How to make a scone

Yes I will get back to running and possibly even squash soon but today I’m thinking about scones. Easy stuff I hear you say. Bung a few ingredients in a bowl; mix them up; put them on a tray and cook them. Bingo! It was precisely this chain of thought that saw me foolishly several weeks ago invite some folk to the house to sample my home-made scones. But let me tell you it is no easy matter. Firstly if you read the recipes – a pretty good place to start – you will get different measures and ingredients in each one. Some include tartar which I previously thought was stuff that gathered on your teeth or the type of sauce that you get with fish and chips. Some have eggs, others don’t. And so on. Secondly when you come to make them the consistency is always difficult and you end up altering the recipe to get the brutes to bind together. Thirdly when you cook them they don’t always rise as they should. Fourthly when you do overcome barriers 1-3 above you end up with scones that are grey inside. After my second failed attempt (the grey insides) I commissioned my dear wife to make a batch that were edible. Here is the photographic evidence.
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It should be held in mitigation that I helped measure the ingredients and pour them into the bowl.

I grew up thinking I couldn’t make anything except a pig’s ear. That’s because my mother used to say : “You’ve made a real pig’s ear of that!” She used other expressions that I didn’t understand. “You’re making more noise than a baby elephant!” What does that mean to a child growing up in a north-east fishing village? And her favourite expression when I did something she didn’t appreciate : “That’s the height of stupidity!” Reply by me : “What’s the height of stupidity?” Mother : “Measure yourself and find out!” Yes my mother was a real encourager.

I still can’t make very much come to think of it. Certainly not scones! Fortunately there are plenty of people in the world who can make really great scones.

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6 thoughts on “How to make a scone

  1. It’s much harder than people imagine to make a decent scone – I find them among the trickiest cakes to get right! I don’t think there’s any real secret except trial and error, and lots of practice because what might work for one person won’t work for another. I used to keep cream of tartar in the cupboard but I haven’t had any for ages now. Its name always reminds me of the kitchen in Downton Abbey – I’m sure they used plenty in there! I’m glad to hear you’re indulging your passion for scones, and home made ones are best, no matter if they don’t match the photos!

    • Thanks Jo. I feel comforted by the fact that they aren’t so easy after all. The kitchen at Downton Abbey provokes happy thoughts of good old Mrs Patmore whose gruff exterior conceals a kindly heart. I’ll bet she could rustle up some pretty decent scones although I’m guessing that they would be plain rather than the wide variety now produced.

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  2. I’m sorry you had such a disappointing scone making experience, but Jo’s right, it’s like anything else, you get better with practice. I don’t know how many hundreds of scones I’ve made over the years, but it took me a long time to find out how to get close to what I was aiming for. I made lots of poor quality scones in the beginning and found it all very frustrating. I’m still amazed sometimes when I go out for a scone and am presented with something close to perfection and I wonder, how on earth did they get that fluffy even texture through such a large scone, keeping it so light and airy and yet not burning it on top.

    You might not feel inclined to have another attempt but I have a few tips that might, or might not, be of help – keep the rubbing in of the fat to a minimum (don’t worry if the fat isn’t spread through the flour evenly, too much rubbing in and you end up with a heavy scone), use baking powder (1 teaspoon to 6oz of flour or a heaped teaspoon for 8oz flour) rather than cream of tartar and bicarbonate of soda (another blogger told me recently that her friend’s scones kept turning out flat and she eventually discovered it was because her baking powder was out of date, so that’s another thing to be aware of). Keep the dough moist and don’t roll it out with a rolling pin, just flatten it lightly with your hand. Squash the (floured) cutter down nice and straight without twisting it to make each scone, and pop the scones straight onto a baking tray and into a hot oven (210C fan oven, 230C ordinary) for anything between 10 and 15 minutes, depending on the size of the scones.

    Don’t let your mother’s comments stop you from believing you can do it, I’m sure you can, with a bit more practice. I hope you’ll have another go, but of course having Pam there to do you a big batch of lovely scones might prove a disincentive.

    • Forgot to mention that if the dough isn’t binding together, i.e. it’s too dry, just sloosh some milk in until you get it damp and it sticks together nicely. It’s best to be on the moist side, and if you put plenty of flour on your work surface (and your hands) that should make it possible to work with. I’ve tried making scones with eggs and without and I think I prefer the ones made with egg as they keep better and you can reserve a little of the whisked egg to brush on top for a shiny finish.

      • Thanks again Lorna. I did use eggs but perhaps not enough milk. There was plenty of flour on the work top surface I can assure you. There was plenty flour everywhere actually. It is such messy stuff.

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    • Thanks Lorna. That is very helpful indeed and clearly I should have consulted the author of the Tearoom Delights blog before starting off on this malarkey. It could have saved me some grief. Someone else told me not to mix the margerine / fat in for too long and my mother in law told me about pressing down the mixture rather than using a rolling pin. My mother always used a rolling pin – usually on top of my head – but also for baking – so I think that is what misled me. I will give it another go sometime and employ those helpful tips that you have given me.

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