There’s nothing half-measured about Briana Holt, co-owner and head baker at Tandem Coffee + Bakery in Portland, Maine. Everything she bakes is over the top, including her famous scones—ginger and chocolate, pear and salted honey, even cream-cheese-stuffed. Holt’s scones are craggy, mile-high whoppers. They hardly resemble the classic British standard, which tend to be rather disappointing pucks. “A British scone is more austere and reserved, and mine is jubilant and playful,” she says.
We especially love Holt’s chocolate-ginger scones for the bold, layered flavors she gets by combining three varieties of ginger: dried, fresh and crystallized. We also found that the lack of liquid mix-ins made them easier to handle. So our work mostly was a matter of streamlining the recipe for the home cook while ensuring the scones bake up with the lofty crumb Holt is known for.
We cut the amount of fresh ginger because the dried ginger gave a lovely punch and introduced less liquid to the batter. And though Holt uses buttermilk and cream, we found eliminating the cream while slightly increasing the buttermilk bound the dough without weighing it down.
There’s a trick to the mixing, too: We first combined most of the dry ingredients, then blitzed half of the resulting flour mixture with our chilled butter in a food processor. We stirred this mixture into the remaining dry ingredients. This two-step mixing method incorporated the butter quickly without letting it overly soften, which helps keep the scones light. We then added the ginger-and-orange-zest-spiked buttermilk in stages, combining the dough by hand.
Our scones baked up crisp, with a tender, slightly crumbly interior. The zing of the ginger was balanced by the deep, richer flavors of the chocolate for a dynamic pastry that reminds us a bit of the baker herself: Holt sings with a band at Christmas, covering old standards and ’90s hits. Like her scones, it’s a surprising combination of old and new.