Much as I love baking there has always been one sizable chink in my armour: the ability to make good scones. On the occasions when I have decided that nothing but a homemade cream tea will do I have attempted to make scones, but something always goes wrong. They're either too small; too hard; or too biscuity - always edible but just not right. More often than not I just throw in the towel before I even begin and opt for rock buns instead. Yesterday though I had the most delicious homemade cream tea and this time the scones were perfect. OK, I need to fess up. I didn't make them. It was actually my supremely talented sister but I have been given step-by-step instructions and I'm pretty sure I could replicate their deliciousness all on my own.
Of course the brilliant thing about scones is that you can whip them up in less than half an hour and if you've got some clotted cream and good jam to hand (who doesn't?) you are absolutely golden. The key to making great scones, I now discover, is to not handle the mixture too much. But don't worry, I'll be reminding you about that until you're ready to scream "OK I get it". But you'll thank me for it when you're stuffing your face with light pillows of deliciousness.
This is a recipe for fruit scones (anyone who reads this blog even occasionally knows that my perfect scone is fruited) but if you're the kind of crazy person who likes them plain just omit the fruit and sugar. But really, why would you?
To make 6-8 Scones
225g (8oz) self raising flour
50g (2oz) butter at room temperature
25g (1oz) caster sugar
50g (2oz) currants/sultanas
1 egg beaten with enough milk to make 150ml (1/4 pint) liquid - the closer these are to room temperature the better
- Heat oven to 220ºC/200ºC fan/425ºF/gas mark 7
- Grease a baking tray with a little butter.
- Sift the flour and salt into the largest bowl you have and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. It is a good idea to do this with your palms facing upwards as this incorporates more air into the mixture. You could try this with a food processor but again, the lack of air could be a problem (going by my previous attempts...)
- Stir in the sugar and fruit but take care not to overwork the mixture
- Add the milk and egg mixture all in one go, reserving a little to brush the tops with. Stir with a spoon or palette knife until well incorporated but again DO NOT OVERWORK THE MIXTURE
- Turn out onto a well-floured surface and very lightly roll to 2cm (1in) thick (remember you are not overworking that mixture...)
- Cut into 6-7cm (2-3in) rounds
- Brush the tops with the remaining egg and milk
- Bake for about 10 minutes
- Leave to cool on the tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack - but not for too long, these babies are best eaten warm
Serve with your favourite jam, I went for Tiptree raspberry, and lashings of clotted cream. Forget whipped cream: its light airy texture is all wrong with scones (I still have nightmares about a cream tea I was once served with whipped cream). If you are unfortunate enough to live in a place where clotted cream is not available, go for the kind of extra thick double cream that requires spooning not pouring.
I find that all that richness is best accompanied with a fairly robust black tea so yesterday I blended a Yunnan & Keemun to create a Russian Caravan. Even if I do say so myself it was damn good. And for the perfect finishing touch I served it all up on my lovely new (old) Alfred Meakin tea set. Isn't it gorgeous? Only problem is there are a few scones left so it looks like I'll have to do it all again today. Oh well. No one can say I'm not a trooper for the cause.