In the hierarchy of the scone world, in my opinion there can be only one leader - the mighty cheese scone.
Obviously there is a place on the scone ladder pecking order for the sultana scone, currant scone, plain sweet scone, cherry scone and even the tattie scone (although this one may be on the bottom rung), but all bow before the altar of their ruler.
I have spent the last few weeks on a quest for the Holy Grail - the perfect cheese scone.
If I have a cheese scone, I want it to taste of cheese. Not just a hint of cheddar, but a big cheesy hit. I want it to be light and fluffy, not dense and heavy. There may be more chance of finding the Holy Grail. I have tried making them with plain flour, self raising flour or strong bread flour. All used baking powder in varying degrees as the raising agent, and buttermilk, milk or water as the liquid element.
They all came out with varying degrees of success. All very edible but not quite what I was after. If the scone tasted great, it was too heavy. If it was light and fluffy it wasn't cheesy enough.
My neighbours and friends were roped in as taste testers and while the results were interesting they did come up with a winner.
Their favourite scones were the ones I made with the Claire Clark recipe from my blog for sweet scones, (the best scones, 27/9/16, recipe page) except I omitted the sugar and added a little mustard powder, and of course, the cheese.
They were light and fluffy like Claire’s normal plain scones, but had that all-important savoury cheese hit.
Which brings me to the cheese. It is worth splashing out a bit for the best mature cheddar you can find. It is the most important ingredient after all. I've never understood recipes that tell you use cheese leftovers in your fridge for your scones. Just no!
I tested a few cheddars for my scones and found the most successful to be the ones with a strong taste and a bit of bite, like a good Isle of Mull Cheddar, or Cornish Cruncher (M&S). A mild, cheap supermarket cheddar will just get lost in all the other ingredients.
And to make sure I get my cheese hit I sprinkle the top of the scones with grated Parmesan before they go in the oven. You can't get too much of a good thing.
440g strong bread flour
Pinch of salt
30g baking powder
Heaped tsp mustard powder
80g chilled butter, diced
1 medium granny smith apple, peeled, cored and grated
200g good mature cheddar, grated
284ml carton of buttermilk (plus extra milk if needed)
1 egg to glaze
Grated Parmesan for sprinkling
Mix together the flour, salt, baking powder and mustard powder and sift into a large bowl. Add the diced butter and rub in with your fingers until you can hardly see it amongst the flour. Then add the grated apple and cheese and mix everything together until well incorporated.
Pour in the buttermilk and stir until you have a soft dough. If it is too dry just add a little milk to moisten. Remove from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and lightly knead for 2-3 minutes to get a smooth ball.
Pat down (or lightly roll with a rolling pin) to about a 2.5cm high flat disc and cut out as many scones as you can with a 6cm cutter. You can make them bigger if you prefer, like the mountainous versions you buy in cafes, but any scone that makes me feel I need climbing gear to tackle it, isn't for me.
Tip - keep dipping your scone cutter into a small bowl of flour after each cut. This will stop the dough sticking and help with the rise. Also, try not to twist the cutter, just push straight down and back up. This will also help with the rise in the oven.
Place the scones quite close together on a prepared baking sheet (lined with baking parchment) and leave in a warm place for about 25-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan.
Just before putting the scones in the oven, glaze the tops with egg wash (beaten egg with a little milk) and sprinkle with grated parmesan.
Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes (20-25 minutes for larger scones) until golden, keeping a check on them after about 12 minutes as all ovens are different.
Remove to a cooling rack, and try a few while still warm (for testing purposes, you understand).
Once cool, if you’re not eating them straight away, bag them and stick in the freezer. They are as good as freshly made when defrosted and reheated in the oven.
You need never be without the King of Scones again.