Ah, English scones. So delicious. So sophisticated as a cream tea in a fancy restaurant, or traditionally in a tea room in south-west England. So much fun at a picnic. But so full of controversy! How does one pronounce it – scone as in ‘gone’ or scone as in ‘own’? Personally I hail from the ‘Black Country‘ in the West Midlands of England (near to Birmingham but not Birmingham!), so for me it is always ‘own’ – but this is far from the common pronunciation. Then there is the endless cream-then-jam or jam-then-cream debate… I always thought that the logic would be the same as for the sandwich, where the fat layer (butter) protects the dry ‘filling carrier’ (bread) from the potentially wet filling (no one wants a soggy sandwich). But it seems this is not really the case, and that the order is often influenced by territory; for example in Devon each half scone is covered first with clotted cream and then jam, whereas in Cornwall the opposite is true – the embodiment of a long rivalry between these neighbouring counties!
This recipe is quick and easy and delivers a fantastic result. The scones are best eaten warm, ideally straight after the bake when sufficiently cooled.
The recipe can alternatively use pre-made self raising flour and baking powder. If you wish to do this, switch out plain flour for self-raising, omit the cream of tartar and baking soda and replace with 1 teaspoon baking powder.
Making the self raising flour and baking powder from scratch tends to deliver better results – a lighter and fluffier bake. Pre-made baking powder contains aluminium sulphate which activates the carbon dioxide producing reaction only upon heating, so this allows more bench time for the dough, if you are bothered about that. If not, you can eliminate the aluminium sulphate by making your own baking powder, as per the recipe below.
350g plain flour
3 teaspoon cream of tartar
1.5 teaspoon baking soda
0.25 teaspoon salt
85g butter, cut into cubes
3 tablespoon caster sugar
175 ml milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Squeeze lemon juice
Beaten egg, to glaze
Heat oven to 220c (200c for a fan oven or gas mark 7). Put a baking sheet in the oven.
Mix ingredients for the self-raising flour (sift them together to make sure well distributed) and add the salt. Add the 85g butter and rub together until the texture is like fine crumbs. Combine the 3 tablespoons of sugar to the mix.
Warm milk in a small pan and add vanilla extract and lemon juice.
Make a well in the flour mixture and add the warm liquid from the pan. Mix together with a cutlery knife.
Scatter flour on a work surface and tip the dough out. Fold over a few times until it is smooth. Pat out until 4cm deep. Using a 5cm cookie cutter, cut out 8 rounds (you will need to roll up scraps and pat out to 4cm deep again and recut to get the final shapes. The last bit of dough may need to be pressed into the cookie cutter to get a good shape for the final scone rather than ‘cutting it out’.
Gently brush the tops of the scones with beaten eggs and place on a baking tray. Be very careful placing them on the tray, making sure they are as neat and uniform as possible will help them retain a good shape during baking.
Bake for 10 minutes.