Scone-ly marvellous

Maybe it’s because I hadn’t much interest in cooking when I was a teenager – home economics was the only class I ever came bottom of in school – but there is a multitude of ‘basics’ that I’ve never learned how to make. Scones being a case in point.

So little by little, I’ve been trying to get up to speed. I was up early on Saturday morning and I decided to tackle scones, motivated both by the thought of baking aromas filling the house and the idea of having something homemade to have for elevenses.

I used a recipe from a handout I got last year at Sinéad Clancy’s night class in cookery at Ashton School. Sinéad is an enthusiastic, practical teacher who was adamant she could feed a household of four on €40 or €50 a week, largely by being extremely organised and letting nothing go to waste.

Anyway, she made nice old scones so a year later, I finally get around to trying to emulate her. Her recipe uses 900g of flour and 3 eggs for 18-20 scones but the husband doesn’t go for scones so I reduced everything by two-thirds.

First step: rubbing the butter and flour together. The butter could have been softer and I’m concerned I must be getting RSI from too much time spent at the computer because my fingers were aching long before the butter was rubbed in.

Once I finally had a bowlful of golden crumb, the next step was to add my sultanas, using Sinéad’s tip of coating them in flour first to stop them sinking. This seemed to work a treat in the end.

In with the wet ingredients and I quickly had a nice dough, which I rolled out to an inch thick. It was all going rather well so far. At this point, I remembered that the only pastry cutters I own are novelty Christmas ones and I had my doubts that snowman-shaped scones would work.

I’ve definitely seen square scones, however, so I decided to just cut the dough. Having no patience, I didn’t bother to tidy up the edges first so I ended up with maybe six square scones and a few lop-sided, vaguely triangular scones.

A scone is a scone is a scone, I thought, and put five in the oven. I froze the rest on trays, to be bagged once frozen, as recommended by Sinéad. She said, according to my notes, that they can then be cooked from frozen at 160C for 40 minutes. I’ll see how that goes in time.

The first batch, for all that they were misshapen, rose nicely and were crunchy on the outside and pretty light inside, which was great. Nothing worse than a scone with an interior like a damp, dense old mattress. They just cling to your innards for days.

So the scones were good. Will drop by Brennans and get some proper pastry cutters in the next couple of weeks and try again, maybe varying the additions next time out. Sultanas are pretty old school.

Sinéad’s recipe for scones

  • 900g plain white flour
  • 170g butter
  • 3 free range eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 3 heaped tsps baking powder
  • 110g sultana
  • 450ml milk approx

Preheat oven to 200C/400F/Gas mark 9.

Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a large, wide bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, add to flour and rub in. Add sultanas.

Make a well in the centre. Whisk the eggs with the milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough (which should be sticky).

Turn out onto a floured board. Knead lightly, just enough to shape into a round. Roll out to about 2.5cm thick and cut or stamp out scones. Put onto a greased baking sheet. Brush the tops with egg wash and dip each one in granulated sugar. Bake for 12-15 mins until golden-brown on top.

***

I had two of my little scones for the elevenses, by the way. Smeared ’em with lots of butter and homemade gooseberry jam. The jam wasn’t homemade by me but by a nice lady who was selling it at the Midleton Food Fair. Good gooseberry jam like this would have to go in the desert island picnic basket.

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