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English scones, the proper way

Posted in Food & Entertaining

Vauxhall Bridge, London
Vauxhall Bridge, London

I got a whiff of London today, while driving along sunny Wilshire Boulevard. The smell I associate with London is slightly acrid, metallic, with a finish of burnt tires. I love it. I love it when it hits me walking out of Heathrow, placing me firmly in a time and location I find comforting.

I couldn’t quite distinguish the provenance of this incongruous London smell in the middle of Santa Monica, and it only lasted a minute but it was powerful, because, generally, Los Angeles does not possess a smell of its own: pine trees, salt air, roasted poblano peppers characterize different neighbourhoods, not the whole city.

While London has vastly changed since I lived there, I always find it has changed in a manner that pleases me, at least aesthetically, while retaining its air of austere grandeur and a touch of whimsy. I have never loved a place more: from the first moment I sat eyes on it at age 15, I was hooked, and there was very little doubt that is where I wanted to be. So very different from the medieval and colorful city I come from, London always felt like home. It still does.

Paradoxically, for someone who hails from Italy and who grew up with a farm to table cooking mother long before the term had been conceived, London introduced me to some delicacies I still crave as much as home-made tortellini and cotolette: proper fish and chips eaten out of a newspaper cone (before food trucks were trendy); all manners of curry; bagels and lox from Beigel  Bake on Brick Lane (recently named the best bagel by the American foodie magazine Lucky Peach); mincemeat pies and the centerpiece of English cream tea – scones.

Scones from Claridge's
Scones from Claridge’s

Not the American cousins that are more like rocks studded with all manners of dried fruit, nuts and chocolate chunks but the proper English scones, fluffy and warm, always accompanied by clotted cream, a double dare to calorie counting and cholesterol indexes. I would save for tea at Brown’s or the Ritz from time to time but my very first scone was enjoyed at the Butter Churn, a Hampstead tea shop that has long given way to fancier establishments.

On a recent Skype conversation, sofagirl lamented that she has been trying to make scones a number of times with pitiful results. “I am not a baker” she said with resignation. Maybe so. But here is the my go-to scone recipe for when I serve proper afternoon tea, with cucumber sandwiches (another English invention I couldn’t live without) and cakes.

Try it out and don’t forget the clotted cream. Neither the US nor South Africa can boast production of real clotted cream so I approximate it by adding whipped cream to mascarpone. I am Italian, after all.

Scones from my kitchen
Scones from my kitchen

RECIPE – Yields about a dozen large scones
3 cups self-rising flour  375 g (3 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt can be substituted)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar  100 g
4 ounces unsalted butter at cool room temperature 114 g
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk 250 ml
1 egg yolk.

  1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk in the sugar. (Or give all the dry ingredients a quick whirl in a food processor.) Cut butter into bits and work it into the dry ingredients with fingertips or a pastry blender, or by pulsing the processor, until mixture is finely crumbly. If using a food processor, transfer mixture to a bowl.
  2. Gradually add the milk (keeping a tablespoon aside) and mix with a fork. Knead lightly by hand to make a smooth dough. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 20 minutes.
  3. Heat oven to 425 degrees (220C). Grease a baking sheet with butter or line it with parchment paper. Roll dough to a 3/4-inch thickness. Use a 5 cm cutter to punch out scones. Scraps can be kneaded lightly for additional scones. Beat the egg yolk with remaining milk and brush on the scones. Place on baking sheet and bake 10 to 12 minutes until risen and golden brown.
    Yield: 16 medium scones or 10 to 12 large.

 

You might also like A cuppa, some scones and the Mad Hatter

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11 Comments

  1. Somehow I managed to visit England without having proper afternoon tea. One week just isn’t long enough! I may have to give this a go and just pretend. Thanks for sharing!

    February 2, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Next time you must: absolutely worth the calories and a quintessential English experience! (although they might be an English tea room somewhere where you live – probably not the same, but maybe a close approximation).

      February 2, 2015
      |Reply
  2. silvia
    silvia

    Salivating a lot ….. gnammi gnammi gnammi.

    January 30, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Pretty sure you were with me the first time I tasted them.

      January 31, 2015
      |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Nothing takes me back to England like a scone. And salted butter.

      January 31, 2015
      |Reply
  3. Lisa
    Lisa

    they do look tasty! ( and depending where you are from – do you put the cream on first or the jam?)

    January 29, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Do tell! I have always been a jam first and cream on top kind of girl. Where do they do it differently?

      January 29, 2015
      |Reply
      • Lisa
        Lisa

        I think it is a county thing between Devon and Cornwall….Cornwall is the jam first and Devon puts the jam on top!
        I definitely think jam first feels right but then I have never tried the Devon cream tea!

        January 30, 2015
        |Reply
  4. I should NOT have read this over brekkie 🙁 Now I’m homesick AND want scones!

    January 29, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Take yourself out for Spanish cake – everything will look brighter. By the way, what is your favourite Spanish dessert you have encountered so far?

      January 29, 2015
      |Reply

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