Who doesn’t love a good scone?
The quintessential English tea-time nibble, scones always go down well and are the prefect example of how a few basic pantry staples can unite to form a delectable baked treat!
Essentially made with just flour, butter, milk and raising agents, scones are the very definition of effortless baking, but like so much in life, such simplicity belies grave pitfalls. Firstly, do not over work the dough – you want your scones to be as light and fluffy as possible, so a gentle touch is best. Secondly (and perhaps most importantly), scones should always be served fresh, preferably straight out of the oven. If you must reheat your scones, then you should only ever do so in a pre-heated oven and NEVER the microwave. If you are ever tempted to use your microwave to reheat your scones, don’t – they will rebel by abandoning their light texture and will become rubbery. Yuck.
I have a dear friend who adores her scones and always orders them when we go out for tea, but not before she interrogates the waitron about their scone-etiquette. The interrogation usually goes along the lines of, “Are your scones good? Are they fresh? When exactly were they made? How do you re-heat them?”. If there is no mention of a microwave then the poor waitron has survived the interrogation and their scones have been deemed worthy. It may seem pedantic to ask so many questions about a simple scone, but many a good scone has been ruined by shoddy and hasty reheating, so it never hurts to ask, lest you be disappointed.
One of the other reasons I love scones is the minimal effort they take to make. Baking does not come naturally to me, so I don’t really like recipes that are too involved or complicated, which makes whipping up a batch of scones an absolute delight and perfect for my limited skill-set. The mixing and kneading takes virtually no time at all and the scones are, more often than not, ready for baking before the oven has had time to heat up. Now that’s my kind of baking!
When it comes to what you should serve with your scones, I’m afraid I am an unabashed traditionalist. For me scones should only ever be served with good strawberry jam, butter and clotted cream, but the latter is quite hard to source outside the UK so I normally settle for just the jam and butter.
Traditional English Scones: makes 12
- 500g cake flour (plain flour)
- 2 tsp. bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 4 tsp. cream of tartar
- 130g cold butter, cubed
- 300ml milk
- 1 egg, beaten
- Preheat you oven to 200ºC
- Using a fine sieve sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and cream of tartar into a mixing bowl
- Add the cold butter cubes and rub until the butter combines with the dry ingredients. The mixture should feel like damp sand. This can be done with a mixer should you not want to do it by hand
- Add the milk and mix briefly until just combined
- Turn the mixture out onto a heavily floured surface and knead lightly until you have a soft dough. The dough will be quite wet initially, but it will come together quite quickly. Add a bit more flour should you feel the need to
- Roll the dough out to a thickness of about 3cm and, using a round cookie cutter (6cm diameter), cut out your scones. You will probably need to re-roll the dough to get 12 out of the batch
- Place the scones on a lined baking tray and brush the tops with the beaten egg
- Bake in the pre-heated oven for between 10 to 12 minutes
- Serve immediately with butter, jam and cream