Over the last few months I have been baking quite a few scones. Not for any other reason than I like scones, both savoury and sweet. I have tried white and wholemeal scones, with and without dried fruit. I have tried cheese & sweetcorn scones and cheese & poppy seed scones. I have tried scones using flour containing gluten and scones using gluten-free flour. I have even tried gluten-free scones with fresh fruit i.e. pear and blueberries.
A couple of weeks ago one of my neighbours came into where I work and asked whether we were likely to be making and selling fresh scones. I couldn’t offer her fresh scones from where I work, but I did offer to make her some scones. Her stipulation was wholemeal scones with sultanas in them, hence the mention of wholemeal scones with dried fruit above. As I do, I scoured the Internet for recipes for wholemeal scones. What I discovered is that the majority of wholemeal scones have a higher proportion of white than wholemeal flour in them. Not deterred, I settled on a recipe for wholemeal scones courtesy of the National Trust, albeit that the ratio of wholemeal:white self-raising flour was 1:14. I egg washed half the scones and left the other half ‘naked’ and after cooking presented them in a box to my neighbour (after having one myself for testing). My verdict was that the balance or flours, along with other ingredients (butter, caster sugar, baking powder, sultanas and milk) created a delicious and light scone with a nutty taste. I did however request feedback from my neighbours, who thanked me both in person and with a card, which said:
‘Thanks so much for the scones, which were delicious!! Look forward to the time when they are available for sale in the shop on a regular basis’.
The feedback in person was equally as favourable, albeit that the request was that if I made them again that I should try a scone with more wholemeal flour and less sugar. They also mentioned that they preferred the unglazed scones.
Not deterred by the quest to find a scone with a higher percentage of wholemeal flour and less sugar, and with a further request by the same neighbours for more scones, I scoured the Internet again. This time to see if there was such a thing as a scone recipe book.
I found a couple on the all too accessible www.amazon.co.uk website: The National Trust Book of Scones and The Secret Life of Scones. Of course, even with Amazon Prime they were not going to arrive on time for my second attempt at wholemeal scones, so yet again I scoured the Internet for wholemeal scone recipes. This time I came across a recipe courtesy of The Irish Times, which offered a wholemeal brown scone with a 1:1 ratio of wholemeal:white self-raising flour and only 30g of sugar (which was optional). It also had the welcome addition of buttermilk instead of milk which adds a ‘tangy flavour’ to the scone, as well as according to www.Livestrong.com, ‘adds complexity and depth to the finished baked good’. Buttermilk, allegedly, also helps with the rise (see tips below). While the end result was less to my liking than the National Trust wholemeal scones (they were a little too dense), my neighbours enjoyed them and in fact preferred them to my first offering. I was even paid for my efforts!
Not long after I made and delivered my second attempt at wholemeal scones, than I heard the familiar knock at the door of the Amazon delivery man (he is an all too regular visitor at the moment as I set up my professional kitchen at home) with my first of two ‘scone books’, National Trust Book of Scones. To cut a long story short, my second ‘scone’ book arrived on Sunday and I spent the afternoon reading through the information and recipes – a perfect way to pass the time on a drizzly summer afternoon. I even attempted another variety of scone yesterday, the ‘Ploughman’s scone’, a light and delicious white scone, flavoured with cheddar cheese, pickled onions and apple. Eaten warm with a generous spread of butter it was a perfect lunch.
Who would have thought that you could write so much in a post about the simple scone, but then I guess if you can dedicate a whole book (or more than one book) to the subject, then there must be more to the scone than meets the eye. I am sure that you will hear more on the subject from me – I do after all have 50 delicious recipes to consider and possibly make in one book and many more in the other – but in the meantime, let me leave you with some handy tips about making scones:
- scones ‘like the cold’ – use cold butter straight from the fridge; cold houses make better scones; if the recipe calls for water, use cold water from the fridge
- scones ‘don’t like to be overworked’ as it will make them tough – use a food processor or work quickly
- scones ‘like to be in contact with each other while baking’ as it helps them to rise evenly
- adding a bit of lemon juice to a recipe which calls for milk (rather than buttermilk) helps the scones to rise as the acid in the lemon reacts with the raising agents in the mixture
- scones should be at least 2.5/3 cm thick
- if glazing scones, don’t allow the egg or milk to dribble down the side of the scones as it will prevent them from rising
- preheat the baking tray with the oven so that the scones are placed on a hot surface
- get the scones into the oven as soon as you have made your dough as the raising process starts as soon as the ingredients are combined and this process should happen in a hot oven
- when cutting out scones, always cut down and do not twist as twisting can result in uneven rising and therefore uneven baking – dusting the cutter before each cut helps the scones to rise evenly as well
(Tips courtesy of www.type1kitchen.com and www.meatandtravel.com)