12 April 2008
On my recent trip to England I developed a special affection not only for a Full English Breakfast, but also for scones. The scone pictured above was one served at the Tower of London. In England it seems that you can find a scone almost anywhere. Every possible tourist destination seems to have a shop in the undercroft or cloisters or gallery, somewhere convenient, where a famished traveler can be fortified with a cup of tea and a plate of scones.
The chances are good that there will also be something wonderful to spread on the scone: a choice of jams, a large dollop of butter and, best of all, quite probably some clotted cream. This marvelous spreadable treat is seldom seen in the States because it is made with unpasteurized milk. Must it be? It seems so, but that makes it even a greater treat when you can get to the UK to have some. Thick whipped cream just isn’t the same, but then again it’s not half bad in a pinch.
Besides the lack of clotted cream to spread on them, I'm afraid my scones are not quite British for another reason. There are no bits of fruit in mine. I’m not sure that is a rule in Britain but every scone we tasted on my last trip had some type of dried fruit inside. I enjoyed them all but still, I have an aversion to cooking with raisins. If I had been brought up in Britain, with a wonderful exotic word like sultana and dried fruit that always seemed plump and luscious, then I might feel otherwise, but I was raised where those little dried grapes were called raisins and were usually far too small and hard and dark to be thought of as a treat. Instead I spent my childhood wrinkling my nose at them and picking them out of cheap packaged cinnamon rolls and oatmeal cookies. So, while I will eat sultanas in a scone someone else has baked, I am not likely to put raisins in my own.
It also seems that British scones are generally circular, like biscuits in the US. My scones, on the other hand, are baked in wedges, mostly because the recipe came to me that way, and besides, I think it is easier. You could cut them into rounds to bake them, and I’m sure they would be equally lovely, but this way has always worked well for me.
All that said, I think you should try this recipe. The ingredients are simple and readily available and the recipe takes only a few minutes to prepare and a few more minutes to bake. Serve them with butter and jam for breakfast or tea, or with fruit and cream for dessert. Taken with a cup of tea or coffee they are sure to please and fortify you for whatever lies ahead.
(This recipe was shared with me by my sister-in-law more years ago than either of us is likely to admit. It is a recipe I have turned to again and again over the years...)
2½ cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1½ teaspoons cream of tartar
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter
2/3 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease baking sheet. Mix flour, 2 T sugar, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt, in a large bowl. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles course meal. Stir in the buttermilk and egg. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Dough will be moist. Roll dough out into a circle 1 ½ inches thick. Transfer to a prepared baking sheet. Cut into wedges. Brush top with milk; sprinkle with sugar.
Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately with an assortment of jam and butter, or fruit and cream.
Note: I change the sugar topping according to how the scones will be served. Sometimes I sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar for breakfast, and they are especially good sprinkled with brown sugar when served with sliced peaches and cream for dessert.