It seems sometimes that the easiest things to make are sometimes the easiest to mess up. Don’t get me started on tea…today, I will discuss the humble scone. Scones, despite relatively few ingredients and simple instructions, can be often not as *fabulous* as we would like…they always look wonderful, then when you taste them…meh. Many delicious-looking “homemade” scones I have purchased in coffee shops and bakeries have proven to be dry and crumbly, and definitely not to my taste. I prefer to make my own…this simple recipe is one that I have used for years and has never let me down. It is flexible and can be tweaked to suit different serving situations – plain for either jam or cheese, cream for shortcakes or cream teas, and savoury for with soups and stews.
What makes the perfect scone? The secret, in my opinion (besides not making the dough too wet, or overworking said dough) is not to use baking powder, which can leave a “taste”. These little guys bake up perfect and tender every time. I like to bake them on a stone, which I put in the oven before preheating so it is nice and hot when the scones are ready to bake. They are also yummy baked on a lightly greased baking sheet.
2-3 cups unbleached flour*
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
Salt to taste
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup milk
(ingredients for variations are listed after basic instructions)
*I usually start with about 2-1/2 cups flour and add a bit more if needed, using some of the total allotment of flour for the rolling out part – if it is damp weather, you might find you need to use in a bit more flour in the dough.
Preheat oven to 450 deg F. Lightly grease baking sheet, or preheat bakestone. Mix dry ingredients together, incorporate butter with pastry blender or your hands until crumbly, add milk and mix gently until combined. Dough will be soft and elastic.
Turn dough out onto floured board and knead gently a few times (as in, five or six kneads) until smooth. Do not overwork the dough, or it will start to develop the gluten and the scones will be tough.
Press dough out with hands or rolling pin to about 3/4-1″ thickness. Cut into 2-1/2-3″ rounds, place on baking sheet (or hot stone) and bake for about 10 minutes or until golden.
Raisins or berries are a nice addition (about 3/4 cup, add with liquid and mix very gently if using fresh berries). I like to brush with a bit of milk and sprinkle sugar on top, if they are to be eaten with tea. Don’t stop with berries! Add chocolate chips (white or brown), or candied ginger to the dough, or mix cinnamon into the sugar you sprinkle on top – this basic recipe works well with any kind of addition you like 🙂
To make cream scones, use heavy cream instead of milk, and add 2 eggs also when adding cream to recipe. These are quite rich but very nice, good for “strawberry shortcakes”. If you are craving the traditional “cream tea”: serve with thick cream (comes in a jar in the dairy section…if you can find clotted cream, go for it – be authentic!) and sliced ripe, fresh strawberries or high quality strawberry jam, and of course a perfect pot of tea… 🙂
Savoury scones: You can add 1 cup grated sharp cheese if you are making to serve with soup, etc. A few chives or chopped herbs are a nice addition also.
If you prefer, you can bake as one big circle and cut into wedges (score before baking) – adjust baking time accordingly.
Whichever type you make, don’t forget to eat them fresh (they don’t keep all that well)!