Legend has it in certain Australian kitchens that a clever farmer's wife would always keep an eye on the farm gate. If she saw visitors arriving at the gate, the fire went on and a scone dough was mixed, cut and in the oven before the vehicle pulled up outside the front verandah. Practice makes perfect, apparently.
However, I have a confession to make. Once upon a time the scones I baked turned out like rock cakes, until my little boy came home from school (some twenty-five years ago) with a scone recipe torn from an old magazine. I learned from this recipe that the addition of buttermilk as the liquid made all the difference. And, as I further discovered by chatting with the talented ladies from the Country Women's Association (CWA), scones are quite simple to make if you follow a few rules. Handle the dough lightly, mix it quickly with a large knife or spatula, don't knead the dough, just pat it out, and take care not to twist the cutter as you cut or you will end up with little leaning towers of scone Pisa.
For more guidance, let's turn to the pages of my much-loved 1941 edition of The Coronation Cookery Book (CWA NSW, "Price 2/9"), which advises on page 210: "Beware of doing any of these in scone making:
1. Mixing the dough too dry. This produces a rough-looking scone (Hmmm, this might explain my former rock cakes!),
2. Mixing the dough too wet, causing the scone to spread,
3. Not mixing the liquid evenly,
4. Baking too slowly or too quickly,
5. Not baking mixture long enough,
6. Not placing scones on a cake-cooler when cooked,
7. Cutting with a knife, which makes them 'doughy', and
8. Packing them when they are hot."
One more tip from me, place your scone cutters into the hot oven after washing them. This will stop them from rusting. You want to preserve them, particularly if they are hand-made by a tinsmith, like mine, which were made by Clarke Brothers in Sovereign Hill, Victoria.
FEATHERLIGHT BUTTERMILK SCONES
2 cups self raising flour
1/3 cup vanilla infused caster sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 free range egg whisked with 3/4 cup buttermilk
a drop of good vanilla extract
Preheat your oven to 200-210 degrees C. Combine the sifted flour and caster sugar in a mixing bowl. Using your fingers (or a pastry cutter, see pic), rub the butter into the flour and sugar until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre. Pour combined egg and buttermilk, and a droplet of vanilla extract, into the bowl and mix well with a butter knife or spatula to a soft, sticky dough, add a little extra flour or buttermilk as required but do not over-mix. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured bench and pat gently till smooth. Roll or press out the dough to approximately 2cm thickness and cut into rounds with a floured scone cutter. Pack the scones closely on a lined scone tray and bake them in a hot oven for 15 minutes until they are golden. Turn the scones out onto a wire rack, then cover them with a clean tea towel and allow them to cool. Makes 12. Serve with home made jam and whipped cream.
I've also included my recipes for pumpkin scones and cheese and chive scones.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 free range egg, whisked with 1/2 cup milk
1 cup cooked pumpkin, mashed, cold
3 cups self raising flour
Preheat your oven to 200-210 degrees C. Cream the butter and sugar. Stir in the combined egg and milk then the pumpkin. Add the flour and use a butter knife or spatula to fold through to a soft dough, add a little extra flour if the dough is sticky. Turn dough onto a lightly floured bench and pat gently till smooth. Press out to approximately 2 cm thickness and cut into rounds with a floured scone cutter. Pack closely on a lined scone tray and bake in a hot oven for 15 minutes till golden. Turn onto a wire rack, cover with a clean tea towel and allow to cool. Makes 24.
CHEESE AND CHIVE SCONES
2 cups self raising flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup freshly shredded tasty cheese
1 - 2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 cup milk
Preheat your oven to 200-210 degrees C. Combine sifted flour and butter in a mixing bowl. Using your fingers or a pastry cutter, rub butter into the flour until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the cheese and chives. Make a well in the centre. Pour milk into the bowl and mix well with a butter knife or spatula to a soft, sticky dough, add a little extra flour or milk as required but do not overmix. Turn dough onto a lightly floured bench and pat till smooth. Roll or press out to approximately 2cm thickness and cut into rounds with a floured scone cutter. Pack closely on a lined scone tray and bake in a hot oven for 15 minutes till golden. Turn onto a wire rack, cover with a clean tea towel and allow to cool. Makes approximately 16.
This post was originally published in September 2011 and was dedicated to my lovely friend Ester Wimborne (a.k.a. @DairyGoodness). Tragically, Ester died last month and I would like to once again dedicate this post to her honour. I know she loved a good scone with plenty of butter and cream.
Tell me dear readers, what are your favourite scones? And do you like to serve them with jam and cream?
Lizzy (Good Things)
23/9/2011 09:07:28 pm
Debbie, you're welcome. Interesting recipes on your blog!
23/9/2011 09:39:30 pm
Love the variations of the scones-a savoury scone is always a welcome sight on a table! :)
23/9/2011 11:54:54 pm
That pastry cutter is something my mother used to have and then it became something we considered quite old fashioned but now it is something we consider fashionable once again but by now my mother has discarded hers and we all must go out and purchase our own. Will add 'pastry cutter' to this week's shopping list.
Lizzy (Good Things)
23/9/2011 11:57:18 pm
Thanks for the post.
26/9/2011 09:21:33 am
Heya, great list of tips for making scones!
Lizzy (Good Things)
26/9/2011 09:25:57 am
Thanks Martyna for the feedback! Good to hear from you.
Lizzy (good things)
10/10/2011 08:19:34 am
Thank you Elizabeth for the lovely feedback and compliment. Good to hear from you!
Scrumptious, indeed - particularly the pumpkin recipe (must be the time of year up here. ; ))
Lizzy (Good Things)
11/10/2011 10:48:59 pm
Susan, thanks so much for your kind feedback. I really enjoy your Black and White Wednesday posts. I think it is going to be HUGELY popular!!!
4/8/2014 01:30:49 pm
What lovely scones, butter and cream are a must!
9/8/2014 07:13:10 pm
9/8/2014 07:13:35 pm
Mine too, Lisa! Thanks for stopping by!
4/8/2014 04:54:46 pm
Good to hear that you got a scone recipe that you love! I find the smaller the scone, the harder they are too. A lovely tribute to Ester too :)
9/8/2014 07:13:58 pm
Thanks so much, Lorraine xo
9/8/2014 07:14:23 pm
Jamie, thank you for your very kind words.
9/8/2014 07:14:48 pm
Thanks so much, Padaek!
Scones are such a brilliant afternoon tea, you can have a feast within half. I always use Margaret Fulton's buttermilk scone recipe but I've tried many variations over the years, lemonade scones, whipped cream scones which are very light but a good scone needs to have a slight density as well as the lightness. Your cheese scone recipe reminds me I haven't made cheese scones for years so I'll have to try them.
9/8/2014 07:15:25 pm
Me too, Elizabeth... I think my Peter would love it if I made them again really soon! : )
5/8/2014 12:55:58 pm
i've also read that a good farmer's wife had the scones in the oven by the time the billy boiled, and out of the oven by the time the tea was brewed and ready to pour. isn't that wonderful!
9/8/2014 07:15:51 pm
It so is, Elizabeth! Thanks for sharing that xo
9/8/2014 07:16:17 pm
Cheri, thanks so much!
5/8/2014 02:54:54 pm
For some reason we don't bake a lot of scones (or even biscuits, which are more a US thing). They have lovely flavor and texture so we really should. Wonderful job with these -- thanks.
9/8/2014 07:16:40 pm
John, thanks so much for your kind words!
5/8/2014 07:23:25 pm
I never knew that about not twisting the cutter! Now I know why mine always lean. I shall have to buy a proper scone cutter LIz. I wonder how long the driveways were that scones would be ready before the visitors arrived :)
9/8/2014 07:17:39 pm
I think those farm driveways must have been long ones, Tandy... the scones would be in the oven by the time the people arrived! Yes, do try not twisting them. And a proper cutter does help too xo
9/8/2014 07:18:03 pm
Thank you, Mandy xo
5/8/2014 09:28:30 pm
Great tips! Now I can't decide which one to do first. Perhaps all three?! Thanks for sharing!
9/8/2014 07:18:22 pm
Aw Julie, thank you!
5/8/2014 10:43:05 pm
I remember commenting on this post a few years ago. It's lovely that in memory of Ester you have rededicated this post to her xx
9/8/2014 07:19:06 pm
Charlie, thank you very kindly xoxo
6/8/2014 12:06:55 am
These look fabulous! I use a similar recipe, not with buttermilk but also uses an egg. I appreciate your list of tips; this is one food that is easy once you know how but is deceptively finicky.
9/8/2014 07:19:36 pm
That is so true... I hope you might try these recipes : )
9/8/2014 07:20:17 pm
Hi Glenda, no, I won't be I'm afraid, as we are travelling right now. : )
9/8/2014 07:20:58 pm
Maureen, it was so lovely to see you this week.... now I am looking forward to seeing pumpkin scones on your bloggy xo
8/8/2014 06:05:20 pm
I have to say that I'm not the best scone maker in the world but my skills have improved. My friend Noeline was a demon scone maker and taught me the lesson about mixing with a knife and using buttermilk. She insisted on only NZ Epicure cheese in her cheese scones, which was exhorbitant in price but gave a great sharp flavour. Your pumpkin scone recipe is exactly the same as mine. I think it is more forgiving than basic scones.
9/8/2014 07:22:31 pm
Oooooh, sounds great Fiona... mine is an oldie but goodie.
9/8/2014 06:53:08 pm
Scones... Oh how I adore scones. I will drive hours for a good scone, any leftovers Liz? :) I've made hundreds and hundreds of scones in my day, they were very popular when I worked in the kitchen. I always found the plain w/ jam & cream were the most popular. Although I personally am partial to a raisin loaded scone. Dang, hungry for scones now. :)
9/8/2014 07:23:20 pm
Well Miss Anna, you must be a scone legend then! A raisin studded scone sounds dandy! : )
12/8/2014 10:59:50 am
That's a great thing to do, Anne! I agree with you about Devonshire teas... you rarely get a luscious scone. Home made are much better!
12/8/2014 11:00:45 am
Hi Elizabeth... I do use Pepe Saya butter when I can get my hands on it... it's so divine. And thank you for your very kind words xo
12/8/2014 11:01:25 am
Thank you Celia love... I know she did when I first posted it... xo
12/8/2014 01:21:13 am
These look delicious and I love that you have put in a variety of sweet & savoury. My scones this week turned out a "bit rough" so it's now good to know why and the scone cutter tip is also a great one - thank you.
12/8/2014 11:02:01 am
Thanks Vicki, I hope your week improves : )
12/8/2014 11:03:02 am
Hi David, thank you.... I wonder what was different about your Nana's recipe? Do tell. Re the Devon cream, check Lavender and Lovage blog... Karen might have a recipe for that one.
12/8/2014 03:43:45 pm
Your scones look exceptional Lizzy! Another recipe for me to try!
14/8/2014 03:13:11 am
Wow they look good - and judging by the amount of comments here a lot of people agree!
All your scones sound delicious Lizzie and I've now picked up a new tip. I knew about not handling the dough too much and about using sour liquid (sour milk works well as does yogurt), but not about twisting the cutter. That probably explains why most of mine lean at crazy angles.
7/5/2016 03:41:12 am
Made these for mother's day, absolutely delicious!
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.