Apple and Cinnamon Scones

We’ve just finished reading Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations …which means it’s time for the Book Club Bake.

As far as setting goes, this one is set between Kent and London – and what a sense of place Dickens gives us. You can feel the mist over the Kent marshlands:

Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea.

charles dickens, great expectations

…and picture that scene in the churchyard where Pip is visiting the graves of his parents and siblings, “five little stone lozenges, each about a foot and a half long” and encounters the convict Magwitch, who has escaped from a nearby prison ship.

‘Hold your noise!’ cried a terrible voice, as a man started up from among the graves at the side of the church porch. ‘Keep still, you little devil, or I’ll cut your throat!’

charles dickens, great expectations

London is equally atmospheric…

So, I came into Smithfield and the shameful place, being all asmear with filth and fat and blood and foam, seemed to stick to me.

charles dickens, great expectations

But what to bake?

My mind first went to the “chophouses” that Dickens used to frequent in London. Places like Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Simpsons Tavern, The Lamb & Flag, and The George & Vulture which is (according to an article I read when researching the pub crawl we did in London last November) mentioned at least 20 times in The Pickwick Papers making that novel his most alcohol-fuelled work. Love it.

Dishes like liver and bacon, steak and kidney pie, chops (of course), and toad in the hole would have been on the menu. As would stewed cheese – a British alternative to Swiss fondue, but also almost like a rarebit:

The old recipe for stewed cheese listed in the handwritten Cookbook of Unknown Ladies reads: “Put 3 spoonfulls of water, & ye yolk of an egg, & a lump of butter, beat up, at ye bottom of a pewter plate. Slice yr cheese in thin small bits upon it, yn stew it on a chafing dish of coals wth an other plate over it. [sic]”

It was cooked gently on a raised grate above the flames and would then be served in a small pot which you’d either dip toast into or would pour over toasted bread. Eaten as a “chaser” after a serving or two of a meaty pudding of lark, kidney, steak and oysters, it sounds like a potential heart attack in a bowl.

Until it was forced to close last November (a long and very disappointing story), Simpsons Tavern (which up to then was the oldest chophouse in London) was still serving this.

None of these, however, would be appropriate for book club so back to Kent I went. What, I wondered, would be on Miss Haversham’s wedding breakfast table?

Apples are so closely associated with Kent that the Flower of Kent is actually a cooking apple that was said to be the one that fell on Isaac Newton’s head. Apple would, I was certain, surely have figured at that (now moldering) repast, so apple would figure in our bake.

At first I was going to bake Cider Cake, but Grant reminded me that we’d be leaving for New Zealand early the following morning so who would eat the cake? Perhaps, it would be looking something like the centrepiece of Miss Havisham’s table by the time we arrived home?

Apple scones were the perfect compromise.

The recipe I’ve chosen comes from Sarah Clelland’s National Trust Book of Scones.

Clelland set herself the challenge of visiting every single National Trust (Britain) property with a tea room and trying, and then rating the scones. Now that’s my sort of challenge. Anyways, she finished the quest earlier this year and, if you’re interested, her blog is the sort of blog I wish I’d written – a good mix of history and scones. The perfect combination. You’ll find it here…duck over and have a look.

This recipe appears beside the write-up for Smallhythe Place in Kent. Smallhythe Place was home to renowned Victorian actress Ellen Terry – who married the artist G.F. Watts when he was 46 and she was just 17. It reminded me of how Dickens took actress Ellen (Nelly) Ternan as his mistress when he was 45 and she was just 18. I love symmetry like that.

(As an aside, Clelland rated the Smallhythe scone at 3.5/5 but the tearoom tablecloths at 5/5.)

With no further faffing about, here’s the recipe. Oh, the usual rules apply for scones: keep everything cold – except the oven which must be at temperature before you slide your scones in. And don’t overwork the dough.

(I even found a vintage Meakin plate of David Copperfield to serve the scones on…)

Apple and Cinnamon Scones

What you need…

  • 500g self-raising flour
  • 140g butter, cubed, fridge-cold
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 1 large apple, peeled and diced (I used a granny smith or cooking apple)
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg, beaten, plus extra to glaze
  • Approx 200ml milk

What you do with it…

Preheat the oven to 210C (conventional) and line a baking sheet with baking paper

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl, tip in the cubed butter, and rub the butter into the flour with the tips of your fingers until it looks like sandy breadcrumbs. Work as quickly as you can with this to avoid melting or softening your butter too much. Stir in the sugar, apple and cinnamon.

Add the beaten egg and begin to add the milk, mixing with a dinner knife until you have a soft dough. Remember, don’t handle it any more than is necessary.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it gently 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*. 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 and reroll the trimmings until all the dough is used. Brush the tops with beaten egg and bake for 10-12 minutes until risen and golden brown.

*If you don’t have a cutter, split the dough into three equal balls, flatten slightly then cut each into four triangles to give you 12 scones in total.

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

10 thoughts

  1. These were so delicious Jo and it’s always fun cooking with you girls. We should have our own cooking show!! Thanks for your expert guidance.


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