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The Art of the Scone

I dread to think how many scone recipes I made over the years, until finally – thanks to Angela Nilsen's The Ultimate Recipe Book – I discovered the best. It's a simple piece of baking but the details matter – specially fine flour and a light touch.


Orlando Murrin | Food Writer | Art of the Scone

CLASSIC SCONES - Makes 5-6.


INGREDIENTS

125ml buttermilk

4tbsp full-fat milk

225g self-raising flour, preferably organic

1/4tsp salt

50g slightly salted butter, cut into small pieces

25g golden caster sugar

a little extra flour for dusting, or milk for glazing


METHOD

1. Heat the oven to 220C/200fan and line a sheet with baking paper. Sprinkle a work surface very lightly with a little extra flour, and have a 6cm cutter at the ready in a small bowl of flour. Mix the buttermilk and milk, and have a little extra milk standing by just in case.

2. Mix the flour and salt, sprinkle the butter cubes over, then rub in using your fingertips, lifting high to keep the mixture light. Shake the bowl to bring any lumps to the top and repeat – don’t overdo, it’s fine if it’s a little flakey. Stir in the sugar.

3. Pour most of the buttermilk mixture over the flour mixture, then gently and patiently work together using a table knife until it forms a soft, almost sticky dough. Work in any loose dry bits of mixture with the rest of the buttermilk, adding extra milk only if needed. Do not overwork.

4. Lift the ball of soft dough onto the work surface and knead just 3 or 4 times to get rid of cracks. Pat with your hands to make a disc 2-2.5cm thick. Run a rolling pin very lightly over the top if are the sort of person who likes a particularly neat finish, then cut out rounds cleanly and without twisting. Dip the cutter in flour each time to prevent sticking. Push scraps together and cut out another scone or two, then discard any remaining dough. Transfer rounds to baking sheet and dust with flour or brush with milk, which will give a light glaze.

5. Bake for 10-12 minutes, turning the tin at half time so they bake evenly, until they are risen and golden. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes and serve fresh.



CHEDDAR SCONES - Makes 12.


I would also like to share my favourite recipe for savoury scones. If you are looking for a traditional round cheese scone, then the go-to recipe is by Felicity Cloake, as part of her ‘The Perfect’ series for The Guardian. Mine are wedge shaped, packed with cheese and wonderfully rich and crumbly.

Here it is a good idea to use unsalted butter and salt, rather than salted butter, so you can regulate the saltiness exactly. If you have a bench scraper, it is just the thing to help shape and cut the scones, which end up a pleasant wedge shape.


INGREDIENTS

285g plain flour

1tbsp baking powder

2tsp caster sugar

1/4tsp salt

110g unsalted butter

110g coarsely grated mature cheddar, such as Quicke’s, plus a little extra for sprinkling

175ml whipping or double cream

1 large egg


METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 190C/170 fan and line a large baking sheet, or two smaller ones, with baking paper.

2. Blend the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a food processor, then cut in the butter by pulsing the machine, until the mixture looks like cornmeal. Add the cheese and process again. Whisk the cream and egg in a jug, then switch on the magazine and pour in with the machine running. Process until the mixture beings to clump together, then stop at once.

3. Turn the sticky dough onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, resisting the temptation to knead. Divide into two, then gently pat each half into an 18cm round. Cut each round into six wedges and use a palette knife to transfer to the baking sheet, spacing 5-6cm apart. Sprinkle lightly with the extra cheese.

4. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the scone comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes before serving warm or at room temperature. These freeze well.


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