Ok – I’ll admit it. I haven’t been overwhelmed by the scones I’ve eaten since I moved to England. Granted, I haven’t sampled that many, but what I am learning is that a good scone needs to be fresh from the oven, or at very least, not stale. It’s a bit of a tall order sometimes, but there’s nothing more disappointing than buying one to take away, getting home and brewing a pot of tea only to find myself in possession of a crumbly, hard scone. And Scotland, don’t get smug, it’s happened there too — except for the amazingly addictive (and freshly-baked) fruit scones at Wellington Coffee on George Street in Edinburgh.
As the oven freshness of the scone seems to be vital, it behoved me to make them myself. So I gave up my search on Yelp for the best scone in Leeds, and searched instead for the best scone recipe. I found it, of course, while reading How to make the perfect scone by Felicity Cloake, and I’ve adapted the recipe from hers. I especially like how slightly they are sweetened (North America – take note).
While I loved reading her process for arriving at the perfect recipe, I found the comments helpful too (and laugh-out-loud funny sometimes, see celiecake’s comment from the top of page 3) for fine-tuning the ingredients (I’m not bothering with lard, for example), method (mainly, handle the dough as little as possible) and the rationale for keeping the recipe so simple. It’s the perfect recipe for those times when our mothers’ generation had unexpected guests to tea. What cook wouldn’t have self-raising flour, butter and milk in the house? And that’s all you really need. Oh, and some jam.
Personally, if someone stopped by for tea with no notice, I doubt I’d have the equanimity to glide off to the kitchen to whip up some scones for them, but maybe with this recipe up my sleeve I’d have a fighting chance of keeping both hospitality and grace intact.
175g plain flour
pinch of sugar (optional)
2 tsp baking powder
25g cold butter, cut into small cubes
50-55ml whole milk (you might need a bit more)
50g sultana raisins (optional)
Preheat oven to 190C. Mix self-raising flour, sugar and baking powder in a bowl until combined. Rub in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in sultanas, if using. Pour in milk and mix with a fork to create a loose, sticky dough. Tip out onto floured work surface and pat into a roundish square – no need for a rolling pin. Press a clean-edge* 8cm cookie cutter into the dough and place the rounds on a non-stick cookie sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until slightly risen, golden and smelling fantastic. Serve hot with salted butter or clotted cream, and jam.
- *Some recipes say that using a glass tumbler for cutting the scones is ok, but you will get higher rising scones if you cut the dough very cleanly with a cookie cutter.
- I’ve made this recipe very small on purpose – it makes about five 8cm scones, but it doubles (or triples) very easily. Make more if you need to, rather than having any left over – they really are best fresh from the oven and don’t reheat well.
- You can brush the tops with milk before they go in the oven if you like. I didn’t, mainly because I don’t have a pastry brush yet.