Scones Three Ways
We’re officially in scone season. All over the country, at every church hall and village fete tea, scones and finger sandwiches are being served. I believe that a picnic is incomplete without a scone, some clotted cream and a flask of very strong English tea.
Scones are in essence and mostly, a vehicle for cream and jam but it’s amazing quite how many recipes there are out there for such a basic bun. My go-to recipe used to be Delia Smith’s but after a number of failed wins at our local village show I decided to up my game and change my recipe. I’m sharing it with you here along with two others: a classic Mary Berry recipe that uses regular milk and a little more unusual recipe, which includes grated apple, by Claire Clark who is currently the pastry chef at The French Laundry in California but was once at The Ritz – and if they don’t know their afternoon tea then who does?
I conducted some blind taste tests with friends and family and hands down the verdict was the same. The Mary Berry scones were perfectly nice but a little ordinary. The Claire Clark scones were beautifully soft and light (if not a little misshapen) and the Belleau Kitchen scones had an uplifting hit of lemon with a good texture and lightness. So no clear overall winner – although I am thinking of shaking things up again for the village show!
MARY BERRY SCONES
Lightly grease two baking trays. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas 7.
In a large bowl rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.
Beat the eggs together until blended and make up to a generous 300ml with the milk. Gradually add the egg/milk mixture to the dry ingredients until you have a soft dough, making sure you leave a little mixture behind for glazing the scones later. It is far better that the scone mixture is on the wet side, sticking to your fingers, as the scones will rise better.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and flatten it out with your hand, or use a rolling pin, to a thickness of 1-2cm. Use a 5cm fluted cutter to stamp out the dough by pushing the cutter straight down into the dough (as opposed to twisting the cutter) then lift it straight out. This ensures that the scones will rise evenly and keep their shape. Gently push the remaining dough together, knead very lightly then re-roll and cut more scones out as before.
Arrange the scones on the prepared baking trays and brush the tops with the reserved beaten egg/milk mixture to glaze. Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until the scones are well risen and golden. Cool on a wire rack.
CLAIRE CLARK SCONES
Sift the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt into a mixing bowl. Add the sugar and mix thoroughly. Rub in the butter until it is well incorporated and you can’t see it any more.
Add the grated apple, mix in well then gradually add the buttermilk. Stir everything together with a wooden spoon or spatula. You need enough buttermilk to bring everything together as a smooth dough but without becoming a sticky wet mess.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes until you have a nice smooth, soft dough. Roll out to a thickness of approx 2cm-2.5cm and cut out into rounds with a 5cm cutter.
Transfer the scones to a baking paper lined baking sheet leaving enough space around them for expansion and leave to relax in a warm place for about 30 minutes until they look a little puffed up.
Preheat your oven to 180°C fan.
Brush the top of each scone with the beaten egg mixture and bake in the oven for about 10-12 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.
BELLEAU KITCHEN BUTTERMILK LEMON SCONES
Heat the oven to just above 200C/ 400F/gas mark 6.
In a bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and butter, and with your fingertips rub it together so it turns cream-coloured and slightly bread-crumby
In a small bowl, beat the egg with the buttermilk (or yogurt), then stir this into the flour mixture. Combine until you have a firm ball of dough, then knead lightly in the bowl for 10 seconds.
Flour the surface again, and also the top of the dough, and roll out until it is 2cm thick and cut with a fluted cutter (straight up and down avoiding that twisting action)
Place them on a tray that you’ve lined with parchment paper, spacing them a few centimetres apart so they don’t knock into each other while rising, brush the tops with extra buttermilk and dredge with sugar, if you like.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until risen and lightly coloured.
All the scones should be eaten on the day they’re baked (no great task), but if you can’t they will freeze well and can be reheated for a few minutes in the oven.
Eat and of course, enjoy!