Use this as a formula for all sorts of experimentation. It makes flaky, crisp-topped scones with a tender crumb.

Yield: 16 scones

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I like to use a Southern flour, such as White Lily, but any will do)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt (I now use fine sea salt for baking, but also like coarse salt, sometimes called kosher salt — if you use coarse salt, use 1/2 teaspoon)

about 1/4 cup granulated sugar — you choose the sweetness, from 1/4 to 1/3 cup

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

about 3/4 cup to 1 cup heavy cream (light cream or half-and-half also works)

add-ins: about 1/2 cup chocolate chips, dried cranberries, toffee bits, chopped praline, a tablespoon or so of mint or other herb (I like to grind these first with the sugar), any chopped nuts, a tablespoon vanilla extract or a 1/2 teaspoon orange or almond extract, the zest of one orange or a lemon or two, a teaspoon or so of cinnamon, or espresso powder, or candied orange peel … you get the idea

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Put all the dry ingredients in a food processor and whiz to combine well (if you use citrus zest or an herb, grind it first with the sugar, then add the remaining dry ingredients). Add the butter and pulse it in until it’s in pea-size pieces. (If you don’t have a processor, then whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the butter and use your fingertips to press and break the butter into small pieces mixed with the flour. It’s good to do this by hand once just to know how and to really get familiar with the feel of it — but unless I, a fairly lazy baker, am stuck somewhere without equipment, I always use a processor or mixer to cut my butter in.)

Dump into a large bowl, add cream, mix in briefly with a spatula, add the add-ins, and mix gently with your hands until the dough just begins to come together. Press gently into a ball; if it doesn’t hold together, mix in more cream a bit at a time until the dough holds together but is not sticky.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface, cut in half, and gently press each half into a round about 1/2-inch tall. If you like, brush rounds with cream or a beaten egg — a nice touch but optional. Cut each round into 8 wedges. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or lightly greased, and bake for about 12 minutes, or until scones are golden and set on top and golden on the bottom.

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