I, along with many others, cannot resist a warm buttered scone. Slightly crisp on the outside and wonderfully fluffy on the inside it doesn't matter if it is plain, fruited or joy of joys, a cheese scone, those moments of waiting for them to cool after coming straight out of the oven are almost unbearable.
Incidentally, one of my guilty pleasures is a warm sultana scone, buttered and served with a wedge of good blue cheese. And if I am feeling particularly hedonistic I might put a dollop of strawberry jam with it as well. I can sense my wife recoiling in horror even as I contemplate the thought of doing this but the sweet savoury combination of tastes are sublime.
The scones I am writing about are the lightly sweetened variety (unless you are having a savoury cheese scone, which is important enough to have its own blog) and can contain raisins, sultanas, cherries or just be plain. This is not to be confused with potato scones, griddle scones or drop scones. And don't mention the American scone, or biscuit as they call them.
The common scone we see in cafes and coffee shops, and what we would bake at home, has baking powder as an ingredient to give some lift. I’ve often found the huge billowing scones you see in some bakeries always look impressive but leave a slightly bitter aftertaste which I assume to be overuse of baking powder. Just to prove that size isn't everything.
My quest for the perfect scone has taken me to try recipes from Paul Hollywood, Mary Berry, Nigella, Felicity Cloake, Dan Lepard and others. All their scones were lovely and I would make them again but the best scone recipe I have found comes from Claire Clark, a pastry chef who has worked at The Ritz, Claridges and the famous The French Laundry restaurant in California.
I have been told by friends who have sampled these scones they are some of the best they have had and these are people who know a lot more about baking than I do. Claire uses grated apple in her recipe yet these aren't apple scones. She also uses quite a bit of baking powder yet they don't have a bitter aftertaste.
The only thing I have changed from her recipe is that I use all buttermilk instead of her combination of milk and cream. And this could be my accidental nod to a healthier scone but once I slather it with butter and a slice of stilton I don't think that really matters.
INGREDIENTS (should make about 20 or so)
- 440g strong bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 30g baking powder
- 80g caster sugar
- 80g unsalted butter, diced
- pinch of salt
- 1 medium granny smith apple, peeled and grated at the time you need it otherwise it will turn brown if done in advance
- 225ml buttermilk (you may need more or less depending on the absorbency of the flour)
- 1 medium egg plus 1 yolk, beaten together with a small pinch of salt.
Sift the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt into a mixing bowl. Add the sugar and mix thoroughly.
Rub in the butter until it is well incorporated and you can’t see it any more.
I use a stainless steel pastry blender to do this as I have the hottest hands this side of Dantes Inferno and find the butter melts very quickly from my hot digits. But the pastry blender does a great job of keeping the ingredients cool with minimal need to use my hands.
Add the grated apple, mix in well then gradually add the buttermilk. Stir everything together with a wooden spoon or spatula. You need enough buttermilk to bring everything together as a smooth dough but without becoming a sticky wet mess. So go steady.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes until you have a nice smooth, soft dough.
Roll out to a thickness of approx 2cm - 2.5cm and cut out into rounds with a 5cm (or thereabouts) cutter.
Transfer the scones to a baking paper lined baking sheet (you may need two) leaving enough space around them for expansion.
Leave to relax in a warm place for about 30 minutes until they look a little puffed up.
Preheat your oven to 180°C fan.
Brush the top of each scone with the beaten egg mixture and bake in the oven for about 10-12 minutes or until golden. You might need more or less time-wise depending on your oven, just keep an eye on them.
When done, let them cool a bit (if you can) before tucking in.
(Can be frozen easily too)
Now, can I tempt you with some blue cheese and jam?