I am a bookworm and admittedly a hopeless romantic. It comes from reading too many novels set in the pastoral English countryside where the heroine bucks tradition to fight for what she wants while still reigning serenely over a tea tray laden with biscuits scones and clotted cream. (The indomitable Miss Mabel from Wilde's "The Ideal Husband" for example.) In time it gets to you, and soon you are having daydreams of empire waist gowns of sprigged muslin (Though I've never quite figured that out properly) strolls in the perfectly manicured gardens and Mr. Darcy. (It HAS to be Mr. Darcy.) What's the point of this reverie?
Scones. Ah the delight of simple food. Essentially scones are just flour, fat, and liquid and originated in Scotland as a quick and easy to transport food that was cheap to make and filling. Perfect for a farmer or Shepard in the rough Scottish countryside these humble treats have risen far from their rough and ready origins. Scones today are considered an integral part of the elegant "cream tea" and are associated around the world with the English tradition of afternoon tea. Nowadays you can get scones in most grocery stores and of course at your local coffee shop, and "Tea time" has transformed into more of an evening meal. The romance however remains, perpetuated by film and literature and I must admit, in all those Darcy filled daydreams there was always a romantic tea for two with scones.
The scone is so versatile. It can be sweet, savoury or a just a plain base for something more. Their signature dense texture makes them a filling breakfast or a great snack. Scones are not quite a bread but they are definitely not a cake. Generally you will find them lumped in with quick breads in most cookbooks but they are more similar to an American biscuit. So which recipe to use. You will find dozens of recipes with just as many variations some include eggs and other ingredients that make the scones lighter and more cake like. My favorite is a more basic and traditional (As far as I can see from going through old cookbooks) recipe. The best recipes of course will be the unpublished ones handed down by generation, but this will do... for now.
2 1/2c Flour
1Tbsp Baking Powder
1 Tsp Salt
1 Stick Cold Butter
1 Tbsp Vanilla
Mix dry ingredients. Cut in butter with pastry cutter until dough is crumbly. Add milk and Vanilla and lightly fork until a soft dough is formed. If you are adding fruit or other fillings now is the time to put them in. Knead briefly (10-12 times) on a lightly floured surface (or you can lightly oil your hands). Roll out to about 1/2 inch thickness and cut with a pastry cutter or shape as desired.
Traditionally Scones are made in a large round and then scored so they break into triangular pieces. My only concern with this is that sometimes the inside doesn't get baked enough and the outer edges will get a bit burnt so If you want the pie look I suggest fully cutting the round instead of just scoring it. You can still plate it as a circle but it will be baked more evenly.
I made Orange & Cranberry Scones because I love the little bites of fruit and the wonderful bright flavor that comes with using citrus.
For Orange & Cranberry Scones:
Zest of 1 Orange
½ c Dried Cranberries
Zest and juice 1 orange. Soak dried cranberries and zest in the orange juice for 1 hour. (You don’t HAVE to soak them but it makes them plump and juicy.) Remove zest and cranberries and add to the dough. (You can use the juice as a substitute for part of the milk or you can add it on top of the milk but then you will need to adjust the flour content.)
That's the basics! Now you can play with it as you choose. The end dough should be soft and elastic so if you decide to add more liquid, you will need more flour and if you add more dry ingredients you will need to up the liquid. Just play with it until you get the end result you want. Make it your own!
Preheat your oven to 325. brush the tops of your scones with milk and sprinkle some sugar on top. Bake at 325 for 10-15 minutes or until Golden brown on top. Baking time will depend somewhat on the thickness of your scones and every oven behaves differently.
My only other suggestion? Brew a pot of tea while you’re waiting and break out the jam and (if you’re very, very blessed) clotted cream. (If your not so blessed butter won’t hurt.) Enjoy!