Find out how recipes from two British celebrity chefs compare against each other and who has the winning crumbly, light, mouth watering scone.
The recipe for scones is said to be easy, but as it's often with baking, basic recipes made from simple components can be still tricky to make. Even chefs aren't united on what are the perfect ingredients nor the methods when it comes to a scone recipe.
This time, we set a challenge between the two celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Paul Hollywood. We baked scones following their recipes as precisely as we could and compared them side by side. We've tested the recipes more than once adjusting the methods to see how a little change affects the outcome.
The key criteria we are comparing:
- Time to make
How the ingredients in the two recipes differ
Check the chart below. It shows you side by side the ingredients for both recipes.
|Jamie Oliver||Paul Hollywood|
|500g self-raising flour||500g strong white flour|
|150g cold unsalted butter||80g softened butter|
|15g/2 heaped tsp golden caster sugar||80g caster sugar|
|2 free-range eggs||2 free-range eggs|
|2 tsp baking powder||5 tsp baking powder|
|60 ml/4 tbsp milk||250ml milk|
|150g dried fruit|
|orange juice for soaking the fruit|
As you can see, both recipes are using baking powder as a raising agent, and both include eggs. The amounts of ingredients like sugar, butter and milk vary, and Jamie added dry fruit to his scones. However, the biggest variable is the type of flour used in the recipes.
Paul Hollywood recommends strong white flour (he is famous for his bread after all) while Jamie Oliver keeps his recipe more traditional with self-raising flour.
Does the type of flour matter?
Science tells us that flour with a higher percentage of protein like bread flour is better for developing strong gluten strands in the dough so it can trap gasses from the yeast and help the bread to rise. That is what we want when making bread, but can this flour make better scones like Paul Hollywood's recipe suggests?
We compared Jamie's (self-raising) and Paul's (strong flour) scones side by side. We tested how the knife cuts throughout them, how they break and crumble when you try to snap them and finally how they taste.
The result was like I expected - the self-raising flour made more brittle, delicate light scones that melted in the mouth.
In contrast, scones made from strong flour felt tougher and chewier even with a minimal handling time (more details below), despite their sufficient raise.
It just proves that flour with less protein is suitable for making cakes and also makes delicate, lighter scones in comparison to strong flour.
How to handle the scone dough?
Most scone recipes stress the importance not to overwork the dough, but there is always a question of when is the right moment to stop.
The instructions in Jamie Oliver's recipe asks to work with the dough as little as possible and stop as soon as you bring the ingredients together. If you check his video, the dough mixture looks flaky.
Paul Hollywood's advice is to work with the dough gently and fold and turn until the flour is all adequately mixed in. His mix forms a smooth dough because he spends longer time folding it.
It was interesting to see how the way the dough was worked affected the scone's appearance as well as it's texture.
There was an apparent difference between Jamie's and Paul's scones when we compared them side by side.
Jamie's scones had more sort of traditional, classic look (at least in my eyes) while Paul's scones rose in an odd way - most of them with a split dome on the top, smoother surface and round edges.
I decided to run another test with Paul's recipe to see how the scones would perform if I work with the dough as little as possible while keeping everything else the same.
The second batch of Paul's scones came out looking much better, which suggests that less is more in this case. I most likely overworked the dough from the first batch (despite following Paul's video very precisely). The second time the scones have risen in a more even manner and kept more of a traditional look.
Is it better to rest the dough before baking?
Jamie asks to rest the dough for 15 to 30 minutes in the fridge before baking while Paul mentions resting the scones for a couple of minutes before putting them to the oven.
As I wanted to know how much can resting and refrigerating affect the scones’ appearance, I decided to test it on Jamie's recipe. I split the batch in half, and while one half was in the fridge, the other went straight to the oven.
The theory is that rested cooled dough should rise higher (as the baking powder has more time to get activated), the scones have a more even, uniform shape and better-defined edges.
I didn't expect to see a significant difference. Still, my test proved that the rested scones had a more uniform shape, and they didn't have a tendency to expand sideways as much as their unrested fellows. The scones had sharper cleaner edges too.
For the raising abilities - the rested and refrigerated scones rose slightly higher, but the difference was barely notable though.
Resting and refrigerating the dough is clearly another factor that affects the scone appearance.
How did the recipes do after all?
We liked the texture as well as the visual appearance of Jamie's scones. The taste was good, but we wouldn't mind them a bit sweeter and preferably without dry fruit (we understand that judging the taste can be very subjective).
As much as we enjoyed the taste of Paul Hollywood's scones, the chewy texture given by the bread flour meant that we had to award more points to Jamie's recipes despite Paul's scones being faster to make.
|Time to make||-||1|
At the end of our tests, we all were very united on who has the winning recipe. If you read the text up to this point, you can easily guess that the scones we liked the best were Jamie Oliver's.
>>>>>>>>> Jamie Oliver Winning Scone Recipe <<<<<<<<<<
His scones look rustic but uniform. Their texture was crumbly and light, and they melted in the mouth. What a treat it was to eat them accompanied with jam and clotted cream. If you are not keen on dry fruit like us, simply replace it with milk to compensate for the missing moisture that the soaked fruit would otherwise add to the dough.
What did the test tell us about making the perfect scone?
Strong flour makes a chewier scone while plain flour or self-raising flour will give the scones a lighter and softer texture. The scones also need a sufficient amount of raising agent. Otherwise, they will end up dense and tough.
I always had a better result when using cold ingredients (butter, milk, eggs) and working with the dough as little as possible. The outcome is even better when you rest the dough in the fridge before cutting out the scones.
Don't roll the dough too thin. I prefer it 3 cm thick.
I also like a little tip that Jamie suggested - to turn the scones upside-down on the baking sheet as it should give them a better rise (I think it's not as much about better rise rather than how even they will look).
Before baking, brush scones with an egg wash or milk over the top, it will give them a perfect golden colour.
While Jamie Oliver's scones won this test, the recipe still wasn't the perfect one I was looking for.
It became clear that my family prefers plain, high risen scones with a nice touch of sweetness. I was determined to create my own perfect scone recipe that would give me the best-looking, uniform, tall scones every time. So after I finished our Chefs' Scone Challenge, I kept experimenting until I created My Foolproof Cream Tea Scone Recipe that I'm 100% happy with.
I don't want to publish recipes that are not mine, so if you would like to try Jamie Oliver or Paul Hollywood scones use these links:
Below, I’m including my delicious Foolproof Cream Tea Scone Recipe for anyone how is interested in trying it out.
There are some dissimilarities between Jamie's recipe and his video, where he explains how to make the scones. His recipe includes 2 eggs; however, his video doesn't. In the recipe method, he also asks to rest the dough in the fridge for 15 minutes while in his video, he tells us to rest them for 30 minutes.
Cream Tea Scones
- 500 g plain flour
- 14 g baking powder
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda just under levelled half a teaspoon
- ½ tsp citric acid (food grade) just under levelled half a teaspoon
- 40 g light brown muscovado sugar
- 40 g white caster sugar
- 150 g butter chilled
- 2 medium eggs [100g] chilled and beaten; The total amount of liquid (including the eggs and milk) shouldn't exceed 260ml. If your eggs are heavier than recommended 100g/100ml use less milk.
- 160 ml of milk chilled
- baking sheet
- baking paper
- mixing bowl
- cutter (5.5 cm cutter/makes aprox 10 small scones; 6.8 cm cutter/makes approx 6 large scones)
- Sift the flour, citric acid, baking powder and soda into a bowl. Mix with a whisk or fork to make sure all ingredients are evenly distributed through the flour.
- Grate the chilled butter into the flour using a coarse grater (work fast). Incorporate the butter in with a fork. Stop once you have an even crumbly mix. (You can use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour, but I discovered that using a fork is easier, gives me even crumbs and prevents the butter from softening too much).
- Tip: Use a fork for most of the mixing. That way the ingredients stay cold and you are less likely overwork the dough.
- Stir the sugar into the crumbly mix.
- Make a well in the middle, add beaten eggs and with a fork keep combining the dry and wet ingredients.
- Tip: Leave a small amount of egg at the bottom of the bowl, you can add a little bit of milk to it later and use the mix instead of an egg wash to brush the top of your scones.
- In a few steps pour the milk in. Keep gently combining with a fork.
- Finally, use your hands to incorporate the last bits of dry flour into the mixture by pressing and turning the dough in the bowl (it doesn’t take more than 8 - 10 movements). Stop when the dough is just about to hold together. It will look very messy and crumbly.
- Tip the dough onto the lightly dusted counter. Pat the dough into an oval/circular shape at least 3 centimetres tall. Wrap it in the clean film and leave resting on a plate in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 200C (without the fan).
- After 30 minutes, take the dough out of the fridge and place it on a generously dusted countertop. Don’t knead the dough and don’t press it too hard; you can reshape it if you need to by gently patting it with your hands into the desired thickens. The dough already contains gas that developed when bicarbonate of soda was activated during mixing.
- Cut the scones out using a round cutter. The top of the scones might have a few cracks and an uneven surface. That’s why I place the scones onto the tray with the top side down and the bottom - smoother side up.
- For smaller scones use a 5.5 cm cutter. I’m able to cut around 14 little cuties and as I don’t like waste, I pat the leftover dough together again and cut out 3 additional scones. If you want a large scones, use a 6.8 cm cutter. You should be able to cut out around 6 scones and a couple more from the leftovers.
- Brush the top of each scone with egg/milk wash and bake them on 200 C. Smaller scones will take around 13 minutes, bigger scones between 18 - 20 minutes.
- Let the scones cool down before serving. Enjoy them with clotted cream and jam.