Tuesday, 9 June 2015

no nonsense classic scones - just hurry up & make them!

My, oh my, aren't we having some fine weather in London? I really can't believe that we've actually had a good Spring and if recent weather is anything to go by, we're in for a treat over the next few months. Can you believe that people are actually smiling! And to random strangers! Over the weekend there was nothing but summer clothes on display and I actually wore sandals the whole time and thought about sunscreen. To me good weather equates picnics and tea in the garden. Staple tea time treats include warm, sun-kissed scones (or skowns - like own - but it really doesn't make a difference).

I think a good scone should split down the middle without too much coaxing and be smothered with lashings of clotted cream and jam. FYI - I add the cream first and then the jam – don’t know why, always have. I love the way the vivid colour of the jam contrasts against the white cream. This jam first or cream first business however is a bone of contention amongst avid scone lovers, and no one seems to know which should go on first! Nonetheless, it's a fun little thing to have a faux argument over and complain about other things at the same time, such as people showing too much flesh as soon as it's warm and offending their fine sensibilities. Unless it's super unsightly I say live and let live. We don't always get good weather here you know!

When I say I've eaten many scones in my life I truly have - some delicious and some just dry, but I must say baking them at home is a delight. Being the kind of person I am, I relish the moment when I can see through the glass oven door that the scones have risen without tipping over the side like a sad snowman and my little heart does a somersault! Seriously, with most things made from scratch there is a special satisfaction in knowing that you made it yourself. 

When I was searching for a good recipe for scones I came across many claiming to be the perfect one but the results seemed to vary. I didn’t like seeing the triangular variety at all, neither did I like the ones that were too brown and resembled teacakes. I decided to consult the trusty Felicity Cloake for some inspiration as she road tests and tastes lots of variations of lots of yummy things. She came up with her own perfect version, which consisted of butter and lard for the fat content but I wanted to keep the recipe simple and something you could whip up easily - and everyone has butter in their fridge. I tried a couple of recipes which literally fell flat and did not rise and some I was too afraid to ruin, so I ended up under mixing and ended up with overly buttery crumbling rounds that could not be called scones. 

In the end I decided to just go with the flow and devise my own perfect recipe and voila! Third time lucky I suppose. These were so delicious and held their shape as I assembled them and even tasted good the next day (well the single one that was left did anyway).  I like my scones slightly rich so I added a touch more butter and sugar, so you could even eat them plain – but please don’t do that! This really is a fool-proof recipe and the result is as close to the perfect scone as I've got.

Ingredients (makes 12)
250g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
75g cold unsalted butter - chopped
Pinch of salt
70-80 ml full fat milk
50g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 free range egg for egg-wash

Preheat oven to 190c or 180c fan/gas mark 5 

In a large bowl mix the flour, salt and sugar together and rub in the chopped butter with your fingertips until the mixture is like fine breadcrumb in texture.

Make a well in the centre then add the milk (vanilla extract added to it), a little at a time as you may need slightly more or less and using a knife bring mixture together.

Tip bowl onto a floured surface and gently knead a few times to ensure that the dough is even.

Roll out the dough to about 2 cm thickness and using a biscuit/scone cutter (about 2inch in diameter) cut out 12 scones. You may need to re-roll the dough for the last couple. If you do, don’t handle the dough for long as this will make them less even.

Place scones on a tray lined with greaseproof paper and brush with the egg on the tops only. Be careful not to let any of the egg-wash fall down the sides, as this prevents them from rising properly.

Bake for 12-15 mins until golden on top.

Best served warm, with lots of clotted cream and jam.

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