Last month marked a year that we’ve lived in England.
A whole year of learning the culture and habits and integrating bits of it into our lives. We have a whole shelf in our tiny kitchen devoted to tea. I counted this morning—we have 14 varieties of tea in this flat, and none of them are Lipton. We’re adapting. We’re meshing our old world and our new world together in ways that work. Ways that feel natural. We hike in the Peak District instead of the White Mountains. We carry umbrellas everywhere we go. We meet at the pub for an ale after work. We say ‘cheers’ and ‘ta’ to indicate our thanks. We eat scones.*
Until six months ago, I had never eaten a proper scone in my life. I actually thought I didn’t like scones. I’ve had those dense American triangles many consider scones and take ‘em or leave ‘em—I’d leave ‘em. In my experience, they’re heavy and more often than not chock full of random bits of fruit, spice or whatever else needs using up in the pantry or fridge. They’re just not my jam. I shunned scones.
Then I began working in an English bakery. And now I make scones. A lot of scones. Every day at work, I bake off these little English treats. They’re not dense or heavy. They’re light and golden and tender. I’ve even started making them at home and developed my own recipe. Instead of the biscuits I made often in the states, these beautiful scones have been our ‘go-to’ treat as of late. As far as I can tell, scones aren’t typical breakfast fare in the UK. They’re more often a special afternoon treat to go with your tea. But let me tell you–they are indeed a lovely way to begin a slow weekend morning.
If you’re used to an American style biscuit, don’t be deceived into thinkin’ these will be the same by the round shape and the list of ingredients. I love a biscuit but scones have their own charm. Scone mix contains a humble helping of fat compared to a standard biscuit recipe. They’re airy and not as rich as biscuits. They rise high in a hot oven and pull apart ever so easily. These qualities make them the perfect vehicle for cream and jam.
Clotted cream to be exact. If you are able to buy this wonder of the dairy world at a shop near you, do it. Don’t hesitate. Go grab some. Bake a batch of scones. Open one up and dollop on this thick, gorgeous clotted cream and your favorite jam. I think something with a bit of zing works nicely to balance out that rich cream. I like a tangy black currant or sour cherry. Sam prefers strawberry. We’re a minimum two jam household. If you can’t find clotted cream, a really lovely unsalted butter will work just fine. But don’t be stingy with that butter. Slather it on. That scone deserves it. You deserve it.
Why not shake it up? Bake a batch of English scones instead of pancakes or French toast. A little, airy English scone? Loaded with rich cream and tangy jam? With a cup of tea or coffee? Yes. Please. I’ll take two.
*Fun fact! This word—scones—has two primary pronunciations here in jolly ol’ England. One rhymes with loan and the other with gone. The former being more common in the states. Where I live, in the Northwest, locals use the ‘gone’ pronunciation and consider the ‘loan’ pronunciation “posh.” Funny, that.
If you like these Scones, you might also like:
A Year in the Land of Scones
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour plus more for dusting and coating your cutter
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into little cubes
- 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon whole milk
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F with the rack in the middle and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (or dust the sheet with flour).
In a medium bowl whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Toss the butter into the dry mixture, coating the pieces.
Rub the butter into the flour. Use your thumbs to press flour-coated butter into your fingers to break it up. You want the butter to incorporate into the flour until it looks like cornmeal. No big flakes of butter here. This could take a few minutes.
Once the butter is incorporated and the mix looks like rough cornmeal, make a little well in the middle of your flour mixture. Grab a fork and 1/3 cup of milk. Pour the milk into the well. Use the fork to drag the flour into the milk. Stir the mixture gently until it comes together. Stop once there are no longer floury bits. You don't want to overwork it. It's probably gonna look shaggy. Use your hand to bring it together a little in the bowl.
Dust a clean work surface with flour and dump the dough onto the flour. Knead the dough gently about 5-10 times just to bring it together. Dust flour over the top of the dough.
Press the dough into a one inch thick circle- or roughly a circle, we're not picky with our shapes here. Use a floured 2-21/2 inch biscuit (or scone) cutter to cut out your scones. Press straight down into the dough and lift directly up (don't twist!). Place your scone circle on the baking sheet. Make sure to flour your cutter in between each cut!
When you can't get any more scones out of the dough, gather up your scraps and pat them back into another one inch thick circle. Don't overwork the dough or you'll end up with tough scones. Just make it hold together. Cut out the rest of your scones.
Brush the top of your scones with the remaining tablespoon of milk.
Make sure your oven has come to temperature! (If it hasn't put your tray of scones in the fridge until it does.) Pop those scones in the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 400 degrees F.
Bake until golden and baked through. About 11-13 minutes.
Allow them to cool on the tray for at least a few minutes.
Eat warm or at room temperature. Serve with clotted cream (or unsalted butter) and your favorite jam.