Whenever I make scones an argument almost immediately breaks out in my household. That argument is a very British argument – jam then cream or cream then jam? My husband always thinks that he is right (he isn’t) and I always think that I’m right (I am). The proper and most satisfactory way to enjoy a scone is with jam and then cream, so you can really pile it up. That’s the best way to enjoy your afternoon tea. And begone with that fake squirty cream too! It’s clotted cream or nothing in my kitchen.
A few years ago I went on a scone making workshop. Yes, those exist. The workshop was held at Byfords in Holt, North Norfolk, and their scones are close to legendary for their taste, size, and consistency. The best takeaway that I had, aside from the box of freshly baked goodies, of course, was the technique of using a knife to combine the wet and dry ingredients. This way the warmth of your hands won’t melt the butter, which results in a flakier and more delicate texture. It’s a good approach to use when working with any pastry in fact – try and handle it as little as possible.
Afternoon tea scones (adapted from Good Housekeeping). Makes 6.
- 225g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 pinch sea salt
- 50g butter
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar
- 75ml milk, plus a little extra for brushing
- 1 egg
Preheat your oven to 225 degrees C and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
In a bowl, combine the flour and baking powder and mix really thoroughly. Cut in the butter and use your hands (or a pastry tool) to rub it until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Crack the egg into a separate bowl and whisk briefly. Add the milk and stir to combine.
Add the wet ingredients with the dry, and crucially do not use your hands to do this, as you will melt the butter. Mix, using a knife, until everything is barely holding together. At that stage, tip the dough out onto your counter and knead incredibly briefly, before flattening with your hands to a roughly level surface. Don’t worry if it looks a bit craggy, it will all come right in the oven. No need to use a rolling pin at all!
Use a cutter (or an upturned glass) to slice rounds from the dough. Try to get as many as you can without having to re-roll your pastry, as by doing so you will lose some of your flaky layers.
Place the rounds on the pre-prepared baking sheet and brush with a little milk.
Put the scones into the pre-heated oven for around 8-10 minutes, checking after 5 to rotate the tray. You will know when they are done as the tops will be golden and they will have puffed up handsomely.
When cooked, place the scones on a wire rack to cool slightly and then enjoy warm with some jam and then cream.
The plate used here is by Gustavsberg and the pattern is Berså. Photograph of me by Tristan.