Come one, come all to today’s Free Range chat at noon, where the go-to topics are likely to be the founder of Bob’s Red Mill; how to oven-bake a loaf that starts out in the bread machine; the recent glut of best-selling cookbooks by celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Eva Longoria; and our barbecue sauce contest (deadline is Sunday; don’t miss it).

And maybe even the royal wedding.

The United Biscuits factory in London turns out Prince William’s favorite tea cookies, which will be baked as a cake for the event at the royal family’s request. (Linda Davidson/ WASHINGTON POST)

As you’ll see, the topic was already on the mind of one Free Range chatter last week. We couldn’t get to the question then, but here’s the answer now, just in time to shop for a few items and get ready to bake:

My sister is visiting from California and has asked me to make scones to eat while watching the royal wedding. Do you have a super-easy scone recipe for a newbie, and can the dough be made the night before, as she is planning on watching the royal wedding at 7 a.m.?

Wow, you get the Golden Sibling Award. Not only are you going to bake, but you’re going to bake at 7 a.m. I’m so impressed that I’m going to give you a choice of two recipes, plus a special treat.

The first recipe is, as you requested, for newbies. You’ll probably need to go to the grocery store to pick up crystallized ginger (look in the spice aisle) and sliced (not slivered!) almonds. The nuts you find might not be blanched (with the dark outer skin removed), but that’s okay; you’ll have brown specks in the scones, but they’ll taste fine. And really, at 7 a.m., who will notice? If you don’t have a stand mixer, good old elbow grease will be sufficient.

The second recipe, recommended by deputy Food editor Bonnie Benwick, is one she makes every week and swears by. The chocolate chips make it un-British, but we’re not judging here. Also, we’re not British.

And your special treat? I don’t expect you to make this one, but it’s so a propos I couldn’t resist it: a scone recipe from Queen Elizabeth II herself. Such a busy woman — and she bakes! Well, maybe.

None of them, unfortunately, suggests making the dough the night before. But you could bake the scones in advance and freeze them (they will be perfectly good when reheated) or get a head start on wedding morning by mixing the dry ingredients Thursday night.

Finally, I’ll include links to some other favorite scone recipes, both sweet and savory. (One of them requires you to assemble the dough hours in advance, which might seem perfect for you, but you said you wanted super-easy, and this one is slightly more complicated than the first two.) Once you see how simple it is to make scones, you might want to branch out.

Ginger and Almond Scones

Makes 8 to 10 scones

This recipe is foolproof.

You can double or triple this single recipe, which makes 8 to 10 scones, but don't push it beyond tripling. After that, it takes too long to combine the dry ingredients with the milk or cream, and you risk overmixing.

Serve plain or with jam or lemon curd.

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1/2 stick (2 ounces) chilled unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup milk (may substitute heavy cream)

Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper and set aside.

In the large bowl of a standing electric mixer, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and sugar. Stir in the ground and crystallized ginger.

In the same bowl, using a standing electric mixer on medium speed, add the bits of butter to the flour mixture. Mix until the butter is evenly combined with the flour and the mixture feels like coarse cornmeal.

Add the almonds, the almond extract and then the milk or cream, combining just until the dough forms. Be careful not to overmix.

Turn out the dough onto a surface dusted with flour or sugar, and pat it into a 6-inch square, about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into triangles with a knife and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet, separating them by at least 1/2 inch. Bake for 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Adapted from a recipe from Susan Watterson, who taught a scone workshop at L'Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda.

Chocolate Chip Scones

Makes 8 large scones

The slight tang of buttermilk and bittersweet chocolate make these a royal treat, even if there’s no wedding to watch. They need no embellishment and take about 30 minutes, start to finish.

Adapted from a recipe at


2 cups flour, plus more for the work surface

¼ cup sugar

1¼ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

8 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter or unsalted goat butter, cut into small pieces

½ cup coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate

2 / 3 cup regular or low-fat buttermilk, plus more for brushing

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Turbinado or raw sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl. Use your clean fingers or a pastry cutter to work the butter into the dry ingredients, just until no piece of it is larger than a pea. The butter needs to remain cold. Add the chocolate and stir briefly to distribute it.

Combine the buttermilk and vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup, then pour into the mixing bowl. Use a fork to combine, then your hands to knead a few times into a dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. All of the dry ingredients should be incorporated.

Lightly flour a work surface. Transfer the dough to the work surface. Knead and pat into a disk that is approximately 7 inches across and about 1½ inches thick. Use your fingers or a pastry brush to lightly coat the top of the dough with a little buttermilk. Sprinkle the turbinado or raw sugar evenly on top.

Use a large sharp knife, or preferably a bench scraper to cut the disk in half, then into quarters and finally into 8 wedges. Arrange them on the baking sheet, spaced at least an inch apart. Bake for 18 to 21 minutes, until lightly browned on the bottoms and the tops.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Queen of Scones

And here, as promised, is a contribution from the queen herself, soon to become a grandmother-in-law. She sent this to then-President Eisenhower in January of 1960; sometime earlier, he had visited her in England, and she had promised to share her recipe for drop scones.

Her Majesty wrote, “. . . Though quantities are for 16 people, when there are fewer, I generally put in less flour and milk. . . . I have also tried using golden syrup or Treacle instead of only sugar and that can be very good, too. . . .

Yours sincerely,

Elizabeth R”

To make 16 scones, she called for “4 teacups flour, 4 tablespoons caster [superfine] sugar, 2 teacups milk, 2 whole eggs, 2 teaspoons bi-carbonate soda, 3 teaspoons cream of tartar and 2 tablespoons melted butter.”

Directions: “Beat eggs, sugar and about half the milk together, add flour, and mix well together adding remainder of milk as required, also bi-carbonate and cream of tartar, fold in the melted butter.” That’s it; no details about shaping the scones, oven temperature or baking time. I’m guessing she left those details to be attended to by others. After all that beating, mixing and folding, she must have been ready for a nap.

Et cetera

Buttermilk Scones With Fruit : Here’s the one you put together the night before, a recipe from the always fabulous Lisa Yockelson:

Brownie Scones: When what you really want for breakfast is dessert.

Lemon-Cranberry Scones: Maple sugar gives these a distinctive taste.

All-Purpose Nearly Normal Gluten-Free Scones: The name says it all.

Allison’s Chevre and Smoked Salmon Scones : A savory treat.

Deviled Gruyere Scones: When you want an alternative to crackers and cheese.