England afforded me many firsts and without going into too many personal details, one of my favourite English firsts was the scone which, in the Queen’s English is pronounced to rhyme with “John”. The dissimilarity with the American cousin do not end with the pronunciation – when I moved to LA, I was dismayed to find out that a scone here was a rather flat, gigantic, dry and very sweet breakfast pastry. Gone were the buttery rounds I had fallen in love with, the centre piece of every afternoon tea.
English scones are tall, round and perfectly flaky with just a hint of sweetness. Sometimes dotted with raisins or currants, they are made to be sliced in half, smothered in butter, strawberry jam and a healthy helping of clotted cream. The combination of the sugary jam, the thickness of the cream and the buttery pastry is sheer perfection, especially if washed down with strong black tea (the clogged arteries will be left unmentioned…).
Where I work, I inherited an American scone recipe that made me appreciate the scone as breakfast pastry, to the point that I had to stop eating one every morning when my hips started protesting. They are still the best scones I have come across. The recipe is extremely simple – we are often asked for it but most people come back protesting that their home efforts didn’t match what they remembered. There are only a few tricks:
- Avoid handling the dough more than necessary
- The butter should be extremely cold, nearly frozen
- Baking the scones frozen helps.
My personal favourite is the chocolate chip one but the same amount of chocolate can be converted into dried fruit or nuts. Because the basic dough contains little sugar, savory variations work extremely well too.
1#2 oz AP Flour
8 oz Butter, cubed and frozen
1/2 ts Salt
1/2 C Sugar + some more for sprinkling
1 1/2 ts Baking Powder
1/2 C Cream + some more for brushing
1/3 C Small Dark Chocolate Chips
- In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder.
- Add the butter all at once and mix at medium speed until pea sized lumps start to form.
- Lower the speed and start adding the cream in a steady stream and mix until the dough barely comes together.
- Add the chocolate chips and mix a few times until fully incorporated.
- Using a scoop or your hands, scoop the dough into 2 or 3 inches balls with a flat base.
- Place them on a cookie sheet and freeze until ready to bake (they keep in the freezer, properly sealed, for 3 months).
- Heat your oven at 400F. Brush the frozen scones with some cream and sprinkle them with sugar. Bake at 400 for about 10 minutes then lower the temperature to 375 and continue baking until the tops are golden.
- Let cool and serve. Scones are best eaten the day they are made.