Food & Wine Test Kitchen Manager Kelsey Youngman has laid out her favorite tips:
1. For a better rise, use cold butter—or even frozen butter. The colder the better, and that extends beyond just ingredients, too. It's ideal to have a chilled bowl and pastry cutter as well.
2. When it comes to mixing, don't overdo it; mix until the dough just comes together. And although the food processor can help keep the temperature down, it's easy to over-mix, so use a pastry instead, Youngman suggests. "It should look like pancake batter," she says. "Lumps are what you want!"
3. Use pastry flour for the lightest scones. All-purpose plus pastry flour also works, but don't omit the pastry flour.
4. "Once you've shaped your scones, chill them before baking," Youngman says. "You can use that time to preheat the oven so the kitchen doesn't heat up while you make the dough. The final chill relaxes the gluten which yields a tender texture. It also cools the butter down again, which is how you'll get that flaky texture."
5. Spacing: "I usually space the scones about one inch apart if they are separate wedges. Keep 'em cozy," Youngman says. If you're baking round scones, you can try baking them like cinnamon rolls, where they're actually touching, which will give you nice, soft sides.
6. If you're adding fruit, don't use super juicy fruit, and make sure you rinse and dry it well. If you're using frozen fruit, you can don't have to thaw it if the fruit is individually frozen. If the fruit is in one big chunk, however, thaw, rinse and drain it as well as you can.
7. As King Arthur says, "a scone is not a cupcake." Don't overbake them, and remember they are meant for clotted cream, butter, and jam!