My grandmother loved scones. A couple of decades ago, she bought a recipe book of only scones and muffins, in the back of which she collected handwritten scone recipes from friends and relatives in the search for a great scone recipe.
And I was the one to test them out for her :). Although grandma was an avid baker in her younger years as you can see from this collection recipes, I don’t recall actually seeing her bake something herself. Though of course she guided my childhood interest in baking and always supervised my every move in the kitchen!
More recently, in the last few years, scones became one of my foolproof staples through regular practice as I used to bake them about once a fortnight. Grandma was the happy beneficiary and especially on her birthdays, I knew she would appreciate hot scones fresh from our home oven more than any fancy cake I might buy.
Scones are typically made with the rubbing-in method as mentioned in this recipe here. Working with the the tips of the fingers only and making sure your hands are cool is important to prevent the butter from melting. These days, I use two knives instead – less messy and definitely keeps the temperature down :).
The quantities in this recipe are very straightforward. Self-raising (SR) flour is used and I like the fact that it doesn’t rely on buttermilk, which is expensive to buy in Singapore. However, recently I discovered cheap and easy substitutes for buttermilk, which can be made by adding a bit of lemon juice or cream of tartar to regular milk (read full instructions here). However, I haven’t yet tried scones using this. Personally, I would also omit the sugar as it’s not necessary and you won’t notice its absence after you have heaped cream/butter and jam on your scone!
As long as the rubbing-in is done correctly and the appropriate amount of liquid added, the scones should come out very nicely. Delia Smith teaches that the secret to good scones is to rolling them out at least one inch thick; her page on How to Make Scones is extremely useful.
Another trick is to make sure the dough is not too dry. In fact, I usually work with a dough so wet and soft that instead of struggling to roll it out and use a biscuit cutter, it’s much easier to shape it into a large round and slice into wedges.
One problem with rolling out is that the more times you do it (especially when reworking the odd bits of dough leftover from cutting out the round shapes) the tougher the end result. A cool kitchen tool I have to assist in such circumstances is a batch cookie cutter for five hexagonal shapes joined together in a honeycomb pattern (from Lakeland, but unfortunately they don’t seem to sell this anymore). This eliminates wastage between the shapes or leftover bits that need to be rolled out a second time.
My favourite way to eat scones is with very thick and heavy cream — preferably clotted cream — plus a touch of jam — yes, an English Cream Tea :). I’ve given up ordering cream tea at eateries, both here and in England as the cream is usually disappointingly light and fluffy. Anyway, having just bought some lovely Carrefour organic crème fraîche (I like the way it’s very thick and just gently soured), I think a batch of homemade scones might be coming up very soon :)!
Although best fresh from the oven, scones freeze well. The sooner you pop them into the freezer, the fresher they will taste when you reheat them later.
Do also check out the recipes for:
Drop Scones (which is actually type of pancake)
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