Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Scones

So… do you pronounce it ‘skown’ or ‘skon’? This is only one of many contentious issues concerning these little breads (or are they cakes?) but one thing is certain; a well-made scone is indeed a wondrous thing to behold! Unfortunately, all too often they are leaden lumps of dough which sit heavily on the stomach after ingestion!
 
On the face of it, scones should be simple to make as they contain relatively few ingredients and are allegedly ‘easy to make’ from staple ingredients many of us have in the larder! Why then is success not guaranteed as standard? I have a theory on why this is; so-called ‘simple’ recipes that use few ingredients and involve simple processes reveal any inadequacies in the quality of those ingredients or lack of care in preparation resulting in ultimate failure or an end product that is less than might be desired. There is nowhere to hide with simple recipes.
 
Many articles and books have been written on how to produce the perfect scone; one that is fluffy and light and stands proudly aloft, ready to be split in two and each half topped with butter, jam, cream etc. I have done a lot of research on scone-making in recent weeks, have tried out a number of different recipes and after a lot of experimenting and tweaking have settled on this one as being closest to what I want from a scone. I’m not going to replicate that research here, but if you are interested in reading a very good article about this very subject, I strongly recommend How to Make the Perfect Scone by Felicity Cloake in her weekly column on the Guardian’s Word of Mouth blog.
 
Yep… I think it’s fair to say that scones have been on my mind recently! This is mainly because, at the moment, I am a little obsessed with all things to do with afternoon tea, the success of which – in my humble opinion - depends on the quality of the scones on offer. Afternoon tea is something I just love. I salivate over a well-chosen array of finger sandwiches and luxuriate in the cakes and pastries that are offered, but what I am always most keen to sample are the scones. For me, nothing beats a scone still warm from the oven, generously spread with butter, which is just beginning to melt with the residual heat of the scones. Even better, of course are scones served with jam and clotted cream as part of an afternoon tea! Heavenly!
 
The recipe that I give here is for a light and almost fluffy scone, which is barely sweet. My recipe includes sultanas, but if you absolutely hate them, leave them out and just follow the rest of the recipe.
 
If I had to give my top tips, they would be to handle the dough as little as possible and only LIGHTLY dust your work-surface with a little flower to facilitate the rolling-out of the dough. This recipe hasn’t failed yet for me, so I hope you will try it out and enjoy it as much as I do.
 

Ingredients:

450g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
75g butter, cubed
35g caster sugar
115g sultanas/raisins
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
175ml milk
To finish:
A little milk for brushing the tops of the scones
 

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 200C/Fan Oven 180C/Gas Mark 8. Line a baking tray with a sheet of non-stick baking parchment.
2. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl and add the butter. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and sultanas and mix through with your hands so that they are evenly distributed. Make a well in the centre. Add the milk and lightly beaten eggs and bring together with the flour, using a fork to create a soft dough. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead briefly to bring together into a ball.
3. Roll the dough out until it is 3-4cms thick. Then, using a round 7cm cutter, stamp out into rounds, placing each one spaced apart onto the prepared baking tray. Gather together and re-roll any scraps to create extra scones out of the mixture. Place these on the baking tray. Brush the top of each scone with a little of the extra milk.
4. Bake in the preheated oven for 11-14 minutes until well risen and light golden brown in colour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool, though they are fab served still slightly warm. Dust the tops with a little icing sugar just before serving.

Makes 8-10.