Step 1Heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the buttermilk just until incorporated; the dough will be crumbly and look dry. Knead in the bowl a few times to bring the dough together into a single mass.
Step 2Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and press into a circle roughly 7 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Cut the dough into 8 wedges, and place the wedges on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Step 3Brush the wedges with the cream and sprinkle over the turbinado sugar. Bake on the center rack until golden, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the scones to a rack to cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Scones can be flavored in any of a number of ways, both sweet and savory. Give one or more of these ideas a try (flavorings are measured for one batch of scones), then riff on your own:
Currant scones: Add 1 1/2 cups dried currants. Consider soaking them in a little fruit juice or liquor (Grand Marnier is wonderful).
Chocolate chip scones: Add 1 2/3 cups chocolate chips: Fold in semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips, perhaps with some nuts or a little orange zest.
Ginger scones: Add 2 tablespoons grated ginger to give a nice tang.
Jalapeno-cheddar: Roast, peel, seed and chop 2 jalapenos (or more), and add them to the dry ingredients along with 1 cup of grated cheddar cheese.
Chive-Parmesan: Add 1/2 cup of chopped fresh chives to the dry ingredients along with 1 cup of grated Parmesan. Form the scones, then sprinkle a little more cheese over right before baking.
Prosciutto-Swiss: Chop 4 ounces sliced prosciutto and add to the dry ingredients along with 1 cup of grated Swiss cheese.