Last year at this time I was with my family in London and maybe that is what has me thinking about scones. The classic English treat made with sweet, thick cream is one of my favourite things to make, maybe because they are also one of my favourite things to eat! I also love scone because they are so easy to make. In about 10 minutes I can have a batch ready to go in the oven. When we have overnight guests, I love to tempt them out of bed with these warm, mildly sweet treats. (HINT: to get them in the oven even faster, measure out all the ingredients the night before).
The truest version of the cream scones includes dried currants, but they are equally delicious with nothing in them and a side of good jam. Of course, you do not have to be limited by tradition you can add in other dried fruit, chopped nuts, fresh berries, crystalized ginger or dark chocolate. Dark chocolate scones with a big dollop of thick-cut marmalade is my favourite way to enjoy a scone. When using dried fruit, I usually first soak them in a spirit or liquor before adding them to the scone mixture. Just remember to drain them well before they are added. Try soaking raisins in dark rum, dried cherries in kirschwasser or dried blueberries in St. Germain!
Scones can be made savoury. Just reduce the sugar in the recipe to 28g (2 tbsp) and add 3 g (2 tbsp) of chopped fresh herbs. Don’t be tempted to omit the sugar completely. That touch of sweetness is essential for a scone.
Scones are meant to be light and flakey. If you don’t have crumbs on you while you are eating one, it is not a proper scone. The best way to ensure this texture is to make sure that you don’t overwork the dough. Your ingredients should be chilled. You want to work quickly, but ensure all your ingredients are well blended. I find that means getting in there with my hands. It is the best way to feel dry spots and ensure they get hydrated. So scrub up and get those hands in there!
Classic Cream Scones
makes 8 scones
250 g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
67 g (⅓ cup) granulated sugar
11 g (1 tbsp) baking powder
85 g (6 tbsp) unsalted butter, cold
235 g (¾ cup) whipping cream
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 large egg
15 ml (1 tbsp) milk
5 ml (1 tsp) granulated sugar
75 g (½ cup) dried currants – for the true classic cream scone
165 g (1 cup) dried cherries, blueberries, raisins or other dried fruit
125g (1 cup) fresh berries
155 g (1 cup) chopped dark chocolate
110 g (1 cup) chopped nuts
110 g (¾ cup) crystalized ginger plus 2.5 ml (½ tsp) powdered ginger
3 g (2 tbsp) chopped fresh herbs reduce sugar to 28g (2 tbsp)
Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment. Make the glaze by whisking the egg and 1 tbsp of milk together.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add any mix-ins you are using, tossing until evenly distributed and coated with flour. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or your fingers until the largest pieces of butter are about the size of peas.
In a small bowl, stir the cream and egg yolks just to blend. Add this all at once to the flour mixture. Stir with a fork to begin combining the wet and dry ingredients and then use your hands to gently knead the mixture together until all the dry ingredients are absorbed into the dough and it can be gathered into a moist, shaggy ball. Don’t over-knead: This dough will be sticky. Set the rough ball in the center of the prepared baking sheet and pat it gently into a round that is about 2.5 cm (1”) thick and 18 cm (7”) in diameter.
With a sharp knife or a pastry scraper, cut the round into eight wedges; separate the wedges. Brush the scones with the egg-milk glaze (you won’t need to use all of it) and sprinkle with the sugar. Bake until the scones are deep golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of a wedge comes out clean, 18 to 22 minutes. Slide the parchment onto a rack and let the scones cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
adapted from Fine Cooking