Rose Prince's Baking Club: perfect scone recipes
Rose Prince's new column shows you the way to beautiful bread and consummate cake. Today: the perfect scone
Perfect scones: strong flour is crucial if you want to avoid dryness Photo: ANDREW CROWLEY
I set out to make scones in this inaugural column, because they are the sine qua non of the great British teatime. Yet I rarely eat them, because so often they seem stale and heavy.
But there must be something about them, and I bet that home cooks know the secret. There are remarkably few ingredients, so a tweak here and there should produce something with a tear-able, soft inside that does not break into arid crumbs when the scone is split, or age too quickly.
Two experiments reveal the key, and it is the flour. Plain white roller-milled (conventional) flour contains none of the fats that can be found in stoneground strong white flour. It does not matter how much butter you add to the scone dough made with the former, it will still go stale and crumbly. I found that when I used unbleached, stone-milled strong white flour the scone was light and had a slightly elastic crumb, so I have gone for this in the first recipe below.
I have also given measurements for an alternative buttery plain flour scone: this was delicious when fresh, but had a much wonkier appearance. Why not try both, and tell me what you think?
The perfect scone
90g cold butter
2 tsp salt
400ml buttermilk or milk soured with juice from half a lemon
Work the dough as lightly as possible, and keep it cool. Too much kneading will make the dough tighten up and the scones will not be airy. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7.
Put the flour in a bowl and rub the butter into it until it has a crumbly appearance. Add the baking powder and the salt and mix lightly but well with your hands. Add the buttermilk, mix with a spoon until it just about holds together and tip out onto a floured work surface. I used one of those flat plastic baking scrapers to fold the dough onto itself two or three times.
Dust the dough ball with a little flour, lift it with the scraper and turn it over. Dust with a little more flour and roll lightly with a rolling pin to a thickness of 3cm. Use a straight-edged round cutter, 4cm in diameter, to cut the scones.
Shake them out of the cutter and place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until pale gold and nearly doubled in size.
Buttery, plain flour scones
Preparation as above.
Alternative scones: I shall be coming back to the subject, but you can work 200g of fresh goat’s cheese, a handful of basil leaves and two tablespoons of fresh grated Parmesan into the dough until it ripples through. Cut, place a little piece of goats cheese on top of each, and bake.