I will make a very immodest statement here, I’m the Queen of the Scone.
I actually am. Nothing will get in the way of my towering, skyscraping scones and me and it would seem that no matter how many mistakes I make or which flour I mistake for which flour, they rise like majestic little trophies to my baking skill.
It hasn’t always been such, here you can pause to breathe because this means that you too could become a professional scone-baker, you can’t have my crown though, that’s mine! I used to hate making scones, shunning with them with the same distaste I reserve for pastry. There’s something almost alchemical about mixing a combination of flour and butter with wetness and then expecting them to harden and I used to be terrified of the leap of faith that kind of baking requires.
But I’ve studied many scones in my life, sometimes professionally and once or twice, unprofessionally. I have made some golden rules of scones based on this. Yours may differ but I’m quite keen on mine:
Eleanor’s Fundamental Scone Rules:
- I don’t like a lumpy top to a scone, sometimes you get scones that are so full of air bubbles that they have a sort of rocky outlay for a top. I like a softer flatter top to a scone. Not to be confused with a uniform, out of a packet flatness but I like them to look smooth. I’ve spent a long time playing with this factor as the texture appears to be the biggest difference between various scone recipes. I have discovered that rather than treating the dough as precious and barely flattening it with floured hands, it’s actually ok to turn it over once and twice on a floured surface. This seems to bind the dough and gives it a smoother, smarter appearance.
- I believe firmly in using eggs. Nigella disagrees and she’s allowed to because she’s Nigella and I love her a little bit. But I like the egg in there, I think it gives them a richness and a texture that’s missing from eggless scones.
- There’s an eternal plain flour & baking powder vs self raising flour debate. I come down on the side of self raising flour because I don’t like the taste of baking powder. I don’t know if it’s just me who doesn’t like the taste but I find it quite drying and quite bitter and so I don’t like using it.
- I like a wide scone, there’s more room for jam and cream.
- I like to blast them for a short time in a hot oven. I think people differ between low heat and longer cooking time but I think they bronze better and whoosh up in height better when given a good blast!
So those are my rules of scones and I don’t expect anyone to take any heed of any of them but I feel all these years of careful research should amount to something.
The other reason I have a calm belief in my scone recipe is because it’s the scone recipe belonging to the Grande Dame of baking herself, Mary Berry. Now I believe wholeheartedly in everything Delia, Nigella, Jamie or anyone else, really, says but Mary’s book has lived in our kitchen for the longest time and falls open on Mary’s scone recipe. This was enough for me until recently, I read an article in the Sunday paper that said that Mary’s was the definitive recipe and what’s more she’s gracing our screens on the Great British Bake Off every Tuesday evening and I’m not ashamed to say that it’s the highlight of my social calendar. I met her once as a child, I have no memory of this which pains me but she’s my hero and she’s never failed me!
I think September is quite a soup-ish month, perhaps because of the emergence of root vegetables after the summer and I think a savoury scone is a great accompaniment to a soup. More substantial than some bread but not as filling as a sandwich. With this, I bring you a cheese and mustard scone, which is also timed to coincide with British Cheese Week.
The cheese can be changed and mixed up, stilton perhaps or a mixture and mustard could be exchanged for all manner of other condiments or perhaps nuts or seeds. Go wild, perhaps a stilton and walnut scone with a potato or onion soup and perhaps something like a cheddar and poppy seed scone with a parsnip or celeriac soup.
Cheese and Mustard Scones
(makes a tray’s worth)
Please excuse the mix of measurements but I’m writing this from memory as I know it off by heart and that’s how I do it.
- a pound and a half of self raising flour
- you can add a teaspoon of baking powder if you must!
- 120g butter
- 50g grated cheese (I used Montgomery’s, a cheddar from North Cadbury in Somerset)
- 4tsp wholegrain mustard (I used Shaken Oak‘s Oxford Mustard and it’s brilliant!)
- 3 eggs
- 300ml whole milk
- I make mine in a magimix but if making by hand (which stops them from having lots and lots of air in them making them a flatter scone), then just crumb in a bowl similarly to pastry. Add the flour, butter and cheese to the magimix and blitz for 30 seconds.
- Add the mustard and blitz again.
- Whisk the 3 eggs into the milk and leave aside 50ml of the mixture for brushing the tops of the scones.
- Pour the milky egg mix into the crumb and mix for a couple of seconds until a wet dough forms in the bowl.
- Tip out on to a floured surface and gather together and turn. Some people use a rolling in but floured hands seem to be more gentle.
- Taking a cutter, press down firmly. Lift the cutter cleanly from the dough ensuring you don’t pull at the edges, this prevents the old leaning scone scenario!
- Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper and brush the tops with the leftover egg/milk making sure not to get the mix on the sides of the scones. This will seal the sides and stop them from rising.
- Place in a 180C oven for 10-15 minutes. When removing from the oven, tap the bottom to make sure it’s firm and dry.
- Leave to cool.
- Spread thickly with salty butter