What Are Scones?
My childhood was one happy dream full of magical lands, simmering adventures and glorious food – thanks to Enid Blyton. I still wonder why didn’t she have a recipe section at the end of her novels! Her characters were always stuffing their faces with eclairs, meringues, chocolate cakes, pies, cucumber sandwiches and scones. Scones took me to a warm and fuzzy place and made me jealous of the characters. In comparison my daal chawal meal tasted like reality. Scones are the quintessential English afternoon tea treat. The classic scones are biscuit-like pastries (not biscuits) or quick breads that are often rolled into thick round shapes or cut into quarters, then baked, sometimes on a griddle. If you have all the ingredients at hand, which I mostly do because they are pantry staples, you can whip up a batch in around 20 minutes. You’ll be ready with a plate of warm scones even before your family notices that you were gone. That’s why they are ideal for when unexpected guests drop by for a cuppa. I like them best immediately after baking. The smell of scones wafting through the kitchen won’t let you resist them for long anyways. They will come out crumbly and buttery with a hint of sweet.
A Little Bit Of History:
As with any food, the classic scones have many theories about their origin. But most food historians agree they got their start as a Scottish quick bread. Originally made with oats and griddle-baked, the earlier scones were as large as a medium sized plate which were then cut into triangles for serving. The origin of the word “Skone”, comes from the Dutch word ‘schoonbrot’, which means beautiful bread, while some say it comes from the town of Scone, ancient capital of Scotland, where the monarchs of Scotland were crowned.
The credit for making Scones popular and an essential part of the fashionable ritual of taking tea in England goes to Anna, the Duchess of Bedford (1788 – 1861). As one late afternoon, she ordered the servants to bring tea and some sweet breads, which included scones. She was so enamoured by this, that she ordered it every afternoon. Even if you are not familiar with Enid Blyton’s work, there is an abundance of references to scones in English literature. How can we forget the heartwarming scene from The Hobbit, “A big jug of coffee had just been set in the hearth, the seed-cakes were gone, and the dwarves were starting on a round of buttered scones, when there came a loud knock.” Or in War Horse as Bertie’s widow, Millie, tells the story to a young boy over buttered scones and tea.
Different Varieties Of Scones:
If you place Southern American biscuits recipe next to a British classic scones recipe, both may look deceptively similar. Both are considered quick breads and both have flour, fat and liquid as their building blocks. Also both use leavening agents like baking soda or baking powder. But despite these similarities scones are not biscuits. Biscuits are light and airy with well-defined layers, and sturdy as meant to be dragged through gravy or dunked into runny yolk or maple syrup. On the other hand, the scones are softer, more dense and crumbly. Scones are intended to be consumed with a hot beverage and spread with jam, butter or clotted cream (or all three, if you are greedy like me). The texture of scones is perfect to add raisins, currants, blueberries, spices and other dried fruits and nuts. The savoury varieties include, soda scones, potato scones, cheese or onion scones as well. Some of them are fried rather than baked.
- Always use cold butter, better frozen especially if working in warm climate, for a better rise.
- Don’t over mix or over knead the dough. Just mix till it comes together. You can use the food processor but only run it briefly – just a whiz.
- Use self-raising flour. If ready to use is not available, you can make your own very easily. Just add 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt for each 1 cup of plain flour.
- Don’t choose very juicy fruits if planning to add any to the classic scones recipe to create a variation.
If you enjoyed this recipe also check out these melt in the mouth Strawberry Cream Puffs
2.5 cups self-raising flour + more for dusting the worktop
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 heaped tablespoons cold butter, cut into cubes
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 egg, beaten, for glaze
jam, butter or clotted cream to serve
This Is What You Do:
Preheat oven to 200 C. Place a baking tray in the oven to get heated.
Tip the self-raising flour into a large mixing bowl. Stir in salt and baking powder.
Now add the butter and rub into the flour with your fingers till the mix looks like fine crumbs. Stir in sugar.
Heat the milk in microwave for 30 seconds or just till warm. It shouldn’t be hot. Then add the vanilla essence and lemon juice to it. Put it aside for a couple of minutes.
Make a well in the flour mix, then add the liquids to it and mix with a spatula. The dough will seem rather wet at this stage.
Sprinkle some flour onto the worktop and place the dough over it. Fold the dough a few times till it comes together (DO NOT overwork it).
Pat the dough into a round (almost 1.5 inch thick). Take a 2 inch cookie cutter or use the mouth of a glass to cut the scones out of the dough. Press the remaining dough back into a round and cut out more scones. Use up all the dough like this.
Now brush the tops of scones with beaten egg and arrange on the hot baking tray carefully. Bake for 10-12 minutes or till the scones are risen and tops are golden. Do not overbake, scones are not cupcakes.
Enjoy warm, straight out of the oven or cold later on, topped with jam, butter, fruit slices or clotted cream.