The only thing missing when you take a bite of these heavenly pieces of loveliness will be Mrs Patmore handing them to you. I am sure she would be glowingly proud of you after you master this skill.
The art of scone making is something that disappeared with the tea, several hundred years ago in the Boston Harbor. It was actually a harbour at the time as you had not messed with the spelling yet. We will discuss that another time.
A good scone is as rare as a good cup of tea on this side of the pond. If you have visited my homeland then you will have tasted the real version, likely slathered in jam and a delicacy called “clotted cream.”
You are now searching for the "Holy Grail" of scones, to repeat that experience. I have never found it in any bakery here. I cannot say that I have been to every bakery in the USA but, in 29 years I have not found a good scone on the east coast.
The remedy for such a tragedy is to perfect the skill and make your own. Even if you hate to cook or you are not a very good one, you can learn to make these.
READ THIS BEFORE YOU BEGIN
There are a few key things that you need to know before embarking on this journey. I am going to give you a very quick home ec lesson. Do not roll your eyes or fall asleep. It is very quick and you will thank me in the long run.
Baking is a science. It is not a throw in a bit of this, and a bit of that cooking experience. To get light fluffy delicious scones you need to know how they become that way.
Your ingredients are very simple; flour, butter and baking powder (with a bit of salt and sugar). What you do with that simple mix during the process is the key.
Those little grains of flour need to be coated in the fat. Take note of the word “coated”. They must never be saturated with the fat. If the fat soaks into them you will get scones resembling hockey pucks.
Everything you use needs to be cold. (I will elaborate in a minute.)
You also need to get all thoughts of bread dough out of your head. Scone dough and bread dough are like the difference between a heavyweight boxer and a prima ballerina.
Bread dough relies on manhandling to activate the gluten, which then gives you a sticky elastic dough that traps those bubbles.
A scone dough needs to be handled like rare china and barely touched and when touched, gently caressed and not roughly treated. You will be forming and cutting the dough very quickly, and if you play, knead and manhandle, you are back to the hockey pucks.
OK, home ec lesson over.
No playing around with this. Do exactly as I tell you and you will get a fabulous result.
Raisins are the classic addition to scones. If you hate raisins, just leave them out and make plain ones the first time ( play with additions after you have made plain ones).
This recipe uses a food processor. You can make them without one but, it is a snip with one. A blender is not a food processor. Do not use a blender for this. If you do not have a food processor I will show how to do it by hand, do not despair.
There is nothing worse than trying to make something and half way through finding out that you do not have some of the main ingredients.
RAISINS ( optional)
FOOD PROCESSOR ( optional)
ROUND COOKIE CUTTER ( If you are making circular scones)
BAKING SHEET ( Commercial grade gives the best results).
Retrieve all the above and make sure everything is clean and dry. Wipe down your counters and clear them so that you have room to work.
Put on your "pinny". That is slang for apron in the homeland. Wash your hands and we are ready to go!
Measure out a ¼ cup of butter.
This is half a stick.
You can do this with a whole pound of butter by dividing into 8 and saving seven portions for a later date. ( or if you have eight kids like me then you will be making 8 batches at once.)
Take half a stick and cut in half lengthwise, giving four little sticks and then cut four times across the sticks to give 16 little cubes.
Wrap the cubes in parchment paper, put in a freezer or plastic bag and pop in the freezer. If you do not have a food processor then pop in the fridge.
Measure out half a cup of raisins and place in a metal, ceramic or Pyrex container.
Pour boiling water over the raisins to cover them.
Soak them for ten minutes or more. You want them to desquamate.
You thought you were getting a cooking lesson didn’t you. Well, this is when your skin goes pruney in the bath ( oh, I forgot you do not have baths here. Well, when you soak your skin.)
You want pruney raisins.
This makes them light and soft not all hard and dried.
You will be baking them at 450 degrees so if this will soften them and make them really moist so that they do not go crunchy during cooking.
Your scones will still be good if you skip this step but, this little secret will make them amazing.
After soaking you will drain them before adding them to the flour mix.
You do not want to keep that soaking water. throw it out and DO NOT ADD IT TO THE SCONE MIX!!!
You only want to add the fat juicy raisins that had a hot bath.
Prepare your pan and the oven.
At school we learned a little saying.
“ first the oven, then the dish, wash your hands, and then begin”.
Prepping your pan and the oven before you start playing with the food ensures that everything is ready to bake when you have formed your scones.
Set the oven to 450 degrees.
Baking pans and ovens come in a myriad of sizes, shapes and quality.
Your oven is not something that can be easily changed.
Cookie sheets are not expensive and are something that can make a huge difference to how your food cooks.
For an even baking surface commercial quality will serve you well for many years. The expense is less than you think and they will last a lifetime.
Rinse your pan, and then line it with a piece of parchment paper.
DO NOT DRY THE PAN AFTER YOU RINSE.
The damp pan will make the parchment paper stick to the pan and not slide around.
Setup the food processor. Make sure bowl is clean and dry. If you do not have one get a large mixing bowl.
Measure out the flour, baking soda and sugar and salt.
1 ¾ cups of flour
2 ¼ teaspoons of baking powder
¼ teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of sugar ( normal white sugar).
Now, put those ingredients in the food processor bowl or mixing bowl.
Crack 2 eggs into a bowl and whisk with a fork and then add ⅓ cup of heavy cream.
Add the frozen (very cold pieces) of butter to food processor.
PROCEED WITH CAUTION.
Do not turn on the machine and go and make a cup of coffee (you should be drinking tea anyway, but do not make that either.)
This part is integral to the light and fluffy part of your scones. You can go from “coating” to “soaking” in a heartbeat because the butter will melt if it gets warm.
Pulse the mix until you stop hearing the sound of the frozen lumps getting hit by the blade. At this point it is better to under mix than over mix.
You want it to look like breadcrumbs.
Pour it all into a large mixing bowl.
With clean hands, use the ends of your fingers to grab some mix ( like a claw). Keep the mix in your fingertips. Lift it up and see if there are lumps and then push those in a handful of floury mix.
Hold it above the bowl as you do this and let it fall back in the bowl.
This is also the method of mixing without the food processor.
Instead of putting everything in the
food processor use this method from the beginning and work the mixture until the lumps have gone
Without a food processor it will take longer but the desired effect will be the same.
Lifting your hands above the bowl lets the mix cool as it falls back in the bowl. Be very careful to do this if you are making the whole batch by hand. You need to keep this mix cool.
Add in the drained and cooled raisins.
If they are hot then run them under very cold water after you drain them.
Use a fork to lightly mix them into the butter/flour mix in the bowl.
Use a fork to lightly mix them into the crumb like mix.
Whisk the eggs and cream together and add them to the bowl.
( reserve about 2 tablespoons of liquid to brush tops of scones with before baking).
Using the fork lightly mix and bind it all together.
The mix should be wet.
Coat your hands with flour and gently push the mix around to form a ball.
The dough should feel delicate and light.
Gently pat it into a circle on a clean floured surface. You can gently knead a little, I said A LITTLE!!! This is not clay.
Pat into a circle, crimp edges and then cut into 8 wedges by cutting across the circle four times.
If you want fancy round scones use a cookie cutter. Dip in flour first so they do not stick inside it.
Place on the parchment lined baking sheet and brush with the remainder of egg/cream mix.
Bake for 15 mins on the middle shelf of the oven, that was preheated to 450 degrees.
If you forgot to put the oven on then preheat it.
Do not put scones in a cold oven.
Now, you can set the timer and go and make that coffee.
When the timer goes off remove the pan from the oven and cool scones on a cooling rack.
This is the point where you have to resist the temptation to grab a perfect looking scone and taste it.
It is a 450 degree scone at this point!
LET THEM COOL!!!!
That juicy plump raisin will not be your friend if you bite on it at this point. It will burst in your mouth causing blisters.
After you have mustered every ounce of self control that you possess, and they are cool, then you can prepare them to eat.
There are several options.
1. Grab one and start eating.
2. You probably already ate one so take another one and cut it in half.
Put soft butter on each piece and eat it.
3. Try not to eat one every time I make a suggestion of how to serve them as you will feel sick by the third.
Repeat step 2 but add jam on top of the buttered scone.
4. Step four is worth skipping every other step for.
Slice the scone in half and put jam and clotted cream on each piece. I cannot put into words how amazing this is.
Before you start adding things in to your scone base you should practice the basic recipe a few times first.
Do not add these extras before the fat has been cut into the flour. Additions are added when the mix looks like breadcrumbs and before you add the wet ingredients.
If you want savory scones then leave out the sugar in the base.
Fry up five slices ( rashers) and crumble. Let this cool completely before you add to the mix. You will very likely eat the whole lot before they cool so cook up a pound and there should be enough left.
HAM AND CHEESE
Chop up small pieces of ham or sausage and use about 1/2 a cup in each batch ( team up with 1/2 cup of shredded cheese.)
Shred one cup of cheddar or other cheese.
1 cup of fresh blueberries or strawberries
1/2 cup of dried cranberries,cherries,chopped dates or other dried fruit
1-2 cups of chocolate chips
Mix chopped pecans, dried fruit and chocolate chips
ONCE YOU HAVE THAT SCONE BASE TO THE POINT WHERE IT LOOKS LIKE BREAD CRUMBS YOU CAN FREEZE IT AND SAVE FOR A LATER DATE.
WRITE ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE FREEZER BAG ;
1/3 CUP OF CREAM
BAKE 450 DEGREES FOR 15 MINS
WHEN YOUR FRIEND POPS OVER FOR A CUP OF TEA YOU CAN WHIZZ UP A BATCH OF SCONES TO GO WITH IT.
THE ALTERNATIVE IS TO FREEZE THE SCONES AFTER THEY ARE COOKED. THIS IS MUCH MORE DIFFICULT AS THEY HAVE TO BE PRIED OUT OF THE HANDS OF CHILDREN, HUSBANDS AND ANYONE ELSE THAT SPOTS THEM.
If you have mastered the scone recipe, and feel the need for another dose of England, then look no further.
I warn you now, these are not for anyone on a low carb diet. They are laden with fat and sugar and, are absolutely incredible.
This might seem a little odd to people on this side of the Atlantic. The traditional Scotch Egg is a boiled egg, wrapped in sausage meat that is then coated with breadcrumbs after being dipped in an egg wash and then deep fried.