I bought this book about scones at the National Trust shop in Lacock, Wiltshire on New Year’s Eve 2019.
Lacock is a village owned by the National Trust and also a place that’s featured prominently in Harry Potter, Downton Abbey and Pride and Prejudice (it was the village of Meryton in the 1995 series).
Anyways, we’d been to the pub and toasted happy new year as the clock struck midnight in Wellington, NZ, and then again 2 hours later as it struck midnight in Sydney, and again an hour later for midnight in Brisbane. Our wishes back then were for the fires that were raging in NSW to finally stop. Aaaah, we were so innocent back then, with no idea what was to come. In between all of that toasting I bought the book about scones – I’d just finished writing the first draft of Escape To Curlew Cottage, so how could I resist? I also bought another book all about afternoon tea and some leather gloves – but that’s by the by.
But, I digress. I’ve since discovered that the author has a blog dedicated to…and wait for this… finding the best National Trust scones by visiting every single property with a tea room. How have I not known about this? Not only is it about scones, but there are fabulous fun facts about each of the properties she visits. And if there’s anything I like more than a scone, it’s a fun fact.
It goes without saying that not only am I completely envious, but I’m a massive fan. You’ll find it here.
Anyways, this month I bring you a traditional fruit scone. I’ve used sultanas in it, which just happens to be what Philly Barker (in my upcoming series of cosy cosy crime mysteries set in the fictional Yorkshire town of Chipwell and featuring antique dealer Philly Barker) ate when she ordered a Yorkshire cream tea from Betty’s in York – along with strawberry preserve and clotted cream, of course. Ginny Wilder, who runs the tea room at Chipwell Barn Antiques always has these scones on the menu. She usually has another flavour too (depending on the season), but we’ll talk about those another month.
As with all scones, the key is to have your ingredients fridge cold and not to over work the dough. Because I’m in south-east Queensland, the former is a struggle, so I normally pop the mix into the fridge after I’ve got the dry ingredients and the butter in the bowl. Feel free to skip this step if you’re less environmentally challenged than I am. As for the latter, I use my hands to mix, reverting to a plain kitchen knife when it comes to the milk and egg. Also, rather than pressing down hard with a rolling pin, I flatten the dough with my hands and lightly run the pin across at the end to get an even surface.
Also, I tend to add an extra teaspoon of baking powder even though I’m using self-raising flour. Skip this if you find that baking powder sets of other…ummm…chemical reactions in your tummy. Speaking of which, did I ever tell you about the scones we had at Bourton-on-the-Water that were not only dry but had so much baking powder they gave us all…well…wind? Too much information?
Also, a note on the oven. In order to rise properly, scones need to begin cooking as soon as they go in – it’s a chemical thing that’s to do with the fat and the rising agent and other reactions that, quite frankly, make my eyes glaze over. It is, however, a thing, so make sure your oven is fully heated before the scones go in.
Okay, without any further palaver, here’s the recipe:
What you need
- 450g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp baking powder (see note above)
- Small pinch of salt
- 115g butter, fridge-cold and diced into little cubes
- 85g caster sugar
- 85g sultanas
- 1 egg, beaten
- 200ml cold milk
What you do with it
Preheat the oven to 200C and line a baking sheet with baking paper.
Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder (if using) into a large bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips until it resembles a sandy crumb. Toss the mix with your hands a tad to encourage any little bits of unrubbed in butter to the surface. Add the sultanas and sugar and mix, again using your hands, to ensure that none of the sultanas have clumped together.
(At this point I pop the bowl into the fridge for about 15-30 minutes to chill back down – see my note above about scone-making in Queensland. You could, of course, do this much earlier, go about your day, and finish them off when you’re ready for afternoon tea. It goes without saying that if you’re going to do this, don’t turn the oven on until you’re ready to finish making the scones – just make sure the oven is fully heated before they go in.)
Make a well in the mix and add your egg and about 100ml of the milk, stir with a kitchen knife, gradually adding up to 50ml more to make a soft, but not wet, dough. Take care not to over-mix at this point. You should still have about 50ml milk left – put this to one side.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead into a ball – again, don’t overwork it.
Roll out, or gently pat with your hands, to about two fingers thick and stamp out using a floured 7cm round cutter (I use a fluted cutter). Take care not to twist the cutter as it will impact the scone’s ability to rise evenly. Pop onto the baking sheet spaced slightly apart.
Reroll the trimmings until all the dough is used.
Brush the tops with the milk you have left, place into the hot oven and bake for 10-15 minutes until well-risen and golden brown.
These are best served warm and with jam and cream (or cream and jam). It’s impossible to get clotted cream here in south-east Queensland, so I make do with very good butter and very good jam.