For, what could be more enjoyable than sipping cups of well-brewed tea and nibbling on the dainty morsels stacked up on plates lined with paper doileys? Think thin cucumber sandwiches, slices of teacake and scones — that very English thing.
Scones, scrumptious as they sound, are among the easiest things to bake; something even amateur bakers can attempt without too much stress. Pronounced both skon and skoan, these are light, buttery quickbreads made with flour, sugar, butter, milk or cream, and eggs, besides a leavening agent such as baking powder. What is important though is to mix the ingredients correctly, with a light hand to end up with scones that are light and soft. Over-mixing will ruin the texture of your scones.
Scones are best served straight out of the oven. The plain ones are traditionally served split open and topped with clotted cream and fruit preserves. Butter works equally well. You can also serve plain scones with a dollop of lemon curd. Here’s the recipe for baking a batch of plain scones…
2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsps baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup cream or milk
Extra cream for glazing
Preheat the oven to 190 deg C. Line a baking tray with paper. Put the flour into a large bowl, add sugar, baking powder and salt and stir everything together.
Rub the butter into the flour, using the tips of your fingers. You should end up with a mixture that resembles bread crumbs.
Combine the cream or milk, egg and vanilla and add to the flour. Mix very lightly till it holds together.
Knead the dough very gently and shape into a circle that’s about 7 inches in diameter. Cut into 2 and ½ inch rounds, place on the baking sheet and brush the tops of the scones with a little cream.
Bake for 15 minutes. The tops should be browned and a toothpick inserted into the centre of a scone should emerge clean. Serve split and topped with lightly whipped cream and any real fruit jam.
Once you’ve got the basic scone mixture right, experiment by adding your favourite ingredients: raisins, orange peel, chocolate chips or nuts can be interesting variations.