Sometimes you want some hot comfort and you want it in under 30 minutes. Old-fashioned scones do the trick and the people go wild for them. My preference is to eat them crunchy and hot out of the oven, juggling them back and forth in my hands and tearing them apart to reveal a steaming centre. Once slightly cooled, jam and cream are the toppings that can't be beat and I am passionately team 'Jam First'!
There are several ways to skin a cat and also several recipes for scones. The lemonade and cream versions became very popular about ten years ago, but I must admit I opt for my Mum's traditional ones every time. There are two reasons for this:
1) I think they taste better
2) I don't often have excess cream or lemonade in my house, but I nearly always have self-raising flour, milk and butter.
That's right, at the heart of this beloved recipe are simply three ingredients.
- 4 cups of SR Flour
- 3-4 tablespoons of cold butter (salted or unsalted are both fine)
- Milk - up to two cups
- pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons of caster sugar
Pre-heat your oven to very bloody hot. I go for somewhere between 220 and 240 degrees celsius, on a conventional setting.
Chuck 4ish cups of SR Flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the salt and sugar here, or leave them out if you are short on either. The sugar is a controversial addition: Mum (Alexa) doesn't use any in hers but I am all for it! Try both ways and report back to me?
Run the 3-4 tablespoons of butter into the flour with your clean fingers. A little more or less won't make too much difference. More butter= richer.
Once the flour and butter mixture is well combined, add your sultanas if using (I forgot) and start pouring your milk of choice. I used low fat lactose free because that's what I had, but full-fat is always better for baking.
Pour a little in at a time and start 'knifing' your mixture to incorporate the milk. At some point you're going to have to get your hands back in the bowl to bring the mixture together. You know you've got enough milk when the dough comes together and you're not left with a heap of flour at the bottom of the bowl.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and bring together in a delicious lump. I added my sultanas at this stage as I forgot previously. This isn't ideal as you can end up with too many sultanas on top (they tend to burn) and not enough throughout. Also you could over knead the dough if you try to mix them through too vigorously at this stage. No major drama, though.
Once you've got your dough arranged in a rough rectangle shape, you can start cutting out the scones. Many civilised home cooks have scone cutters, but I'm happy enough with this high ball glass. Alexa always says this is a hazard as the glass could break, but so far so good.
Place your scones on a greased tray. There is some spirited argument between Alexa and Pat (Alexa's Mum) about whether a flat tray or deep tray is best. I haven't found much of a difference and take a Swiss stance on this one.
Place your scones on the tray so they are touching. This helps them cook better.
Place them into the roaring hot oven for 12-15 minutes. You know they're cooked when they're browned on the top AND the bottom. Also they should be quite firm to touch. If you pull a scone away from its neighbours in the middle, the innards should be cooked and fluffy.
If your scones are browning too fast and not cooking in the middle, just turn down the oven to 180 or so for the last 5 minutes.
Scones are easy, but messy. :S
Piping hot, crunchy, fluffy scones! You can see some of the sultanas are scorched as I added them in last - I don't mind too much. Some folk don't enjoy their scones this browned and if that's you - just stick with a 200 degree oven.
I whipped some Queens Vanilla Bean Paste into the cream for serving and got out a fresh jar of my spicy plum jam for serving. Smells like Chrirstmas!
Have scones, will travel.
Tomorrow I'm going to chuck a heap of grated cheddar and diced shallots/chives into the batter and attempt some basic savoury scones. Will let you know how it goes!
Are you a scone fiend like me? Which team are you on: lemonade and cream or old-school style?