An easy no-fail recipe for buttery, flaky, crumbly tea scones, scrumptious when generously slathered with raspberry jam and clotted cream.
There’s just no describing how devilishly good these scones are. They’re buttery, flaky, crumbly and just superbly scrumptious when generously slathered with jam (raspberry is seriously the best flavour for scones, in my humble opinion) and dolloped with clotted cream.
I’ve used this recipe a few times over, and honestly, it’s absolutely the best by far, which really shouldn’t surprise me as it’s yet another no-fail, winning recipe by Bea Vo of the famed English tea house, Bea’s of Bloomsbury (London). What does surprise me, however, is just how incredibly easy this is!
I’ve learnt along the way that it doesn’t really matter what ingredients a particular scone recipe calls for, but the method or technique is crucial. Get the method right, and you’ll get the most wondrous scones! The key to that perfect buttery, flaky and crumbly scone (the way scones really ought to be!) is to control the interaction between butter, flour and temperature. All that really means for us home bakers, is to make sure that we work with cold ingredients when putting this dough together, and keeping it cool throughout the steps until it’s ready to be cut into individual scones for baking.
Here’s the thing about the interplay between butter, flour and temperature, which I think was explained so clearly by Bea Vo in her book. This is the part where we get to learn a teeny weeny bit of the science behind baking, without feeling like we’re in a science class! Butter is made primarily of fat and water (of course, that’s why it’s so yummy!). What we want is for butter to stay in a nice, cold form so that the fat doesn’t melt and release water prematurely before it hits the oven. If the butter melts, it’s water molecules will start to interact with flour molecules to make gluten, which will toughen the texture of the scone.
Gluten is a mixture of proteins that is responsible for the elasticity of dough. When making bread, you’ll want this to happen, but not when it comes to scones. So it’s absolutely critical that you do not knead the dough! Just cut the cold wet ingredients into the cold butter-flour mixture, with a pastry blade or fold in with a wooden spoon – no stirring. Also, you’ll want the butter to keep as cold as possible before it goes into a hot preheated oven – this way, instead of the butter melting into the flour, it instantly makes steam, which results in a light, puffy, flaky scone. Remember, a hot, hot oven is key, as we want that water-to-steam conversion right away!
The Ultimate Tea Scone
- 600 g plain flour
- 75 g caster sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 5 tsp baking powder
- 240 g cold butter cut into 1-cm or 1/2-inch cubes, chilled for 10 minutes
- 2 eggs
- 120 ml milk
- 150 ml whipping cream
- 2 tbsp milk for milk wash
- Round scone or cookie cutter of desired size
- 1 baking tray lined with baking sheet
- Put the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a large mixing bowl (or electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment). Stir with a wooden spoon until well combined (or with paddle attachment set on low speed).
- Add the cold butter cubes and rub into the flour between your fingertips (or in the mixer with the paddle attachment). Rub until the mixture reaches a sand-like consistency. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.
- In a separate bowl, combine eggs, milk and cream and beat lightly. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 deg C (365 deg F). Remember: Preheating is crucial! Line a baking tray with greaseproof or baking sheet.
- Fold the egg mixture into the sandy butter-flour mixture until just combined and no dryness remain. (As soon as you add any form of liquid to any dough, keep in mind that the flour will automatically want to make gluten with liquids. To prevent that, the dough should not be overworked or warmed up). The dough should be quite wet, and when pulled apart, break off in clumps and not stretch. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.
- Flour the work surface. Gather the cold dough into a ball and onto the floured surface. Liberally flour the top of the dough. Using your fingers, pat down lightly on the dough until it is about the same height as your scone (or cookie) cutter.
- Dip the cutter generously in flour and cut a round from the dough. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Flour the cutter generously each time before cutting out the next round. Gather up the off-cuts, gently re-ball and press out to cut out more. Repeat until dough is used up. Using a pastry brush, brush some milk on the tops of the scones, leaving the sides free.
- Put the scones immediately into the preheated oven. Bake for 8 minutes if you have small, skinny scones, and 10 minutes for big, fat ones.
- After the time has elapsed, turn the oven down to 170 deg C (340 deg F) and let the scones bake for another 8-14 minutes. Scones are done when they have risen quite a bit, are a lovely golden colour, and spring back when pressed lightly. Serve warm with clotted cream and raspberry or strawberry jam on the day of baking.