In case you missed this at the recent Food Festival:
How to make Scones – Ewan Mathers
For about 15 scones 2” in diameter:
1 and a half pounds of Plain Flour
1 teaspoon of Bicarbonate of Soda
1 teaspoon of Cream of Tartar
4 and a half ounces of Butter, or margarine, Vegan spread
Three quarters of a pint of Milk, Soya Milk, or live yoghurt, or buttermilk
Freshly squeezed Lemon or Lime juice – to curdle the milk
A long time ago on an island far, far away I was the head cook at a small hotel and I could not make scones; they were flat and hard, like biscuits. I decided to work out why. Once I began to understand the science of the scone and some basic techniques the scones became light and tall – the perfect vehicle for raspberry jam and cream. I also discovered that in remote islands in the past, when fresh yeast was hard to come by, simple plain scones were baked daily and eaten as the daily bread.
As a scone cooks it is all about the expansion of the air inside forcing the mixture apart in a controlled explosion. The explosive force is provided by the Bicarbonate of Soda and Cream of Tartar fizzing with the curdled milk trapped within the flour and butter mix. All of this begins to happen as soon as the liquid is added to the dry ingredients so it is vital to be ready to get the scones into the oven as fast as you can. Keep everything cold and handled as little as possible, again this helps to slow down the fizzing until the scones are in the oven.
Measure out the milk and add in the juice of a lemon or lime to make it curdle, make sure the milk is cold. Put on the oven as hot as it gets. Prepare the baking sheets and get your scone cutter ready.
Measure and sift the flour with the cream of tartar and bicarbonate of soda into a large, cold, bowl. Measure and cut up your fat of choice into small chunks and add to the flour mixture.
Rub together the fat and flour with your fingertips. Do this quickly so that the heat of your hands does not start to melt the fat.
Now check that you have everything ready and add most of the curdled milk. Save a bit for glazing.
With a spoon bring it all together then finish off with your hands. Again work quickly. Remember that as soon as the liquid hits the dry ingredients the fizzing will begin.
Bring it together into a rough ball. Do not overwork the dough. Press it down on a floured surface with your hands, don’t roll it out, to about three quarters of an inch thick. Cut into rounds with a two inch cutter and put on the baking sheet. Rub a little of the milk left over on top of each one and put into a very hot oven immediately. Depending on your oven you may have to rotate the tray around but don’t look till about 8 minutes. Keep cooking till light golden on top and a tap on the bottom sounds hollow.
Serve straight away warm, with butter, jam and cream.