Monday, May 20, 2019

SCONES - the British Way

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 ~


Wendy said...

Awesome! I too am picky about my scones. I use a pretty similar recipe, but I use heavy cream instead of milk. It makes it richer and sweeter. However, I don’t put jam on my scones, so maybe its a balance thing. Thanks for the blog post!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I am excited to try this recipe. I totally agree that American scones are a sad take on a true scone. Yours look so good.

Just want to say I’m so sorry for your loss, and your mom’s declining health must make it so much harder. I lost my dad almost 30 years ago and still miss him so much. Your dad sounded like a wonderful person.

Claudia Bugh said...

Hi Wendy! Thanks for the tip of using heavy cream - I remember a recipe for blueberry scones that used heavy cream and they were out of this world so I bet it would make fabulous scones! Happy baking ~

Claudia Bugh said...

Thank you to the anonymous commenter - I hope they come out perfectly for you! You obviously loved and had a wonderful father and I'm sorry for your loss. Such a hard thing to loose someone you love.

Anonymous said...

So happy to hear from you again, Claudia (I've been traveling and just now discovered this post). Only you can provoke a curiosity in me to try these delicious British scones since I am not much of a baker. In my old home I knew exactly where to find the Red Mill flour. Where we live now, it may be a bit of a hunt:-). You are very lucky to have had such a wonderful father. Life does change. I go back to my wonderful education to remind myself of the important things to help bring comfort out of dismay when my world gets turned upside down. Thank goodness there is Knitting. I hope modern medicine is helping your mother and that she is improving, or at least comfortable. Chloe

Renee Koch said...

I’ve never had a proper British scone, I’ll have to search out the ingredients and give them a try. Scones with plum jam or plum butter are my fav.
Gorgeous shawl!!
The changes in life as parents age and pass on is so hard, but the good memories lives forever. <>

Claudia Bugh said...

So nice to hear from you Chloe! You reminded me of an expression my mother often uses "a good childhood lasts a lifetime." So smart to remember your education and other blessings you have received in this life. As you say everyone's life goes upside down at times.

My mother is in the late early to beginning middle stages of Alzheimers and some days are better than others. She was not able to tolerate any conventional medication but we have found that CocoaVia (by product of Chocolate) has been very helpful for both her cognitive function and mood elevation (a side effect a few experience). There is a study that found a remarkable number of participants had a good response to this over the counter supplement.

As far as the scones I have a quick tip - measure and combine both the dry and wet ingredients in the morning and just leave them separate on the counter until later in the day. About an hour before you want your scones simply combine the wet and dry ingredients mix up the dough and stamp out the scones, preheat the oven and you are good to go.

Claudia Bugh said...

Thank you Renee for commenting and visiting the blog. I do miss the old times when there was a fun and vibrant knit blogging community of which you were a wonderful part. I know you have had more than your share of heartache with the passing of your mother and father. I appreciate your wisdom to focus on the good times and let go of the sorrow.

I hope you try and enjoy the scones Renee ~ plum jam sounds lovely so I'll have to find some myself. Be well and take care of yourself.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the scones tip. You have just made it so doable! So sorry, Claudia I didn't realize it was Alzheimer's. I checked an earlier blog post of yours, in case I forgot something, but it only mentioned the pelvic fracture. I am glad that you have discovered a substance - CocoVia - to help her. And also glad you have a sister. I rely on mine in good times and challenging ones. Chloe

Claudia Bugh said...

Chloe I think I was so worried about her fractured pelvis that the Alzheimers wasn't even on my mind! She is so fortunate to have healed up and is now very mobile and gets about with just using a cane. The loss of memory is actually a bit of a blessing as she lives very much in the present and can be happy without remembering dad too much. You are most thoughtful Chloe and your sister is very lucky to have you.

Mereknits said...

My grandmother used to make these, we called the current cakes even though she used raisins. they were delicious and we always had them with tea in the afternoon. thank you for the recipe. I am loving your knitting, so beautiful.

betty said...

Hi there!

I haven't commented for a while, so this is a good time to say hi. Life is indeed constantly evolving, but you seem to be handling it well and you're still doing the things you love, like knitting and baking, which is a good thing.

I wish you a great summer season!

Gahonali said...


A little good morning from France. I found your blog following your article about your very beautiful parseltongue hat.
Your knitting projects are very morderne. I like them a lot.
With the pleasure to see soon some news articles on your blog...

Willow said...

It is October 2019 and I see you haven't posted for awhile.
I hope all is well.
Seeing that there is a fire in Pacific Palisades today, I wanted to let you know I thought of you and hope you are safe and far enough away from the fire.

Joanie said...

As a Brit this was an interesting read on things we take for granted. Savoury scones are very nice too! The only thing you got wrong was the mention of leftovers and freezing. There is no such thing! ��

Claudia Bugh said...

Thank you for taking the tie to comment Joanie! You are right of course - a tea party should have no leftovers :)

Claudia Bugh said...

Hi Willow! Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I actually only saw this today as my email box is too full. Yes we are fine but did have a front row view of the Pacific Palisades fire and were grateful to see that under control quickly. Take care of your sweet self.