By Kelly Falconer
It’s difficult to find the perfect scone recipe. My own has evolved after much trial and error, and forays into a variety of different cookbooks from both sides of the Atlantic. By way of comparison, I don’t think the scones I first made in America 20 years ago were anything like the kind you find here – not the sort which, today, I aspire to bake. You know the ones, those golden-topped, pale-sided high-risers you see in National Trust cafés, in hospital coffee shops tended by elderly lady volunteers and in tearooms in remote parts of Scotland; scones utterly unlike the sugar-crusted door-stoppers sold at Starbucks.
I find that, with the making of scones, as indeed with any baking, it is important to be in the right frame of mind. It’s no good if you become distracted, for example by someone dying suddenly and unexpectedly on the Archers; if so, hiccups, or total disasters, loom. But I also think that, especially with scones, it’s important not to concentrate too much: speed and agility are key; try to develop a kind of insouciance about it. This lightness of touch helps the aspiring scone-maker to come nearer to creating the accordion-like delicacies that gather fluffy as clouds atop WI fundraiser trestle tables.
The thing about scones is that they’re fairly quick and easy to make once you get the hang of it. It takes as much time to gather the ingredients, knead them lightly together and pop the cut-out shapes in the oven as it does to clean up the perfect mess of flour and sticky dough left behind on the work surface. An added plus is that the ingredients should usually be to hand: more or less 2 oz butter or margarine, 8 oz plain flour, warm-ish milk (enough to mix), 1 teaspoon of fresh raising agent such as cream of tartar with a half teaspoon of fresh baking soda (when I say fresh, I mean not using the stuff you’ve had in the cupboard since 2007), a pinch of salt and spoonful of sugar or whatever other bits you want to use such as raisins or cheese or, my favourite, glacé cherries, which are just too retro to resist. I’ve never used an egg.
If you strike it lucky, if the wind’s blowing in the right direction, you may just bake the perfect scone; one that, when it’s pulled apart, separates obligingly, leaving a few crumbs here and there, and then begs for a slick of soft butter to melt beneath a dollop of home-made strawberry jam.
SENTINEL FOUNDER PAT MURPHY