ArchiveJune 21, 2003

Buttery scrumptious scones

Scones are now available in practically ever forecourt in the country, cheap, cheerful and extraordinarily good value - still there’s nothing quite like a tender buttery scone, fresh from the oven with homemade jam and cream. 

In the US, scones, or biscuits as they are called over there, can often be much more exciting and innovative than over here. The Americans are not content just to have a plain or fruit scone, they add lots of extra bits, craisins, dried cherries, chopped nuts, chocolate chips, crystallised ginger, or whatever the fancy takes.

Scones are flavoured with cocoa, coffee, orange, lemon, maple syrup, cinnamon, ginger… 

Scones are often iced for extra excitement and may be served with maple syrup or honey or fruit butters. A big favourite, particularly in summer, is strawberry shortcake, which is made not with shortbread as we know it, but with a fresh buttery scone.

Simply split in half and fill, serve oozing with softly whipped cream and sliced sugared strawberries. 

I’ve been experimenting with a few variations on this theme, try chocolate shortcake with strawberry and cream or better still, sliced bananas, Nutella and cream – wow! You’ll never look back!

Fool Proof Food Recipe -

Mummy’s Sweet White Scones and variations

Makes 18-20 scones using a 72 cm (3inch) cutter
900g (2lb) plain white flour
170g (6oz) butter
3 free range eggs
pinch of salt
55g (2oz) castor sugar
3 heaped teaspoons baking powder
450ml (15floz) approx. milk to mix
For glaze:
egg wash (see below)
granulated sugar for sprinkling on top of the scones

First preheat the oven to 250C/475F/gas 9.

Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and rub in the butter. Make a well in the centre. Whisk the eggs with the milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board. Knead lightly, just enough to shape into a round. Roll out to about 22cm (1inch) thick and cut or stamp into scones. Put onto a baking sheet – no need to grease. Brush the tops with egg wash and dip each one in granulated sugar. Bake in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.

Serve split in half with home made jam and a blob of whipped cream or just butter and jam.
Back to top
Egg wash:
Whisk 1 egg with a pinch of salt. This is brushed over the scones and pastry to help them to brown in the oven.

Fruit Scones
Add 110g (4oz) plump sultanas to the above mixture when the butter has been rubbed in. Continue as above.

Lexia Raisin Scones
Add 110g (4oz) lexia raisins to the basic recipe and continue. 

Cherry Scones
Add 110g (4oz) of quartered glace cherries to the basic mixture when the butter has been rubbed in. Continue as above.

Craisin Scones or Dried Cherry Scones
Substitute 110g (4oz) of craisins or dried cherries. Continue as in master recipe.

Cinnamon Scones
Add 2-3 teaspoons of freshly ground cinnamon to the dry ingredients.

Crystallized Ginger Scones
Add 110g (4oz) chopped crystallized or drained ginger in syrup to the dry ingredients and continue as above. 

Candied Citrus Peel Scones
110g best quality candied orange and lemon peel to the dry ingredients after the butter has been rubbed in, coat the citrus peel well in the flour before adding the liquid.

Cinnamon Scones
Add 4 teaspoons of ground cinnamon to the dry ingredients in the basic mixture.
Mix 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon with 55g granulated sugar. Dip the top of the scones in the sugar mixed with the cinnamon.. Bake as above.

Poppy Seed Scones
Add 4 tablespoons of poppy seeds to the dry ingredients after the butter has been rubbed in, proceed as in basic recipe. 
Serve with freshly crushed strawberries and cream

Chocolate Chip Scones
Chop 110g best quality sweet chocolate, add to the dry ingredients after the butter has been rubbed in and proceed as above.

Craisin Scones
Add 110g dried cranberries (Craisins) to the dry ingredients after the butter has been rubbed in, proceed as above.

Scones with Orange Butter
Serve the freshly baked scones with orange butter.
Orange butter
3 teaspoons finely grated orange rind
170g (6oz) butter
200g (7oz) icing sugar

Cream the butter with the finely grated orange rind. Add the sifted icing sugar and beat until fluffy. 

Lemon Scones
Substitute lemon for orange in the above recipe.

Useful tip:
Scone mixture may be weighed up ahead - even the day before. Butter may be rubbed in but do not add raising agent and liquid until just before baking.

American Strawberry Shortcake

Makes 18 scones
1 basic scone recipe (see recipe)
8oz (225g) Irish strawberries
2 teaspoons caster sugar
8½ fl.oz (284ml) carton double cream
2 teaspoons icing sugar

6-8 whole strawberries
fresh mint or strawberry leaves
icing sugar
Prepare the scones according to the recipe. While they are baking, prepare the strawberries by washing, hulling and cutting into quarters. Toss with the caster sugar and set aside.

Shortly before serving, whip the cream with the icing sugar. Split the cooled scones and top the bottom half with a blob of sweetened cream and a few sugared strawberries. Add the tops, sieve a little icing sugar over and decorate with whole or halved strawberries and fresh mint or strawberry leaves.

Chocolate Scones or Chocolate Shortcake with Bananas

Makes 12-14 scones
450g (1lb) plain white flour
75g (3oz) butter
55g (2oz) castor sugar
25g (1oz) cocoa
2 free range eggs
pinch of salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
200ml (7floz) approx. milk to mix

Green and Black chocolate spread or Nutella
Softly whipped cream
Sliced bananas or raspberries

First preheat the oven to 250C/475F/gas 9.
Make the scones in the usual way. Bake in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes until well-risen and golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.

To serve
Split each scone in half.
Smear generously with Green and Black Chocolate spread or Nutella. Top with a blob of cream and some sliced bananas or fresh raspberries. Enjoy! 
The secret of success:

Use a large wide bowl. 

Sieve the flour at least once. Use butter, it makes all the difference to the flavour. Rub the butter in coarsely. If the shortening is rubbed in too finely the scones will be dense and heavy. Resist the temptation to use a food processor, even though its fast - the scones will be close and leaden. 

Add all the liquid at once and mix quickly in a full circular movement from the centre to the outside of the bowl, in ever increasing concentric circles. When you get to the outside of the bowl (a matter of seconds), the scone dough is made. 

Handle gently, don’t knead, just tidy and roll or pat into a round or square, stamp out as many scones as possible first time, re-rolled dough always results in tougher scones. 

Roll or pat to one inch thick, this really matters. If the dough is too thick, the scones will be cooked on top and underneath but still doughy in the centre, or they may topple over while baking.

If the dough is rolled too thinly, the proportion will be wrong - too much crust and not enough crumb. Put immediately into a fully preheated oven and bake.

Cool the scones on a wire rack as soon as they are baked. Freshly baked scones are best.

Top Tips –
Choose precooked bread carefully. It is frequently undercooked and consequently indigestible.
Richard Leigh-Graham sells delicious sublime buttery brioche at the Clonakilty Farmers Market every Thursday – cut into slices and freeze, so you can toast a piece for breakfast at a moment’s notice, also great with chicken liver pate.
Organico in Bantry is also famous for its range of organic breads – White, Granary, Wholemeal, Spelt, Rye Sourdough as well as scones, cakes, muffins, flapjacks…….
Barrons in Cappoquin for traditional bread baked in their traditional stone ovens – Esther and Joe Barron also run a lovely tea shop on the premises.
Collins Bakery in Youghal make lovely bread which they sell from their shop on North Main Street- loaves, grinders, rolls, wholemeal loaves and fruity bracks

Bagels, Tortillas and Pitta Bread are now widely available, pop some into your freezer - a brilliant standby when you want to make delicious sandwiches and wraps.
Blaas – the delicious Waterford speciality are available in shops and supermarkets all over the city.

Coming up soon at Ballymaloe Cookery School

Barbecue Courses Part 1 & 2 - 26 & 27th June
A Taste of California – 30th June
A Day in Tuscany – 1st July
Jams & Preserves made Simple - ½ day 2nd July
Course Schedule 2003


Past Letters