I have fallen in love with scones.
Quite suddenly, all at once, head over heels. All scones. Cheese scones (sometimes with marmite, sometimes with walnuts and mustard), saffron, honey and sultana scones, cherry scones, stilton and cranberry scones. I can’t get enough of them. But this is my current favourite: a grown up, not-too-sweet scone — the only added sugar is the crunchy Demerara on the top — that is sufficiently handsome to present to friends, but simple enough to knock up for yourself at 10:30 to go with an 11 o’clock coffee.
I wish that I had discovered this recipe before I became confident with baking, when I was still wobbly and unsure. I wish I had stumbled across the recipe and just given it a go, because my confidence would have risen as high as the scone.
For a recipe that I hold in such high regard, it has taken me a very long time to blog it. But there’s a good reason for that: every time I think of blogging it, I end up wandering away from my laptop, and baking the scone instead of writing up the recipe.
This is truly the simplest bake I know. It takes about 25 minutes, from fancying a scone, looking up the recipe, and taking the ingredients out of the larder, through to buttering the scone as it comes warm from the oven. It also doesn’t require any fancypants ingredients; if a scenario arose where I had to produce a baked good that would feed six people a light snack as a matter of urgency, a sort of Jack Bauer 24-esque scenario, but with buns rather than guns, I would have no difficulty knocking this up.
In fact, the quicker you make it, the better the scone: the key to a light scone is not handling it too much, as handling encourages gluten, which will make the dough tough rather than light and crumbly. But don’t be afraid. Every scone recipe you see tells you not to handle it too much or it will all at once transform (invisibly, without warning) into a dough that will only produce sad little unrisen pucks with a tough crumb. The horror! I was very worried this would happen to my poor little scones and skirted around the issue and the dough so much that I would end up with streaks of flour or egg, not properly mixed in. What it means is this: this is not bread dough. Do not knead the living daylights out of it. When mixing it the dough, mix it so that it forms a cohesive ball, without visible flour or butter lumps in it: that’s it.
[This recipe is based on a Jo Wheatley recipe published in Sainsbury’s magazine last year, with a handful of tweaks from me.]
It goes like this:
Chocolate Orange Sharing Scone
Makes: One large scone, which will serve six polite people, or two greedy people
Takes: 5 minutes
Bakes: 20 minutes
225g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g cold unsalted butter, diced
zest of 1 large orange
100g dark chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
1 egg, beaten
Handful of Demerara sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 220°C, fan 200°C, gas 7.
2. Sift the dry ingredients (flour, cream of tartar, bicarbonate of soda, and salt) into a large bowl. Add the butter and orange zest and rub together with your fingertips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
3. Add the chocolate chips and mix through.
4. Add the orange juice and half of the milk. Take a knife and start cutting it through the mixture; this will start to combine the dough. Add the milk in tablespoon sized amounts — just enough until the mixture forms a cohesive dough.
5. Flour a work surface and turn out your dough ball. Move it around with your hands until the dough is more uniform and a little smoother, about 20 seconds.
6. Move onto a tray lined with baking paper, and lightly floured.. Pat the dough into the shape and size of a side plate. Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the Demerara sugar. Score with a knife into six segments.
7. Bake for 18-20 minutes in the middle of the oven, by which time your scone should be puffed and golden and delicious.
The Icing on the Cake
This is delightful just cut into the pre-assigned wedges and eaten slightly warm, perhaps with a little butter melting into the crumb.