Wednesday, 14 July 2010

English Scones and Other Musings

This is what is known as delicious.

We get a bad rap for our food in this country. The rest of Europe thinks that we don't cook anything worth eating, and no-one ever knows what to suggest actually constitutes 'English food', apart from roast beef with Yorkshire pudding. I say now that I refer only to English food as opposed to Welsh because I am, in fact, English. One has to highlight these things, you see. I wouldn't want a run in with the Welsh Mafia (the Tafia?).

Who appreciates my new tea set? (Thanks Row!)


I don't deny the lure of roast beef (although I can do without the Yorkshire pudding, thanks all the same). But the other day, Mr. Other P made scones (photographs provided as evidence of his ability - he has a very light hand you know, I could never make them as well as this), and it occurred to me that the scone deserves its place on the world stage.

Ce que M. Other P a préparé à manger.

Have you ever eaten a proper English scone before?

They bear no relation to those triangular (???), chocolate studded things calling themselves scones you see in Starbucks in the US, which seem to promise moist succulence but deliver only dry-crumbed mealiness and nothing even resembling flavour. Well, save for the acrid tang of artificial vanilla.

(He's being harsh today!)

I am not slating American food. Far from it; I ate better when I was in the States than most other countries I have ever visited. What I am saying is that a real scone, especially a homemade one, is a wonderful thing. Light, fluffy and delicately flavoured, they just plead with you to be split in half and spread with clotted or whipped cream and jam. Anyone who tries this recipe will never sneer at English food again.

Mr. Other P has made scones four or five times so far this year. Always following this method, but sometimes adding sultanas or cheese (a savoury scone is a wonderful thing). He is convinced that it's quicker, and much cheaper, to make them than it is to go to the shop and buy some (we live about three minutes walk from a bakery, and four from a supermarket). I think he's right.




Try this. Not because I told you to (good reason though that is), but because you want to make something really, truly English. Get your teacups and teapot out, and it will be just like a Summer holiday in the Cotswolds.

What else do you think of when you think of English food? Pies? Steamed puddings?

Scones
adapted from How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking

You will need:

500g plain flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 1/2 tsp cream or tartar
75g cold butter, diced
300ml milk, plus extra for brushing

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C, and lightly grease a baking sheet.
  2. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub in using your fingertips, until you have a mixture that looks like damp sand.
  3. Add the milk, and stir with a fork until the mixture comes together.
  4. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly to form a dough. Roll out to a thickness of about 3cm and cut rounds using a medium sized round cutter. We don't have one of these, and use an upturned drinking glass. You can even improvise the rolling pin for this - a bottle of wine or ketchup will do.
  5. Place the rounds on the sheet, fairly close together. You should get 12, but it depends on how large your cutter is. Brush the tops with milk, and bake for 10 minutes or until well risen and golden.
  6. Serve warm with cream and jam.

30 comments:

  1. You can bash Starbucks all you want! There food is horrid and so is the coffee. A lot of us in USA feel the same :0

    Your scones look like Southern American Biscuits---light and fluffy. Have you ever heard of a CAT HEAD Biscuit?

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  2. I drive 20 miles out of my way every Sunday to get a 'real' English scone with devonshire cream and curd, with a lovely pot of tea of course...it is awesome!

    And, being a yankee, I really don't blame you..those things at Starbucks are hideous. But, I do love my lattes. Of course, I make much better coffee at home, but I can't spend all day duct-taped to my espresso machine, thus the on-the-way-to-work latte at Starbucks.

    I seriously cannot wait until I move in September. This is like, reason number 5 why me being living in England is a win. Good scones.

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  3. T. you honestly can get good scones in the States? Well, now I feel silly. You should still make these.

    Astheroshe - What's a CAT HEAD biscuit?

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  4. Three words: Cat Head Biscuits.

    Never fear, the family kitty is safe. This recipe is called cat head biscuits probably because on seeing one a southerner said "Well look at that, ya'll. Them biscuits are the size of a cat's head." The biscuits were so tasty the name stuck. "Hey Ruby, why don't you make me some of them cat head biscuits like last time!"

    Yes, the biscuits are big, and they have a unique texture. They're not smooth like the delicate biscuits my grandmother makes, but they're just as delicious. People's eyes light up when you bring these biscuits to the table. Why? They're large, interesting, and if you serve them up on a nice plate they look like you put some work into making them. ^^

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  5. Here is a nice recipe...hope the Other Mr P. will make them :)
    Appalachian "Cat Head" Biscuit Recipe

    Makes six large biscuits.
    Ingredients:

    * 2 1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour*
    * 3/4 Teaspoon Salt
    * 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
    * 1 Teaspoon Double-Acting Baking Powder
    * 1 Cup of Buttermilk, Milk, or Plain Yogurt
    * 4 1/2 Tablespoons Lard, Shortening, or Unsalted Butter

    * See note above about flour types.
    Preparation Instructions:

    1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (230 degrees Celcius).

    2. Mix the flour, salt, soda, and baking powder together in a medium-sized mixing bowl.

    3) Add the lard, butter, or shortening a piece at a time, then mix it into the dry mixture thoroughly with a pastry cutter or two butter knives slicing in a scissor fashion. The finished mixture should have the consistency of course-ground cornmeal.

    4) Now comes the tricky part--the mixing. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and add all of the milk. Using a spoon, stir the mixture. Pay special attention to scraping the edges of the bowl so that the dry flour there has a chance to get wet. You only want to stir until the milk is incorporated into the dry mix and there are no large areas of powdery flour remaining. Don't over-mix here. The dough after mixing should be lumpy, sticky in places, and a bit shaggy in the driest areas. Using your hands, leave the dough in the bowl and carefully knead it about three times. Just lift it out as best you can, fold it in half, then press it down. You may want to sprinkle some flour over it to keep your hands from getting coated.

    5) To make "cat head" biscuits (so called because they are large--about the size of a cat's head), simply pinch off a ball of dough about 2 1/2 inches across and pat it into a thick patty. Put the shaped biscuits into a stoneware pie plate or large cast iron skillet (or on a cookie sheet). Bake for 15 minutes or until the tops of the biscuits are a light golden brown.

    6) Serve with butter, jam, honey, ham gravy, sausage gravy, sawmill gravy, or whatever your favorite biscuit topping is

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  6. Appalachian "Cat Head" Biscuit Recipe

    Makes six large biscuits.
    Ingredients:

    * 2 1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour*
    * 3/4 Teaspoon Salt
    * 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
    * 1 Teaspoon Double-Acting Baking Powder
    * 1 Cup of Buttermilk, Milk, or Plain Yogurt
    * 4 1/2 Tablespoons Lard, Shortening, or Unsalted Butter

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  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  8. oops sorry..Trash that last post!

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  9. O.M.G. Other Mr P didn't add an egg?! Has the world turned upside-down? What's going on? I'm going to make a conscious effort to host a tea party this summer.

    P.S. I drooled a bit when I read 'cheese scone'.

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  10. Mr. P...I should mention that the tea house I go to for that scone is in fact run by Englishmen LOL. So, really...no, America has no good scones ha ha.

    I will be making this one though...I'll let you know how it turns out! I think I will make this ans serve with my Lemon-ginger curd...hmm sooo goood *drools*

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  11. You have become my new favorite person (as well as the Other Mr. P). The only way to get a good scone Stateside is to make it yourself or go see an Englishman. I'll admit, I do cheat and use a scone pan though.

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  12. The scones look delicious. I love this simple eggless recipe.

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  13. lovely looking scones...now a rant... I am a regular scone baker, sweet and savoury and the English NEVER put egg in their scones... you just don't need it... they are NOT a cake, they are a scone... I favour a Delia recipe myself but the Other Mr. P's look great... I saw a recipe which used half lemonade, half milk, which is supposed to make them light and fluffy... sounds suspicious but I am going to give it a go this weekend.... love from Belleau Kitchen x

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  14. If it wasn't so darn hot in Indiana I'd be making these right now. Alas... it'll have to wait.

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  15. Scones with clotted cream and jam - heavy sigh - they're to die for! Mr Other P is totally right, they need to be homemade. Love your new tea set :)

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  16. I will try this recipe, and I will feel authentic, for it is directly from an Englishman. I will pat myself on the back.

    I want to steal your teacups and saucers.

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  17. These look amazing - definitely going to try them this week!! Thanks for the recipe and the yummy pictures!!

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  18. Oh, I love REAL English scones! And your photos are gorgeous!

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  19. Scones have been a bit neglected lately haven't they. I must say the cheesy ones are usually my favourites although this plain one with a big blob of jam looks very tempting.

    Bakewell Tart is my favourite English cake!

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  20. Will definitely try it !! I agree with you the Starbucks scones are an insult to scones :D I remember how I loved the homemade scones my Mum used to bake when I was a child. I'll try your recipe and ask hers as well. Thanks for the yummy reminder !

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  22. Mr. P--I have a friend and his daughter who are traveling all over Wales at the moment. They love interesting local restaurants with great food. Any suggestions? Thanks.

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  23. They look great- cream of tartar really does give you that fluffy texture!
    Found your blog through belleau kitchen's.
    Looking forward to reading more!

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  24. My favourite scone recipe is the Australian Country Womens Association version.

    http://www.abc.net.au/local/recipes/2004/09/17/1199471.htm

    The instructions at that site leave a bit to be desired.

    I say, sift dry ingredients. Make a well in dry ingredients. Pour liquid in well then cut through with a flat bladed knife until the mix just comes together. Then follow on with the instructions at the link above.

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  25. *drools* Oh god, scones. I love scones. I think I love them too much. Scones, clotted cream and raspberry jam (apparently the latter makes me weird - I just don't like strawberry jam)- I think I could eat them every day. I'm going to have to try Mr Other P's recipe as I have yet to find a scone recipe that I'm completely satisfied with.

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  26. I've never tasted a store-bought scone in the US or the UK that comes close to a homemade scone. I made my own recipe years ago, trying to duplicate my grandmother's which was not written down. She (born and raised in the Lake District) made (and I make) the wedge-shaped scone. Look at my recipe and you'll see why!

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  27. So funny. I posted about scones on July 14 as well. Looking forward to trying out your eggless recipe.

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  28. Hooray for British scones!! I think I'm in love. I feel I can do nothing else until I give this recipe a try and pull out my tea pot - even here in America. :-)

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  29. Finally had a moment to make these - sooo yummy! Thanks for sharing!

    http://girl-dog-oven.blogspot.com/2010/08/bread-week-scones.html

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  30. So I finally got around to MAKING these scones (I'm the Charlotte who posted on 14 July) and I have to say, they get two big thumbs up from me! Light, fluffy, not dry in the least. Next step: an attempt at clotted cream...

    And Alia - raspberry jam is far superior to strawberry.

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That's what he said.

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