Recipe of the week – Traditional English Scones

I went to my daughter’s school yesterday to make this recipe with her class. Her teacher had wanted someone to come in to school to make a traditional bread from their country but due to the limited time, my daughter and I thought that scones would be the best thing to make.

It was so nice to see her classmates making these – getting messy hands, covering themselves and the floor in flour and butter, cleaning up quickly so that they could wait expectantly at the oven door for them to cook and then smearing the hot scones with cream and strawberries before scoffing them down to a chorus of ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’.

Growing up in England, scones are probably one of the first things I learnt to bake on my own. For those of you who don’t know what they are, they are a small bread/cake traditionally eaten in cream teas all over southern England – slathered with butter, jam, clotted cream and strawberries. In Scotland, they make them as a big round, cut in to wedges and covered in butter. My kids prefer just to eat them plain, warm from the oven.

 

 

The key ingredient to a good scone is buttermilk, which is nigh impossible to get over here but easy to emulate yourself. Other than buttermilk, scones can be made with any ‘gone off’ or soured milk… They are a good way to use up any milk, cream or yoghurt left in your fridge that you don’t want to waste. To sour your own milk and to ensure a light and fluffy scone, you can add a tablespoon of lemon juice or cyder vinegar, along with half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and leave it to one side to froth-up before adding it to your scone mixture. Make sure to leave it in a big enough jug or you will end up with a volcanic mix of sour milk all over your kitchen counter, as happened to me yesterday morning! (Not a nice clean-up!) :-/

Scones are a quick and easy to make treat for the kids or to take out with you for the day. They can be made sweet or savoury – halloumi and mint is a great combination. For a savoury version, just use the basic recipe (flour, leavening agent, salt and butter), leaving out the sugar, cinnamon, grated zest and dried fruit – and only use one tbsp of lemon juice/cyder vinegar to sour your milk… then add your own combination of cheese, herb and perhaps some pan-fried leeks or onions…

Just one last thing… these are best eaten on the day that they are made. If you have any left-overs the following day, just warm them up in the oven or lightly toast them before serving. This recipe makes about 6 scones, so double it up if you have a hungry tribe to feed.

So, without further ado, here is my recipe for sweet scones, trialled and error-ed over the years:

 

Ingredients:

250 g self-raising flour

1 tsp baking powder or cream of tartar

Pinch of salt

1 heaped tsp cinnamon

50 g cold butter, cubed

50 g sugar (brown works nicely)

Grated zest of one lemon or orange

75 g dried fruit (sultanas, raisins or mixed peel work well) – optional

120 ml milk of your choice (slaked with half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and the juice of one lemon or orange). Any milk, yoghurt or smietana (sour cream) that needs using up in your fridge can be used.

 

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 200 – 220°C depending on how hot your oven gets
  2. Mix your milk with the soda and citrus juice and leave it to froth up on the side
  3. Sieve your flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in to a large bowl and stir
  4. Rub in the butter – using your fingers – until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Don’t overwork it
  5. Stir in the sugar and grated lemon/orange zest
  6. Stir in your dried fruit
  7. Stir in your milk with a blunt knife. Add it a little at a time and don’t add all of it if you see that the mixture is getting too sticky. You want a dough that binds together but is dry enough to form a ball and roll out. Add some flour to your fingers and form a rough ball. If it’s too sticky, just add a little flour at a time until you can make a ball
  8. Roll out your dough on a floured surface. It doesn’t have to look pretty and you don’t want to knead it like you would a bread dough – just enough to bind it together and roll it out
  9. Cut out your scones using a round serrated cutter. Make sure not to twist the cutter – just lift it up. This and the serrated edge will help your scones rise better
  10. Place your scones on a lined baking tray in the centre of a hot oven for 12-15 minutes. They should be golden brown – lift up one or two to check that their bases are also cooked before removing them from the oven.
  11. Let them cool down on a baking tray and enjoy them on their own, with some jam, cream, fresh fruit… whatever you like – just make sure you’ve got a hot cup of tea to wash them down with! 🙂

 

You can play around with this recipe… I like to substitute some of the flour for ground almonds and use tinned coconut milk… You can try using a combination of different flours, herbs, spices, fats or milks – it’s a pretty adaptable recipe.

Enjoy!

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