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Advice on this pumpkin scones recipe from Alice's Teacup

Eric_Cartman Jul 14, 2012 08:50 AM

I bought their cookbook a while ago but after reading reviews on people attempting the pumpkin scones they're famous for (i went there with a friend and they were amazing), it seems many have run into problems. A common problem many have run into was the dough not being stiff enough to use with biscuit cutters so some have resorted to the drop method which unfortunately result in short cookie-like scones. Im speculating that this may be attributed to the warmth from hands working in the butter and melting it a little too much hence making the dough too soft to work with. Another problem is some people thinking that there was a misprint in the spice measurements as they believe it calls for too much and they were inedible. Though many claim the recipe calls for 1/4 cup each of cinnamon and ginger in their books whereas my book calls for 2 tablespoons each so im not sure what to think. Its possible many converted tablespoons to cups incorrectly and used double the amount as a result or used an incorrect recipe they found online. Im more concerned with the scones not being firm enough to cut rather than spice measurements as im going to try the printed measurement as I watched the authors make it on MyFoxNY and they certainly used 2 tablespoons each and said they like theirs quite spicy. Though one person apparently called Alice's Teacup and the lady said they use 1 tsp each. What do you think of this recipe by looking at it and how could I avoid softness issue? Hard to trust reviews online as i've seen way too many people transcribe the recipe differently than the book that im wondering if people used the actual published recipe, or just someone's version who didn't want to follow the recipe to a T. My guess is the latter as i've seen the recipe published online on food.com with the 1/4 cup spice measurement and it is unfortunately one of the first results when you look up the recipe. Here is the actual published recipe:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons ground ginger
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (170 grams)
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (all pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling)
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Caramel Glaze

1cup unsalted butter (227 grams)
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup heavy cream


Preheat oven to 425°F.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ginger, and cinnamon.
With clean hands or a pastry cutter, work the butter into the dry mixture until it is thoroughly incorporated and has the consistency of fine breadcrumbs.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, and pour the buttermilk, pumpkin puree, and vanilla extract into the well. Stir, using your hands, combine the ingredients untill all the dry mixture is wet, but do not knead!
Turn the mixture onto a floured surface and gather the dough together. Gently pat the dough to make adisk about 1 1/2" thick. Using a 3 or 3 1/2" biscuit cutter, cut out as many scones as you can and lay them on a nonstick to cut out more scones - just don't knead the dough too much.
Bake the scones for about 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let the scones cool slightly on the baking sheet (about 20 minutes) before glazing them.
While the scones are cooling, prepare the caramel glaze: Place the butter, brown sugar, lemon juice, and salt, in a saucepan over medium heat, and whisk gently, until the mixture is smooth; then remove pan from heat.
To glaze a scone, hold it by the bottom, dip the top in the warm caramel glaze, and place it back on the baking sheet.

  1. todao Jul 14, 2012 10:04 AM

    IMO the amount of spice is excessive. I'd reduce it to 2 tsp of each and, if that seemed a bit flat, increase it a teaspoon at a time until I achieve the level I liked best.
    Also, I'd put the pumpkin puree in a cheese cloth and squeeze as much of the liquid our of it as possible. That'd stiffen up the dough. I might also refrigerate the dough for an hour before cutting it into scones.

    2 Replies
    1. re: todao
      almond tree Jul 14, 2012 12:12 PM

      I agree, even 2 TBSP each of the spices is a huge amount in proportion to 3 cups flour -- and I love both cinnamon & ginger. 1 1/2 - 2 tsp will give you a "quite spicy" result. I wonder whether the amount of buttermilk is correct, as well, It's a lot of liquid for a rolled dough. A similar recipe for Starbucks Pumpkin Scones (http://www.momswhothink.com/bread-rec...) calls for 3 TBSP liquid to 2 c flour, which would translate to 4 1/2 TBSP, a bit more than 1/4 c, for your recipe.

      1. re: almond tree
        todao Jul 14, 2012 06:44 PM

        Good point. I missed that element. 74% hydration for scones is clearly more than you might normally expect (I'd usually expect to see something around 65%+/-) and the pumpkin liquids not to mention the sugar) can be expected to push it even higher. So I'd agree that reducing the buttermilk to 8 ounces might also be worth a try.

    2. paulj Jul 14, 2012 01:18 PM

      An alternate way of adding butter is to grate frozen butter into the dry ingredients and lightly fold; no rubbing needed.

      If the dough is too wet there are several things you can do:
      - use less buttermilk the next batch
      - use floured hands to gather balls of dough, and place them touching in a rimmed pan (see instructions for 'Touch of Grace' biscuits
      - on a well floured board, gently work the dough with floured hands till you can pat it into a disk, and then cut the rounds (again, with floured cutter).

      The spice levels might be too high, but I'd cut the cinnamon before the ginger, especially since I like ginger. In my experience, most of the 'pumpkin' flavor actually comes from the spices, not the pumpkin puree. Without the spices the biscuits will have a pumpkin color, but the flavor will be quite subdued.

      1 Reply
      1. re: paulj
        rakeypakey Sep 13, 2012 05:42 PM

        "An alternate way of adding butter is to grate frozen butter into the dry ingredients and lightly fold; no rubbing needed." I think this is the best thing I have ever heard in terms of cooking/baking in at least the last 2 yrs!! Thank you!!

      2. s
        sandylc Jul 14, 2012 07:30 PM

        I'd reduce the spices to 1/2 teaspoon each, and start with 3/4 cup buttermilk - you can tell pretty early on if you need more buttermilk and can add it then.

        1. s
          sconelady5 Jul 15, 2012 07:57 AM

          The problem is too much liquid. The canned pumpkin actually behaves like a liquid, and so with both the buttermilk and canned pumpkin, you have essentially doubled the liquid over most similar scone recipes. Cut back the canned pumpkin slightly, (say to 2/3-3/4C), blend in sufficient buttermilk to the 1-1/4C (make sure you add the vanilla to the same liquid measure--it all counts as liquid), and then add enough of the blended liquid to make a workable dough. Likely you will use somewhere between 1 and the full 1-1/4C total liquid volume.

          Agree with other comments that the spicing is also heavy--a good rule of thumb is to look at the amount of spicing called for in a pumpkin pie recipe, and the cut it back proportionately to coincide with the quantity of canned pumpkin used in this recipe. Adjust from there to find what tastes good to you.

          Agree with earlier comment about frozen grated butter; also, chill down the buttermilk/pumpkin puree mixture, and then either bake immediately in a pre-heated oven, or freeze the dough and then bake directly from freezer to preheated oven.

          6 Replies
          1. re: sconelady5
            Eric_Cartman Jul 15, 2012 03:25 PM

            The freezing idea got me thinking. It reminds me of why people refrigerate cookie dough which is to allow the dough to absorb much of the moisture. Im wondering if the same effect would be reproduced in these scones and firm the dough enough after refrigeration. It seems possible that at Alice's Teacup, they refrigerate a great abundance of dough for their pumpkin scones, especially since they're famous for them. Maybe these were the correct proportions. I've had soft cookie dough go rock hard after time in the fridge.

            1. re: Eric_Cartman
              sandylc Jul 15, 2012 05:01 PM

              Refrigerating the dough also allows the sugar to get a head start on melting, which helps it to get to a caramel-y state while in the oven. Cold dough also helps in retaining shapes in the oven - the outside can "set" before the dough "melts" out of its shape too much.

              1. re: Eric_Cartman
                almond tree Jul 15, 2012 11:22 PM

                But if you google this recipe, you'll see comment after comment mentioning that the dough did not get firm enough to roll (and that it was inedibly overspiced). The same slip of the pen -- or mouse -- which led to the grotesque quantities of spices given in the recipe seems to have affected the proportions of liquid to dry ingredients as well.

                1. re: almond tree
                  Eric_Cartman Jul 16, 2012 09:10 AM

                  Like I said, it seems a good majority never actually bought the book and instead used an incorrectly transcribed recipe on the internet as most complaints talk about a recipe using different proportions never seen in the book. Its quite unfair to the book. After a bit of searching, I found one blog who actually followed the CORRECT recipe and actually got thick scones with the same taste as at the restaurant. It seems too many people are trying to get freebies and as a result used an incorrect recipe which has been more widely circulated than the actual published recipe. The recipe was also never published differently as there has only been one edition of the book. As a result, I have little faith in the reviews.

                  1. re: almond tree
                    Eric_Cartman Sep 12, 2012 09:02 PM

                    Okay just had to come back with an update. I went to Alice's Teacup in person and was told that it was a typo and that the measurement for the spices had to be in teaspoons. Other than that the measurements were okay. While everyone else seemed to have problems with the dough being too moist and impossible to cut with a biscuit cutter, I didn't have that problem which freaked me out tbh hahahaha. I thought I must have had missed something. Why wasn't my dough as disastrous as all of the other reviewers? I've searched and searched and I have yet to find photographic evidence of a successful endeavor. I used the exact liquid proportions in the recipe. Seriously, why was I the only one out of the bloggers and reviewers online to not experience this problem? My guess had to be the pumpkin brand used as its the only ingredient that could influence the liquid content in the recipe. While at the store, since I usually have problems settling on which brand is better (like seriously...I even spent a several days debating on what brand of butter to use. And another time I spent hour upon hour trying to settle on a toothpaste)..I followed the heuristic that you get what you pay for and that chances are the more expensive brand is better. So rather than settle on Libbys, I used Farmer's Market Organic Pumpkin. The water content in this brand had a MUCH lower concentration of water than Libbys. After all of the ingredients were combined, the dough was definitely moist but not so much that using a biscuit cutter would prove pointless. The scones held their shapes. And no matter how much I expected a tragedy, the opposite resulted. The scones were high as opposed to the flat sad scones others have produced. As Willy Wonka would put it.."its so delectable, its so darn good looking.... everything in this room is eatable, even im eatable." It tasted, felt like, and looked like the famous scones that had a tendency to draw the likes of everyone from Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes to Julia Roberts and Kelly Ripa. Im happy to have attempted this recipe without altering it (aside from the spice correction). I didn't even have to add any additional refrigeration or grate the butter. While the odds were against me of achieving success, with the recipe having a 0% success rate, a miracle happened. That miracle? Scone nirvana. :D I plan to try Libbys as well as starting with a fresh sugar pumpkin to see how texture and ability to hold shape would differ from my original experience. Unfortunately, I barely had any to eat with my greedy siblings who didn't care to leave more than a bite for the cook. :( The recipe only made 8 scones as opposed to the 10-12 scones it promised with a 3" biscuit cutter and 1.5" height.

                    edit: WOW I TYPED A LOT. O.O

                    1. re: Eric_Cartman
                      sandylc Sep 12, 2012 09:08 PM

                      Jason Powersmile is great. :-)

              2. s
                sconelady5 Jul 15, 2012 08:17 AM

                Sorry for the double post; meant to add reference for previous post:
                "The User's Guide to Scone Making and Scone Mixes" by Debbie Anderson

                1. h
                  HillJ Sep 14, 2012 06:53 AM

                  This was a really fun read, Eric. Thanks for sharing your scone adventure. I love a good pumpkin scone and the add'l spice kick would have probably made me happy. Did you find the glaze a necessary step to reach nirvana? Would the scones be just as wonderful without the glaze?

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