Twice as Tasty

Savory Herb and Sour Cream Scones

If you always think of scones as sweet, you’ll be surprised by this flavorful treat

By Julie Laing
Savory herb and sour cream scones. Photo by Julie Laing

As the weather seesaws between mud season and fresh layers of snow, I start peeking through the gaps for the first herb and bulb shoots. Spotting the first chive stalks, rhubarb eyes and Egyptian walking onion greens poking through the ice and dirt feels like the first day of spring really is approaching.

As soon as a handful of herbs appear, I make savory scones. If you always think of scones as sweet, you’ll be surprised by this flavorful treat. This category of quick bread comes together easily and can be lighter than biscuits if you avoid overmixing the dough.

If you’re impatient for your first perennial herbs to return, many substitutions can be just as delicious and let you make these scones all year. Of course, you can use fresh cuttings from pots you moved indoors, but you can also save herbs by freezing them. Chives freeze especially well, and I prefer them frozen to dried; use the same amount as you would fresh.

Pesto also freeze well. I make pesto bases with garlic, oil and a fresh herb like basil, parsley or cilantro and then freeze them in ice cube trays, but you can also use jarred pesto, again in the same amount as you would fresh herbs for these scones. 

Another way to freeze fresh herbs is to blend them into butter. If you replace the unsalted butter in the scones with herb butter (leave out or reduce the sea salt if you blended herbs into salted butter) and skip the fresh herbs, the flavor will be more subtle. You can also use dried herbs, swapping in 1 teaspoon of dried for each tablespoon of fresh. By crushing them between your fingers as much as possible before adding them to the dough, you’ll wake up some of their dormant oils for better flavor.

Savory Herb and Sour Cream Scones

Serves 8

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1 cup sour cream

1 egg

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 tablespoons fresh chives, thinly sliced

1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped

Flavored salt for finishing (optional)

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, salt, pepper, baking soda and butter with a fork or your fingers until small clumps appear, like pie-crust dough. In a glass measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together the sour cream and egg; stir them into the dough with the fork until just mixed. Stir in the lemon zest, chives and parsley until they’re just mixed in and the dough is soft and slightly moist.

Divide the dough into eight wedges or rounds, placing them on a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with flavored salt, if desired. Bake at 400°F for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned.