Some people are breakfast people, others prefer lunch, but my favourite meal of the day by a country mile is afternoon tea. Sitting down with a glass of champagne in a posh London hotel with an overloaded cake stand in front of me, is about as good as it gets. As long as there are scones, jam, clotted cream, cucumber sandwiches – and of course friends - I am happy. The best afternoon teas are the ones that start about 3 and last until about 8. My favourite place in the world for afternoon tea is Browns Hotel in London, although it is buttock-clenchingly expensive. The Wolesey just down the road is surprisingly reasonable and I have always wanted to try Betty's of Harrogate, but never made it. These days I don't get out as much as I once did, so the next best thing is baking my own scones.
225g self raising flour
1/2 tsp salt
30g caster sugar
50g sultanas if using
150 ml milk
1 egg beaten
Makes: about 8
Takes: about 10m to make, 10-15m to bake.
Heat the oven to 200c (fan), grease a baking sheet with butter.
Sieve the flour into a large bowl. I never normally bother, but I have a problem with scones. Mine don’t rise as much as I like, so I don’t take any chances. Add the cubed butter and salt. Quickly rub the butter into the flour using your fingers, until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and mix with a wooden spoon. If you are using sultanas then add them here. After eating no other fruit for years, my 7yo now refuses them. Sigh. Make a well in the middle and stir in enough milk to make a soft dough. If it is too sticky, add a little more flour.
Turn the mixture on to a floured board and knead very lightly until it all comes together. If you knead too much, it will overwork the dough and they won’t rise. And there is nothing more dispiriting than a scone that likes look a Scotch pancake.
The dough should be about 2cm thick. Then using a 5cm cutter cut rounds out, trying to get as many as you can out of the dough without re-rolling it. Brush lightly with an egg glaze (a slight hassle, but makes them look so much prettier) and whack in the oven for 10-15 minutes. You’ll know when they are done, as they’ll be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Cool before eating. Serve with clotted cream (this should go first, instead of butter – but I am aware this is a controversial point) and jam. I prefer strawberry.
PS I had some great tips on my YouTube channel where you can see me baking scones in my own kitchen! I know, it doesn't get more exciting than that. Apparently, good ways to ensure they rise are...
- pushing down not twisting with the cutter when you cut them out
- not using glasses to cut them out (whoops!) as it toughens the dough up for scientific reasons, I don't entirely understand
- add a bit of baking powder
- don't use a rolling pin, but push them down with your hand
- use a butter knife not a spoon to mix the milk in
- try to "work" them as little as possible