This is a revisit to a recipe I came up with for a Daring Bakers challenge, this time with better photographs. For a given value of ‘better’. If you want to see the original post, click here for Scones or Biscuits.
There is something about baking scones that makes me feel connected to the past. Not just my own past, of learning to make them at home with my mum, or of being panicked when there was a home economics test and I thought we had to memorise the recipe and it just wouldn’t go into my brain (we didn’t, it was left on the board the whole time), but a bigger past. A whole battalion of Scottish women and, undoubtedly, men who have made scones before me, with just this method. Alright, they haven’t all been baked in an electric oven, I’ll grant you that, but rubbing the flour and butter together by hand, stirring in the milk with a knife, patting it all down and using those fluted scone cutters – the whole ritual feels old. Good old.
I know that many people have a really strong sense of tradition and heritage when they cook, and they use their time in the kitchen to connect with that. For me, it only feels this way when I make scones. It’s a soothing feeling, a feeling of being part of something.
And then I fling smoked salmon in them and practically hear my ancestors rolling their eyes and bemoaning the youth of today and their fancy ways.
Scones start with flour, baking powder and cold butter. Stuff has to be cold for scones – if the butter melts into the flour, instead of coating it, your scones will be tough. This is the same principle as pastry. You want bits of butter in there, not puddles.
Then, I add the fancy stuff – but first I pretend that my chive plant is a jungle.
A jungle preventing me from getting to the washing machine, perhaps.
Then, cold milk – straight from the fridge. Keep things frosty.
You want to get to about this stage when adding the milk – the dough is slightly sticky and, at the insistence of the butter knife, has formed into clumps. A knife is good for mixing, because the dough will remain a bit sticky and you can scrape it off on the edge of the bowl, if you’re using a knife. A wooden spoon and wet dough is a dreadful combo. The stuff of nightmares.
Once it looks more or less like above, it can be brought together with some gentle kneading and words of encouragement. You want to bring the dough together into a ball that won’t crumble apart, and as soon as you’ve got there, stop. The less you work the dough, the taller and softer the scones will be.
Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and pat down into a round about an inch thick – thinner will get you more scones, but they will be smaller. Don’t bring out the rolling pin. It’s one less thing to clean, if nothing else.
Cut out as many scones as you can, placing them on a lined and greased baking sheet. Keep the cutting action straight up and down – do turning or twisting.
Brush very lightly with milk, and bake until golden and risen – ten minutes.
Congratulations! You’ve joined the ranks of scone makers. We’re happy to have you.
Here’s the proper recipe, with proper instructions, to make ten scones:
- 300g plain flour
- 1 heaped tbsp baking powder
- generous three-fingered pinch smoked sea salt
- 60g butter, grated and then frozen
- 1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped chives
- 100g smoked salmon, torn or cut into tiny scraps
- 150ml cold milk – this is variable, so proceed with caution
- 1 tablespoon milk, for glazing the tops of the scones
Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl – sift if you’re the kind of cook who does things properly and sifts.
Rub the butter into the dry ingredients until you have breadcrumbs.
Add the chives and smoked salmon.
Put your mixing bowl into the fridge to chill – this does seem to help get a rally tall rise on your scones – and preheat the oven to 220C.
When the oven is hot, remove the bowl from the fridge and add the milk – start with 100ml, and mix with a knife. Add enough milk so that the dough forms large clumps, but not until it comes together completely.
Gently bring the dough together with your hands, kneading a few times until it forms a ball.
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Press down until one inch thick – the thicker the dough, the taller the scones will be. You can press it flatter and get more, smaller scones if you prefer.
Use a cutter to shape as many scones as you can. Do not under any circumstances twist the cutter when you remove it. Not even if there are dinosaurs attacking. What part of ‘no circumstances’ don’t you understand? Don’t do it.
Place the scones on a lined and greased baking tray as you go along.
Press the remaining dough back together, working as little as possible, and pat down again. Continue to cut out scones as before. Repeat until there is only enough dough left to roll into a ball and bake as a ‘tester’.
Brush the tops of the scones with a dab of milk, but don’t let any run down the sides. Let’s not have the ‘under no circumstances’ talk again.
Bake for ten minutes, rotating half way if your oven, like mine, is hotter on one side than the other.