There are many things that create conflict in this world. From politics to religion, people will always find something to argue about but one thing that is always guaranteed to get messy is: how do you prepare a scone. Cream then jam or jam then cream? This is not something that can be discussed in order to convince the other person you are correct, this is a matter of right and wrong. Despite following the Devonshire tradition of cream first, I appreciate that other people are welcome to follow the Cornish tradition of jam first. Of course, I also respect other people’s right to be incorrect but that is totally unrelated to this.
Scones are of course a particularly conflict inducing food because not only is there dispute about how to eat them, there is dispute about how to even pronounce their name. Is it scone or scone? The differences in pronunciation originate from both regional dialects and the old British class system. Scone as in gone tends to be more prevalent in northern England, Scotland and Ireland whereas scone as in cone is the normal pronunciation in both the south of England and the midlands.
Traditionally scones form the middle course of an afternoon tea; between the smoked salmon or cucumber sandwiches and the miniature cakes and pastries. They are bready and filling but not too sweet and are an easy way of getting the cream and jam to your mouth. Eaten around 4 o’clock afternoon tea emerged in the 1840s in the upper classes but by the end of the 19th century it was customary for the middle class to enjoy it too. Nowadays, going out for afternoon tea is a treat. That is of course, assuming you are not the Queen of England. She enjoys afternoon tea every day and is particularly partial to a slice of chocolate biscuit cake with it.
The recipes below are for plain, fruit and cheese scones but I wouldn’t advise using the last for an afternoon tea. When cutting the scone dough, it is important to use the sharpest cutter you can to avoid pinching the edges as this will prevent a vertical rise. You also want to work the dough as little as possible as overworked scones lose their fluffiness. Luckily, scones are very easy to make and of course, are absolutely delicious!
16 oz (450g) self raising flour (or 16 oz plain flour with 8 tsp baking powder)
4 oz (110g) butter
Pinch of salt
3 oz (85g) sugar
5.5 oz (150g) raisins with ½ tsp baking powder (optional)
284ml buttermilk (or 140ml yogurt with 140ml water)
Milk to glaze
16 oz (450g) self-raising flour (or 16 oz plain flour with 8 tsp baking powder)
4 oz (110g) butter
Pinch of salt
100g grated strong cheese + 25g to go on top
Pinch of cayenne pepper
½ tsp mustard
284ml buttermilk or 140ml yoghurt with 140ml water
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (2200C).
Rub the butter into the flour and stir through the salt.
Use a blunt knife to stir in the raisins/sugar/grated cheese and cayenne pepper.
Use the knife to stir in the buttermilk (and mustard if you are using it) until the mixture starts to come together.
Once you cannot combine the dough anymore with the knife, pour it onto a surface and gently knead it together into a homogenous ball.
Roll out the dough to ¾ inch (2cm) thickness.
Cut out the dough into 3 inch circles and move onto baking parchment.
Use a pastry brush to brush a little milk onto the top of each scone. Make sure not to let it drip down the sides as this will stop the scones rising properly.
For plain and fruit scones, sprinkle a little caster sugar over them or for cheese scones, sprinkle the reserved grated cheese on top.
Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, turning after 10 minutes, or until the scones are all golden brown on top.
Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.
Serve plain and fruit scones with lashings of clotted cream and jam. Cheese scones go very well with a nice soup or piled high with grated cheese and chilli jam.
I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are considering making an afternoon tea, why not use a classic Victoria sandwich cake with it and maybe even make the sandwiches with some exciting artisan bread? Looking for a hearty dinner? treat yourself to a fantastic cottage pie. It serves four so you get leftovers too.
Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a great filling for a chicken pie.