Sunday, March 5, 2017

Good Bread Series: Scones!

Blustery March days are perfect for afternoon tea: a steaming pot of English or Irish Breakfast tea, lemon curd, butter...and the perfect just-baked scone.

These little goodies are actually named for the Stone of Scone, or the Stone of Destiny, the famous stone that Scottish rulers are crowned over. Scones were being served back in the 15th century, but didn't use baking powder then, and were often made of oats. Today's version is a light, flaky almost-biscuit, almost-roll, shaped in a circle or wedge. 

The real Stone of Scone -- probably not too tasty with butter

Just a few things to remember:

*Keep your butter and liquids
as cold as possible. This keeps your scones light and flakey. (The batter, not you!)

*If you're incorporating fruit, cut them finely and use them frozen. 

*Don't overmix. A light hand is best.

     They're best just out of the oven. Not as hard as you might think, since your scone batter (or wedges) can keep in the refrigerator before baking.

Dozens of recipes are out there for these toothsome better-than-biscuits, including a 'drop scone' version that Queen Elizabeth gave the recipe to Dwight Eisenhower. (Apparently he asked.)

In its post on the subject, Luna Cafe points out the many ways scones can be made and gives you all sorts of variations. Here's the recipe I've been using, adapted from one the Savoy Hotel uses. 

Photos and recipes adapted from


2 cups flour
4 tablespoons baking powder
shake of salt
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter (kept cold)
1/2 cup milk  (also cold)
1/4 cup sour cream (ditto)
1/2 cup fruit   (I'm not a huge fan of this, but plenty of people like it -- 
                             try currants, dried cranberries, raisins, blueberries, etc.)
1 egg
a little extra milk and sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix dry ingredients together, then gently cut in butter until it's pea-sized...and frankly a lumpy-looking mess. (Luna Cafe recommends cutting the butter in larger chunks, then literally rolling it into the flour mixture in sheets.) Quickly mix in milk and sour cream; add the egg as well, or use it to paint the cut wedges. Use as light a hand as possible.
      Add the fruit now too, if you want it.
      You should have a soft mixture that's slightly wet. (Add a little flour if it's too runny.) Form into one large circle of dough, then cut into 8 wedges. Transfer to ungreased cookie sheet. (Stop at this point, if you want -- and keep the wedges in the refrigerator.)
     Paint wedges with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 10-15 min. until lightly brown; serve hot with butter, jam or lemon curd.

Need lemon curd?  Here's a great microwave recipe.

Oh my.

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