Scones, or “biscuits” as the Americans call them, are another of those old favourites from the days when dairy products were plentiful and cheap. They’re also one of those treats that really hit the spot on a cold weekend’s afternoon. This is because they’re still relatively cheap, they’re quick to make, and they’re extremely delicious when hot.
You won’t need much for this recipe, which is directly off where it’s been since time immemorial, page 32 that grand old dame of New Zealand cookery, the Edmonds cookbook. And ain’t that grand.
Here we go:
- Six teaspoons of baking powder (or use self-raising flour and forget this ingredient. But using baking powder is better)
- Half-teaspoon of salt
- One cup of milk
- Three Cups of flour
- 75g of butter.
Now, you can also add other delectable treats like raisins, dates, cheese or bacon to scones. But all that requires is chucking them into the mix. You can also top hot scones with lots of stuff, which I’ll leave up to your imagination.
The first thing to do is measure out your flour. Some will tell you to sift it, but I don’t bother. Then add your salt, your baking powder, and mix all three ingredients thoroughly.
Once that’s done, get your wet ingredients sorted. Weight out the 75g of butter, then cut it into rough chunks. It pays to use butter almost directly out of the fridge for this.
Place the butter chunks across the top of the dry ingredients. You’ll then want to “rub the butter into the flour”. This is the most important step in the recipe. This involves getting your (clean) hands into the flour and rubbing the butter and some of the flour between your fingertips.
As you can see from the next set of pictures, what I’m doing is squashing the butter into the flour. Once it’s all squashed then you just keep rubbing the flour/butter mixture between your fingers and thumbs until it almost looks like breadcrumbs. You can tell its ready when you take a handful of the mixture and cup it with your hands. It should stay in a ball. If it does, you’re sorted.
Once you’ve got the mixture to the right stage, you can make a well in the centre of the bowl and add the milk. A cup should be enough, you want to mix in just enough milk to dampen all the dry ingredients. And, the next important thing, don’t over-beat it. Mix with a knife, and only enough to make sure there isn’t still milk splashing around.
Next, switch on the oven to bake at 180 degrees. Then while it’s heating up dust a little flour onto a board, and dust your hands. Roll the scone batter out onto the board, and just press it flat with the palms of your hands. It doesn’t need to be flash or tidy. The height of the batter should depend on how high and fluffy you like your scones. Some people like them shallow and crispy, others like them high and ready to soak up butter and jam. I made mine about 2cm high
Then, cut the batter into maybe a dozen pieces.
And now we’re in the home straits. Grease a tray with butter, then arrange the individual scones onto the tray, ensuring you leave enough room for them to expand.
Once they’re all arranged on the tray all you need do is pop them in the oven. Usually they take no more that 10 or 15 minutes to cook.
But, you don’t need to follow that strictly. The main thing is that the scones are golden brown and extremely delicious looking. If they’ve risen and begin to separate in the middle bit (between the tops and bottoms), and they’re a little brown on top, then they’re cooked.
The thing to remember that cooking scones is easy. It’s getting the cold butter properly rubbed into the dry ingredients that’s the trick. Also, you can cut them with a cutter to make them round. Whatever. Just make them the way you remember your mum making them, and they’ll always be a comfort food, just like these ones, hot out of the oven.