How to make… the perfect Scones

MAKES 12

Warm home-made scones with clotted cream and fresh lemon curd are such a treat, and Sue’s step-by-step recipe turns out a delicious dozen that are perfect for afternoon tea.

Sue’s a great friend of Lakeland (she writes lots of our recipes) and has been writing about food and cookery for many years, supplying features and recipes to many popular women’s magazines, websites and food companies. As a member of the Guild of Food Writers, she believes that great-tasting food shouldn’t be difficult, expensive or time-consuming to prepare, and that it’s important to have well-written recipes that are easy to follow and give great results. Just like this one!

Ingredients

For the scones

  • 450g self-raising flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 110g butter, chilled and diced
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • Approx. 280ml milk

For the lemon curd

  • 120g butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 1 large lemon, unwaxed, or thoroughly scrubbed

To serve

  • Clotted cream

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6. Put a baking sheet into the oven to preheat, to help give your scones extra lift. Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and add the butter. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour, lifting your hands as you do so to encourage more air into the mixture, until it looks like fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Stir in the sugar. Beat the egg in a measuring jug, then add milk to bring the liquid up to 300ml, mixing well. Add just enough of this to the rubbed-in mixture to make a soft (not sticky) dough – there will be a little liquid left. Bring the mixture together with a round-bladed knife or palette knife.  Try to avoid using your hands, as this warms the dough.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, flour your hands a little, then knead the dough lightly for a few moments. Remember, this isn’t bread you’re making! Use a very light touch and handle gently just until the dough is smooth. Wrap in cling film and chill for 10-15 minutes, though no longer, as you don’t want the dough to be icy cold and tricky to roll.
  4. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to about 3cm thick – it’s a mistake to roll the dough more thinly! Use a 5cm plain or fluted cutter to stamp out rounds. Avoid twisting the cutter when you are doing this, just press it straight through the dough.  This will help your scones to rise evenly. Gather any trimmings together, re-roll and cut out more scones.
  5. Arrange the scones as quickly as you can onto the preheated baking sheet. Brush the surface of each one with the remaining egg and milk mixture. Immediately transfer to the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes towards the top of the oven, until well-risen and golden brown. Cool for a few moments, then transfer to a wire cooling rack. While they’re baking and cooling, make the lemon curd.
  6. Melt the butter slowly over a low heat, making sure that it doesn’t get too hot, then set it to one side to cool slightly. In a medium-sized heatproof bowl, whisk together the eggs and caster sugar. Finely grate the zest from the lemon and add it to the bowl with the squeezed lemon juice. Pour in the melted butter and stir everything together well.
  7. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir the mixture constantly with a wooden spoon until it coats the back of the spoon. To check, it should leave a trail on the surface when the spoon is lifted. This may take up to 20 minutes. When thick enough, pour into a sterilised jam jar. It will thicken more as it cools. Serve on warm scones, with clotted cream.

 

Little extras

Date & Apple Scones
Make the mixture as before, adding 1 peeled, cored and chopped eating apple with 75g chopped pitted dates, stirring them in with the caster sugar. If you like, just form the lightly kneaded dough into a circle and mark out 8-12 sections with a sharp knife – without cutting right through. Brush with egg wash, then bake for 20-25 minutes. Break into individual wedges when cooled.

Cheddar Cheese Scones
To make cheese scones, omit the sugar and add 150g of grated mature Cheddar to the mixture before adding the egg and milk.  Brush the tops with the glaze, as before, then sprinkle extra cheese on top for a fantastic flavour. If you like, add a tablespoon of chopped fresh chives to the mixture, and for a change use grated Red Leicester instead of Cheddar. Makes 12 large scones.

 

Troubleshooting

Scones not a success? Sue can help.

Q  How do I make sure that my scones rise well?
Don’t roll the dough too thinly, always stamp out the scones straight through the dough without twisting the cutter, and place them on a preheated baking tray into a preheated oven.

Q  What if I don’t have time to make my own lemon curd?
A  Choose a good brand instead!

Q  I’ve never had much success with scones. Help!
A  Hopefully you will now – though do take care that you don’t add too much liquid – the dough mustn’t be sticky. Try not to over-handle the dough either – always use a light touch so that it doesn’t become too warm.

 

5 Golden Rules

Measure ingredients carefully to take the guesswork out of your baking. Treat yourself to some digital scales and a clearly marked measuring jug, if necessary.

It’s best to use cold butter (and please – no spreads or soft margarine – they won’t do the job properly). The texture of cold butter traps air with the flour to give you the crumbly effect you’re aiming for.

Handle the dough lightly so that it doesn’t become too warm (which would melt the butter) and avoid rolling it too thinly – it needs to be about 3cm thick (just over 1 inch).

Placing the uncooked scones on a hot baking sheet gives them an added boost, so try to remember this handy tip.

Make sure your oven is preheated before baking the scones. And avoid opening the oven door during baking – it reduces the temperature.

 

Recipe and food styling:  Sue Ashworth

Photography: Jonathan Short