Scones of all flavours
There was a bit of a mini news story this morning on Radio 4 about Prime Minister Teresa May being asked about her cooking preferences. Apparently Hillary Clinton got herself into trouble during this Presidential campaign by daring to admit that she didn’t have an interest in cooking. We were told she then had to schlep around the USA doing cookery events to counteract the backlash she received. Sheeeeeeeshhh. When will women be able to say what they actually think and not get some hideous Victorian standard attached to them? Anyway… Teresa May learned a valuable lesson from Hills, evidently, because she carefully and strategically fitted into her answer her mother’s recipe for scones, and also the fact that she like Yotam Ottolenghi thereby attempting (who can say whether she achieved it?) to dangle herself between the Family-Values-Right-Wingers and the Left-Leaning-Tahini-and-Preserved-Lemon-Brigade.
But the brouhaha was fuelled by the scone recipe, about which the BBC was more interested. She specified butter OR margarine. Well. All hell broke loose in the UK this morning. Purists saying it was sacrilege to use margarine, Jack Monroe interviewed saying margarine is all some people can afford, meaning ‘back off with your middle class butter’. I think what you can afford is often (not always, but often) wrapped up in a choice, and having margarine is not the preserve of the working class anyway, so to bring them into it is merely point-scoring. Anyway, our mother Mavis says that our working class grandmother never used margarine, even though she was struggling to feed a family of five through the 1930’s depression in Oldham with our grandfather, a mill-worker, out of work for most of the decade.
So personally, as a tribute to my grandmother Eva Mellor who knew a poverty that not even Jack Monroe could rival, I would never use margarine BUT I’m willing to bet that if it was a good quality one specifically made for baking then the difference in taste would be negligible. If you use Utterly Butterly or some olive oil replicant then I expect it would be nasty – there is just too much water in it. But you can even prove me wrong on that point, as on any other – I’m liberal like that.
The power of suggestion being very strong, especially in matters food, after listening to the item about scones, today I had to make them.
Preheat the oven to 200º / 190º fan.
Amounts for 10 large scones:
- 12 oz /340g plain flour
- 3 oz /85g butter OR some controversial margarine
- 2 tsp baking powder or:
- 1 ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 3 tsp cream of tartar
- pinch salt
- 7½ fluid oz /200 ml yoghurt and milk mixed
- 4 tbsp /1½ oz /40g of caster sugar
- 2 oz /60g raisins
Tips: Don’t overwork the mixture, don’t roll them too thin or make them too small.
Mix the flour, salt, and baking powder or tartar/bicarb. Cut the fat into chunks. This is one of my favourite things to look at as it means there is a cake or pastry on the way. How sad am I…?Rub the fat into the flour with the tips of your fingers using a ‘sprinkling salt’ action. Or you can mix it in the food processor with a blade. It should look like this:Stir the raisins and sugar into the flour mixture. Mix the yoghurt and milk together and using a fork incorporate it until just blended. You could continue in the food processor, but this will chop up your raisins which you might not want… If you try and add the raisins after mixing the liquid in I find it hard to distribute them adequately around the dough. So I prefer using a fork and it takes about 1 minute so is not that difficult. It will seem as if there won’t be enough liquid but I promise it’ll all mix in and pick up all the dry flour. When it looks like the following, use your hand to finish mixing it, and knead it a BIT, just to make sure it’s a solid mass.Roll it out on a floured surface to an inch thick and cut it out with biscuit cutters. I use the depth of the cutter and make sure it’s a nice generous height inside. Who wants a thin scone, eh? No-one.Squash remnants back together and re-roll until all the mixture is cut out. Put on a lightly greased tray and bake for 15 minutes. I dusted mine with icing sugar after they’d come out to make them look photogenic. This is, of course, optional…
I promised scones of any flavour:
- Plain scones – of course leave out the raisins. You can also leave out the sugar if you want them non-sugary or you intend putting a lot of jam on them.
- Cheese and/or chilli scones – leave out the sugar and the raisins. Add instead 2 oz/40g of grated hard cheese to the flour before the liquid and/or ½ tsp of chilli flakes.
- Date scones – chop up 2oz/40g of dates instead of raisins.
- Apricot scones – chop up 20z/40g dried apricots instead of raisins. Maybe even grate in the zest of an orange as well – orange and apricot go very well together,
- You could try dried figs – same amount as above. Figs are also lovely with orange.
- If you’re planning on having scones with lemon curd, you could grate the zest of a lemon in. I’d keep the sugar in but leave out the raisins.
You get the idea. Enjoy.