Welcome to February!
#PilisBritishBakeOff continues. On this snowy day I bring you heart-warming Cornish scones and, more specifically, sultana scones.
I used a recipe from Oats in the North, Wheat from the South: the history of British Baking, savoury and sweet, but I used currants in mine, the recommended alternative.
What’s a scone again?
“A small round cake made of raised dough, which may be sweet or savoury. Originating in Scotland, it is soft and light inside and has a brown crust.” (Larousse Gastronomique)
Eaten throughout the UK, and particularly associated with the South West (think Cornwall and Devon), scones started life in Scotland as a quick bread.
Ysewijn points out that they were invented before baking powder, whose addition makes them lighter. I learnt the hard way: the first time I made them I accidentally used two full tablespoons of baking soda instead of baking powder. They looked alright, but my stomach and sinuses disagreed.
Ares scones bread?
In my eyes, although they are between a bread and a cake, because of the heavy butter content and the classic sweet topping, they are cakes. If we were talking about the savoury variety, like the tattie scones discussed in my last post, I’d call them breads.
Did you know that scones have the added bonus of a joke?
– What’s the fastest cake?”
This won’t work with people who pronounce scone like ‘own’. With thanks to my colleague Catherine Hill.
Another joke? Sorry, my humour’s scone.
When to eat scones
I’d say scones are most often eaten as part of the traditional afternoon tea, particularly if you are out and about in the weekend and find a nice tearoom (easier in small quaint touristy towns), if you’re spending a weekend in a nice B & B or hotel. Need more excuses? Make them:
- When you have a craving for clotted cream! (my favourite excuse)
- When you have visitors. After making my own, I definitely recommend. You can then practise your British joke. As mine were so buttery, they lasted really well for 5-6 days; best warmed up in the oven before slathering them with jam and cream. You only live once, they say.
- Any time for savoury scones, perhaps lunch. So far I’ve only tried the cheese variety, but I’ve seen others. Why not try these cheese, courgette and basil scones from Claire Cox’s blog?
How to eat a scone
Are you foreign and you’d prefer not to make a faux pas in British company? I have you covered. Big faux pas:
Scone and tea etiquette
Eat always with generous amounts of jam of all kinds (my colleague Catherine recommends rhubarb and ginger -yum), and clotted cream. “Only butter seems a wasted opportunity”. I couldn’t agree more, Catherine!
I love both, though I have to say cream on top trumps for that kick of luscious dairy (probably because I’m milk intolerant). But which is the correct one?
How to serve tea
- What the best teapot is and why
- What all the serving items are called
- Whether to serve lemon with tea to your British guests
It’s snowy here today and I desperately need another tea, but I must leave you another tip: loose leaf is the way. It pays to buy good quality, and some types of tea can be brewed a few times (not so much classic English tea).
I love Char teas in Winchester (my current favourites: Ayurvedic Contemplation, Land of Nod and Genmaicha or Wakame. Their lavender earl grey is also delicious and I love it for breakfast, because I’m untraditional. I have a long list of brand recommendations given by colleagues to try but, for now, my tea intake looks like: 4 brews of Genmaicha in the morning, 2 of Ayurvedic in the afternoon and 2 Lands of Nod before bed. Can you top that?
How to serve scones
- Never sandwich your scone!
- Never use a knife to halve your scone –you don’t need one, you can easily break them with you hands, watch the video to see how.
- Never share the cream and jam pots
Source: The English Manner
Where to buy the best scones
Translator Claire Ivins tells me the best scones she ever had were at the Heligan Gardens in Cornwall. They did epic clotted cream versions (with clotted cream in the dough) and also cheese scones. At home, Claire tends to make buttermilk scones, because you only need a tiny bit of baking soda, avoiding the distinctive “tang” of too much raising agent.
Claire also makes American-style flaky “biscuits” (a scone-looking American bun), particularly when she has rendered fat from a pork or beef roast to add to the batter.
However, Claire does not regard scones as special occasion bakes, but as things you can prepare very quickly if you don’t have bread. So, maybe you won’t impress those guests that much. Except if you’re showing off your British baking skills! Make some scones and soon I’ll be there.
You just call out my name and you know, wherever I am, I’ll come running… Oh, yes I will… all you have to do is… bake, and I’ll be there. Ain’t good to know you’ve got a friend… Winter, spring, summer or fall…
Check out this article: The best places to have a Cornish cream tea.
How to bake scones
Why not learn from award winning scone maker Kevin (Devon) how to make award-winning scones! Tips:
- Do not overwork the batter – see Kevin’s kneading technique.
- Do not get them too wet.
- Do not twist your cutter – this is so they rise well, a tip from the author of my cookbook. As I do not own a scone cutter, I used pastry rings.
- Maybe turn the tray around halfway through (back to front), like Kevin.
Kevin’s recipe is for a kilo of flour. For a smaller batch, check out this:
- Scone recipe from Jamie Oliver, the most international British chef
- Scone recipe from Mary Berry, the British queen of baking
Mary uses a tiny bit more flour and sugar than my recipe, but less butter. Jamie also uses more flour, but the same amount of butter as mine.
Clotted cream recipe
If you can’t find clotted cream in the shops or it’s too expensive, you can make it at home.
- Recipe for clotted cream by Tamar Valley Cottages in Cornwall
- Video to make clotted cream by Steve Owen’s Kitchen
Larousse Gastronomique (2009). Hamlyn.
Oats from the North, Wheat from the South: The History of British Baking, Savoury and Sweet (2020). Regula Ysewijn. Murdoch Books.
All linked videos and articles.
Why won’t my scones rise, Classic Cornish Hampers
The best way to eat a cream tea, by Classic Cornish Hampers
The history of the Cornish cream tea, by Classic Cornish Hampers
It’s scone wrong, The Guardian
- Translators rely on word of mouth and referrals. If you enjoyed or found this article useful, why not share it?
- If you have information or anecdotes to add, send them over.
Read about my experience in culinary translation.