As an American I've found it a long and arduous journey to find the perfect British scone recipe. There were many perils along the way from disappointing recipes, confusing measuring conventions, differences in flour composition, and perhaps the most challenging factor, no decent example to be found anywhere. I've had tea at the Biltmore in Santa Barbara and numerous other posh establishments and never had a cup of tea worth drinking or a scone enjoyable to consume. While I didn't know how to make a scone myelf I knew enough that the pale, slightly risen, and cold offering was not a proper British scone. Not by half. Which is why I made it my mission to figure out how to bake a British scone and why it all goes so wrong in America.
The simple answer is that it's due to the flour. All purpose flour in England has a higher protein content than in America. But it's more than that. I won't lie. To succeed in America with baking British scones requires yes, the right flour, but it also requires its very own technique which is why I've been very exacting in the instructions below. Follow this recipe and you'll be happily munching on scones as you watch Wimbledon this summer with butter and jam dripping down your fingers. Or regularly with a cuppa and a good book, as I do. Parenthetically I'm thoroughly enjoying the Maisie Dobbs series.
The recipe I'm sharing is my own and derived from a variety of sources including trial and error and serendipitous surprise. As mentioned above I can not stress enough the importance of using the right flour which, luckily, is lurking at your nearby grocery store. I actually had self raising flour imported from England (quite expensive) and didn't like the result as well. Similarly cake flour (which has a higher protein content and is sometimes recommended for British scones) gave disappointing results. The good news is that Bob's Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour is reasonably priced and available at a variety of grocery chains and, incidentally, makes fabulous baguettes as well.
Without further ado good luck and I hope that you enjoy these scones as much as Steve and I do!
SCONES - the British Way
Yield ~ 9 to 10 scones
1/2 cup currants - soaked 10 minutes in earl gray tea (or plain hot water)
4 oz sultanas (golden raisins) (no soaking necessary so long as fresh) - set aside
Combine in a large bowl:
450g Bob's Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour or British self raising flour
If using Bob's Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour add 2 TBS baking powder
If using British self raising flour add 2 tsps. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
85g (6 Tbs.) sweet butter - slightly softened (I use a European butter such as Kerry gold) cubed
Combine in a separate bowl (and reserve 2 TBS):
1 large egg plus enough whole milk to make 1 cup
7 Tbs. (92g) fine white sugar (caster sugar or C&H baking sugar)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Garnish: Demerara sugar
1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. N.B. you will drop the temperature to 425 as soon as you pop the scones in the oven.
2. If using currants instead of sultanas soak currants in earl gray tea or hot water for approximately 10 minutes and blot dry. Measure and set aside whichever you are using (either currants or sultanas).
3. In a medium bowl combine your choice of flour, appropriate amount of baking powder (depending on your flour choice), salt, and cubed butter. Using your finger tips rub butter into flour mixture until consistency of fine sand. It is very important that there are no lumps of butter left as you want a cake like consistency and not a flaky consistency like a biscuit. Set Aside.
4. In a separate small bowl combine egg and milk mixture, sugar, and vanilla. Whisk until sugar is entirely dissolved. Remove and reserve 2 Tbs. of mixture to be used later for brushing tops of scones.
5. Add either currants or sultanas to the flour mixture and toss to combine.
6. Add the milk mixture (less the 2 Tbs. reserved to brush the tops) to the flour and raisins. Using a blunt knife cut the wet ingredients into the flour mixture to form a wet and shaggy dough. Don't worry if not all the flour is incorporated - it's better to not incorporate all the flour rather than having a dough too dry (there are a variety of factors that can affect how much flour is needed to create the dough such as humidity). Turn dough out onto lightly floured board and kneed a couple of turns until smooth. Then gently fold dough in half three (3) times to create layers. Use only a small amount of additional flour to prevent sticking as adding too much will create heavy scones. Use your hands to pat dough into a smooth round approximately 1 to 1 1/2 inches inch thick. Do not use a rolling pin as it will overwork the dough.
7. Using a floured biscuit cutter (2 3/4 inch diameter) stamp out scones using a quick hard stamping motion with the heel of your hand and do not twist the cutter. Be as efficient as possible in cutting as many scones from this dough, as the scones made from the re-rolled scrap dough are not as nice. Place scones on prepared baking sheet and transfer to refrigerator for 30 minutes (which allows the baking powder to begin work and keeps dough cool to prevent spreading).
8. Just before placing scones into oven brush tops with reserved milk mixture. Only brush the tops (not sides). Finish with a sprinkle of demerara sugar or similar course baking sugar.
9. Drop oven temperature from 500 to 425 degrees and bake 7 minutes and turn pan. Continue to bake scones an additional 7 minutes (a total of 14 minutes) or until dark brown on top.
Scones do not keep well and are best served warm from the oven when they are absolutely divine. Contrary to the Brits I enjoy mine with strawberry jam and a spot of sweet butter but for the real deal use clotted cream and/or whipped cream (I find clotted cream at Gelson's Grocery Store). Once cool freeze the leftovers and I find they are best briefly microwaved (30 seconds) and toasted in a warm oven.
If traditional British scones are not your cup of tea you might enjoy previously shared recipes for Irish Scones and/or Almond Scones (these scones are easy and delicious and this post includes my mother's tips for brewing a perfect cup of English tea).
And There Has Been Knitting ~
As regular readers know this has been a sad year for me with the passing of my father and my mother relocating into assisted living. There is still much to be done not least of which is the closure of all the loose ends from a lifetime (60 years) that my parents spent together. But time passes and it gets easier. It's been a reminder for me that nothing in this world remains the same. And my faith is stronger for it.
Throughout it all I continue to knit. But I won't pretend this shawl is fresh off the needles as it was finished last Spring and there are many other more current projects. But I wanted to show this shawl as it's been a really useful addition to my wardrobe. Every once in a while I'll pick a design for it's simplistic beauty, as in this case. Although it was a fairly challenging knit and required close attention to the pattern the payoff has been worth it and I don't believe it would be a problem for an average knitter with determination.
Particulars: Rheinlust designed by Melanie Berg; 2 skeins Ella Rae Lace Merino (920 yrds). I was concerned about having enough yarn and only knit 8 repeats of Chart B and ended up with 4g yarn remaining. Final blocked measurements 20" x 73." A previous pattern of Ms. Berg's that I knit was her Qwist Mitts.
Until next time be well and love well and may all your scones be sweet ~