Traditional scones

Scones are fabulous on their own on a sunny day with a pot of tea, or can brighten up the drearist day with ease, but they are, of course, an important component of Afternoon Tea whether sweet or savoury.

Scones are one of the easiest and quickest things to make, with a batch made from start to finish within about 20 minutes.

A proper scone should have a good height and be very soft and fluffy inside. Home-made ones will taste infinitely better than any scones that can be bought, which are often heavy and dry affairs, often going claggy in the mouth. They are at their very best eaten on the same day as being made.

Top tips:

(I) Don’t over-work the dough, otherwise they could become very heavy.

(II) To get the height, when rolling out the dough, go for a thicker dough rather than thinner (you are not baking bisuits!): at least 2cm thickness for larger scones will give the right depth in the baked scone. You will also get a natural horizontal crack across the centre of each scone, which allows you to tear it apart with minimal effort for adding clotted cream and jam.

This recipe:

This is a fairly standard recipe for scones but it works like a dream. I do like to add the grated zest of a lemon or orange to the mixture for a subtle flavouring, but this can be omitted. Simple pleasures!

If you want fruit scones, add about 80g dried fruit such as sultanas, currants, mixed peel or a mixture of these just before adding the milk. If using buttermilk you get an even lighter texture but whole milk gives excellent results.

Savoury scones are also lovely to bake and to eat; perfect served warm as a light snack.

Recipe: scones – makes about twelve 6″ scones

  • 300g self-raising flour, plus more for dusting
  • a generous pinch of fine salt
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • grated zest of a lemon
  • 100g unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 45g caster sugar
  • 100ml full-fat milk or buttermilk
  • 1 large free-range egg, beaten

To finish:

  • beaten egg, to glaze
  • jam and clotted cream, to serve

(1) Preheat the oven to 180C (fan) and put a baking tray lined with parchment in the oven while you make the scones.

(2) Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a large bowl. Rub in the butter gently until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar, the lemon zest and most of the milk, mixing it in with a knife until it comes together to a very soft dough. Add more milk if needed: you want it slightly on the wetter side than drier, but not too sticky.

(3) Very lightly shape to a flattened ball but don’t over-work the dough or the scones will be heavy. Roll out to about 2cm thickness and cut out to whichever size you want. I tend to use a plain 6cm cutter, getting about 12 scones from this amount of ingredients: once you have cut out the first lot of scones you will need to re-roll the trimmings. Do this gently so as not to over-work the dough.

(4) Brush the tops with the egg, taking care not to let the egg run down the sides (which could prevent some of the rise you are looking for). Pop them onto the hot baking sheet and bake for about 12-15 minutes until well risen and golden brown.

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