what you used was flat. Another reason might be that your dough was too warm when you baked it, so it spread more while baking. Of course, scones are not yeast products, so they shouldn't rise as much as bread would.

Why is baking powder the best raising agent for scones? ›

One of which is the gas carbon dioxide. Gases tend to take up much more space than liquid or solid things such as water or ice, so when the gas is formed by the reaction of the baking powder in the water, little gas bubbles create pockets in the baking mixture, making foods like cakes and muffins light and fluffy.

Does baking soda make scones rise? ›

Always use well-chilled butter! Also, make sure you use the correct amount of baking powder or bicarbonate of soda in the recipe. These leavening agents release carbon dioxide which escapes in the form of bubbles when heat is added – these help the scones rise properly and give them a light and fluffy texture.

Is heavy cream or buttermilk better for scones? ›

Heavy Cream or Buttermilk: For the best tasting pastries, stick with a thick liquid such as heavy cream or buttermilk. I usually use heavy cream, but if you want a slightly tangy flavor, use buttermilk.

What to avoid when making scones? ›

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Baking Scones
  1. Using anything but cold ingredients. The secret to the flakiest scones is to start with cold ingredients — cold butter, cold eggs, and cold cream. ...
  2. Only using all-purpose flour. ...
  3. Overmixing the dough. ...
  4. Not chilling the dough before baking. ...
  5. Baking them ahead of time.
May 1, 2019

What type of flour is best for scones? ›

We recommend using all-purpose flour. There is some debate as to what flour one should use to go around achieving the perfect scone. This is because within different flours comes different levels of protein.

How long should you rest scones before baking? ›

Place pan of shaped scones into the freezer for up to 30 minutes before baking. This short rest relaxes the gluten, making scones more tender; and cold chills the fat, increasing flakiness. Make scone dough up to three days ahead.

Why do you put eggs in scones? ›

Scones can be made either with self-raising flour or with plain flour and baking powder. Sweet scones and cheese scones have an egg added to enrich them. Both will rise but whatever scone you make its important that they are handled lightly and not rolled too thinly.

What are the differences between American style scones and British style scones? ›

American scones use much more butter than British scones, and they usually have quite a bit more sugar. The extra butter is what makes them so much denser. This is not really a good or bad thing, as British scones pile on plenty of sugar (in the form of preserves/jam) and butter or clotted cream as toppings.

Why does cold butter give a better risen scone? ›

Butter must be COLD from the very start to when the dough enters the oven. The cold butter melts upon entering the oven and the water content in butter evaporates in steam. As the steam escapes, it bursts up and creates that beautiful tall, flaky, fluffy texture.

Why are my scones not dense? ›

Different flours have different levels of protein and, generally, the higher the protein, the denser the baked good. Most all-purpose flour has a protein content of about 10 to 12 percent — if you use a flour that has less, you'll get a lighter scone.

What does too much butter do to scones? ›

If you double the amount of butter in our recipe, they'll turn out more like cookies (we tested it for you). So, try to reduce the amount of butter. Keep in mind that after rubbing in the fat into the flour, it should give a crumbly texture.

What not to do when making scones? ›

Just a reminder: Don't overwork the dough or the scones will turn out rubbery – or worse, bullety and hard. Cut out your scones cleanly. Twisting the cutter can impair the rise. If you use a fluted cutter, you can't twist it.

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