When it comes to scones, I won’t pretend to be an expert. I am quite the newbie, and I think I have been pretty lucky.
The first scones I have tried were at The Tea Cosy here in Sydney, shortly after we moved here, and no other scones I’ve tried since even come close to them. It is a little Irish Tea house smack bang in the middle of the city, which has the ability to transport you to a whole other fairy-tale of a world where you instantly feel like Alice at the Mad Hatter’s unbirthday tea party. Just magic.
I was also lucky because my photographs of The Tea Cosy won me first place in their spring photo competition last year, and I got to enjoy their scrumptious full high tea several times as part of the prize. Every aspect of their high tea spread is utterly delicious, but I had become especially addicted to their scones. As is usually the case when I encounter a new food that I like so much, I grew curious as to how they are made and began itching to make them at home. Only people who have an affinity for making things from scratch will relate to this…it becomes sort of an obsession.
Scones are a little baked pastries with a texture that lies somewhere in between a cake and a buttery biscuit. They aren’t sweet, because they are traditionally served with fresh cream and jams, and they can be made in endless flavours, as well as savoury with cheese. I took my time researching and googling my brains off, and as usual there were lots of very strong yet contradicting opinions.
The main point of difference was the question of eggs or no eggs. After asking a couple of Irish friends and consulting with facebook, it seemed to be in favour of no eggs. I still felt slightly unsure, so I thought why not consult the masters themselves? I sent a message to the lovely Ash, the owner of The Tea Cosy, and she confirmed that all their traditional Irish scones DO NOT have eggs in them. YAY! Time to get baking!
I opted for half wholewheat flour and half plain, just to make things a bit more nutritious, and also because I happen to love the slightly nutty flavour of wholewheat flour. You can most definitely swap it for all plain flower if you wish! Also, I am currently obsessed with flowery things, so I decided to make my scones lightly scented with beautiful lavender flowers, although this is entirely optional in this recipe. You could make them plain or flavour them with other things like thyme, rosemary, rose petals, fresh vanilla seeds, orange/lemon zest or even cheese for a savoury scone…the choice is all yours! The basic recipe works well with whatever you fancy.
In the spirit of tradition, I decided to make them the old fashioned way; entirely by hand. They are super simple and quick to make, but you could definitely use your food processor if you want to speed things up even more and keep your fingers flourless (which, in my opinion, is half the fun).
In a mortar and pestle, you grind up the lavender flowers with a tablespoon of sugar, just to break them up and release their gorgeously fragrant perfume. If you are using any other herb/zest/vanilla, you would do the same. If you decide to go for plain scones, you skip this step entirely.
You then whisk this aromatic powder with the rest of the dry ingredients and ad the cubes of cold butter. Using the tips of your fingers, you rub the butter into the flour until it is a crumbly, sandy mixture. You want some visible bits of butter to remain in there, which is what makes the scones crumbly and tender.
Then you add your liquid; cream or full cream milk…or a mixture of both. Obviously, cream makes the scones richer and more luxurious, but milk works perfectly well. Just please don’t go using non-fat or semi-skimmed crap…now is not the time to hold back. This is a treat, and the fat content is what makes it what it is.
Roll out the soft and slightly sticky dough to about 2.5cm (1 inch) thick, and cut out your scones. Another traditional method, which is even easier, is to simply cut the circle of dough into wedges, just like you would slice a pizza or cake. This is great if you don’t have cookie cutter or just want to simplify.
The original recipe instructed to flip the scones over mid-baking, which I did do here, but I will not be doing again. I like the way the scones were rising and forming domed tops before I took them out to flip them, so next time I’ll just leave them to bake on one side for the full duration.
It is essential to enjoy scones while still warm. Prepare your choice of jams, honey, butter, cream or ALL of the above while your scones cook and fill your house with the dreamiest aroma ever.
Break each scone open in half like so, while they are still lovely and fluffy and crumbly, and spread with yummy things. My favourite toppings for these particular scones were soft, freshly whipped cream, a sprinkle of extra lavender and a generous drizzle of honey. They just brought out the lovely flowery scent and let the lavender shine.
Wouldn’t these be just great to serve to friends over a lovely late breakfast or brunch on a lazy weekend? They are super quick and simple to put together and take no time to bake, and everyone can have fun picking and assembling their own toppings and flavour combinations from the spread while chatting and sipping strong, proper freshly brewed tea.
I kept thinking how my mother would enjoy these, and how I wish I were there to make them for her on mothers’ day. *Sigh* …distance can suck sometimes…I’ll make sure to make up for it when we reunite.
- • 1 tbsp. (18g) sugar (I used raw)
- • 2 tsp. culinary-grade lavender flowers, optional
- • 150g plain flour
- • 150g whole-wheat flour
- • 1 ½ tbsp. baking powder
- • ½ tsp. salt
- • 60g cold butter, cut into cubes (keep in fridge till ready to use)
- • ¾ cup full-cream milk (180ml) OR cream OR a mixture of both
- Preheat oven to 200 C (400F), place a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or a non-stick baking sheet) in the oven to heat up while you make the scones.
- In a mortar & pestle or a small food processor/spice or coffee grinder, grind the sugar with the lavender flowers. They do not have to be ground up completely fine into a powder, just make sure the flowers are broken up into smaller pieces to release their flavours.
- Place the lavender sugar into a large bowl with the flours, baking powder & salt and whisk well to combine. Add the cold cubes of butter and using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour gradually until the mixture is sandy and larger visible bits of butter still remain. You can also do this in a food processor by pulsing until the same texture is achieved.
- Add the milk/cream gradually; start with ½ a cup and mix with a fork. Continue to add little by little until the mixture just comes together, taking care not to overwork the dough. Once the dough comes together, tip onto a lightly floured surface and use your hands to knead very lightly until you have a soft ball of dough. Again, do not over-mix! Just gently bring it together.
- Roll out the dough gently into a 2.5cm (1 inch) thick disk. You can now either slice the disk into 8 triangles (like the way you would slice a pizza or cake) with a knife dusted with flour, OR use a round cookie cutter (also dusted with flour) to cut out round scones by pushing directly downwards (no twisting), like I did in the photos. I used a 6cm (2 ¼ inch) wide cookie cutter, but you could make them slightly bigger or smaller. If you opt for round scones, once you have cut out as many rounds as you can from the disk, gather up the remaining dough and knead lightly to bring together & repeat till all dough is used.
- Place the scones on the preheated baking sheet, brush the tops with a bit of cream (optional) and bake for 12-15 minutes, until just barely golden brown. Serve warm with butter, cream, jams and honey.
• You could exchange the lavender for other flavours. Some examples are: lemon or orange zest, woody herbs like rosemary or thyme, rose petals, cardamom or fresh vanilla seeds. Simply follow the same recipe & swap out the lavender in step one with desired amount of other flavouring.
• You may use all plain flour if you like!
• If you want your scones to be more obviously golden brown, brush the tops with egg wash before baking.
Recipe adapted from TheKitchn