Sometimes there’s nothing better than afternoon tea, and by afternoon tea I mean a fabulously brewed pot of tea and a batch of scones served with strawberry jam and cream. Feather-light scones are quick and easy to prepare, but a gentle hand is required to make sure they come out of the oven light and fluffy.
When I was in high school all girls had to take the subject Home Economics while the boys did Woodwork and Metalwork. Although Home Economics is now taught to both boys and girls in co-educational schools, boys’ schools still don’t see the need to teach cooking and sewing, and girls’ schools don’t have woodwork facilities. So I’m not sure if things have progressed that much. The only thing I really remember about these classes was learning to use a sewing machine by stitching on a paper bag; mangling my attempt at a meat pie when I attempted to get it home in the front basket on my bike; and the perfect batch of scones I made.
That means scones must be easy or they wouldn’t be one of the first things they teach 12 year olds to make. But a word of caution. When you start looking for a scone recipe they fall into two categories. One that treats the mixture delicately, barely mixing the ingredients together. The second version treats scone dough like bread dough: a good kneading and a rolling pin. We recently debated the options and decided to make a batch of both. I stuck with what I had learned, whilst child 4 went all out with the rolling pin.
The results: delicate hand = light and fluffy; rolling pin = rock cakes. If this were a scientific experiment I could say that my predictions were confirmed. Was this a fair experiment? Sort of. What could I change to ensure it was fair? Make both batches myself. That’s not going to happen. I’ll stick to the year 8 home economics method.
There are a few things to note when making scones.
1. You need to rub the butter into the flour with your finger tips.
2.I was taught to use a knife, using a cutting action, to mix the flour and milk together. This may make perfect scones, but to be honest it’s a whole lot harder than gently mixing the two together using your hand.
3. The batter may seem a bit sticky, but don’t despair. When you tip the mixture out onto a floured bench to form a rectangular shape for cutting, it will be fine.
4.Scones are usually round, but I tend to cut them into squares giving them a more organic shape. And I don’t measure its depth so sometimes they aren’t as high as they should be.
5. It’s important to position them quite close together on the baking tray. That makes them go up, rather than out.
By the way, I taught myself to use a hammer!
- 3 cups self raising flour
- a pinch of salt
- 50 grams unsalted butter, chopped
- 310 mls (1¼ cups) milk
- extra milk to glaze
- whipped cream and jam, to serve
- Preheat oven to 230 degrees celsius.
- Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Add the butter and use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture.Pour the milk into the well and mix together very gently with your hand until a soft but sticky dough forms.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently pat the dough into a 2cm-thick rectangular shape.
- Lightly dust an oven tray with flour. Cut the dough into rounds or squares. Arrange scones close together on the tray. Gently brush the top of each one with a little extra milk to glaze.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown and scones sound hollow when gently tapped.
- Turn scones out onto a clean tea towel and cover with another tea towel to keep them warm.
- Serve with jam and cream.