Lemon Buttermilk Scones

Lemon Buttermilk Scone.

Lemon Buttermilk Scone.

lscone3Another scone recipe? Well, yes. Firstly, Carolyn makes them a lot (the boys and I don’t mind). Secondly, if there is a “gateway drug” into the joys of baking, scones are it. Scones are quick to make, use common ingredients, are easy to tune/tweak and the dough can be frozen for future use. Close to the perfect pastry.

lscone4lscone5But that doesn’t mean all scones are created equal….we like great scones. A little crunch on the outside, tender and moist on the inside, sweet but not cloying. Happily, Carolyn bakes up some truly awesome scones. And this recipe for lemon buttermilk scones is one of Carolyn’s better variations. And since the recipe features two of our favorite “special” ingredients, we aren’t surprised we like it so much.

lscone6lscone7What special ingredients are we talking about? That would be citrus zest and buttermilk. If you want to be a better baker and/or cook, these are ingredients you need to use on a regular basis. Citrus zest brings clean bright citrus notes to dishes without the liquid, sourness and acid of the juice. If you wonder what that extra kick is in that super-tasty chicken, fish or veggie dish- look for some zest (sometimes you can’t even see it, but it was there). In baking or ice-cream making citrus zest brings out big flavors with minimal footprint or impact on the chemistry/balance of a recipe. And don’t even get us stared on citrus zest and cocktails…..a lifetime study (one we are pursuing as we speak).


The daily haul from the garden- good with scones.

As for buttermilk, this is another ingredient that almost instantly improves dozens of dishes. If you need rich and tangy flavor, buttermilk is your friend. Marinade for fried chicken? Yup. Dressing? Yes, please. Pancakes? Of course (and keep ’em coming!). But it is in baking / pastry where buttermilk truly sings. And it isn’t just the richness and tang that help the baker, the acidity of the buttermilk reacts with baking powder to give pastry (like scones) more body and lift. Buttermilk helps you get big, beautiful pastries. If your recipe has baking powder but still seems a little flat- look for a variation of the recipe using buttermilk.

lscone8As for the scones themselves, this recipe is Carolyn’s adaption of a recipe from the One Girl Cookies cookbook (a Brooklyn bakery) with some tweaks based on years of baking scones from King Arthur Flour recipes. The nice trick here, in addition to the use of lemon zest and buttermilk, is using a food processor for mixing the dry ingredients (you can also do it by hand, but if you have the gear, you may as well use it). Otherwise the recipe is Scone 101. Mix, bake, eat, enjoy and repeat. We certainly did.

lscone1Lemon Buttermilk Scones:

(Adapted from One Girl Cookies)

Notes Before You Start:

  • No notes- go bake some scones. Everyone will love you.

What You Get: Very tasty scones with extra flavor and tang from the lemon zest and buttermilk. You will want more than one.

What You Need: No special equipment required, but a food processor is nice.

How Long? 45 minutes with about 20 minutes of active time. An anytime dish, if you are an early riser. Otherwise, an easy weekend dish.


(Makes 8 big scones)

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small chunks
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • Zest of 2 lemons, finely grated
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Turbinado sugar (optional, but good)


  1. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In the bowl of your food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse 4 or 5 times until the butter is in pea-sized pieces (no smaller). Pour the mixture into a large bowl.
  3. In a different bowl, combine the buttermilk and lemon zest. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients and fold with a rubber spatula until just combined. You should have a sticky dough.
  4. Flour a work surface and then turn out the dough and pat into an 8-inch circle. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes. Using a large knife or pastry cutter, cut the circle of dough into 8 equal wedges. Transfer the wedges to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the tops of the scones with heavy cream and sprinkle on turbinado sugar (if using).
  5. Place the baking sheet in the oven and reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Bake the scones for 10 minutes. Then rotate the baking sheet and cook for another 8 to 10 minutes, until the tops of the scones are a light golden brown. Remove the scones from the oven, cool slightly on a wire rack and then serve warm.

18 thoughts on “Lemon Buttermilk Scones

  1. Have you ever tried making scones with almond or oat flour? I know oat flour tends to be denser and I’m wondering if the added buttermilk would help fluff them up.

    • Hi. Not sure, but the action with baking powder and or buttermilk is most observed with wheat flour and the glutens / proteins that build structure. It may help, but my guess is that you need some wheat flour (or other flour). Not sure that is an option.

      Regardless of flour, the buttermilk would still need baking powder to react with…

      • Food allergies always make baking interesting. I’ve been wanting to try some scones—I’m sure there are recipes with oat/almond flour, but I’ll be sure to add some citrus zest either way.

        Love reading about all your recipes and the photos!

  2. mmm mmmm…I remember that Carolyn does indeed rock her scones 😉 Great line about the “gateway drug.” Those slightly browned edges look especially delish.

  3. I couldn’t agree more on all counts! Love scones, love lemon, love buttermilk!! I have been using it for brining lately, and it is my go to for goodies like biscuits, scones, pancakes.

  4. Pingback: Cinnamon Scones and the ER. | Versatile-Vegan

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