The ladies of Laois are up in arms. Well, one lady at any rate.
My brother (and Laois resident), Tom, is responsible. Him and his scones, that is.
My brother is quite the baker, you see. He makes a mean apple tart and scones that are remarked upon by all who partake. And partake they do. While not strictly part of his job description as manager of a local heritage centre, he regularly whips up batches of said scones for the patrons of the centre’s coffee shop.
He relates a story where one group of visiting ladies, upon being served, and approving muchly of some jammy, creamy scones, enquired as to their origin. They expressed surprise, nay, disbelief that Tom was the baker responsible. (One supposes that, in the collected ranks of their husbands, brothers, fathers and sons, they had not a scone-mason among them).
One lady asked, accusingly, for the recipe. Not, I surmise, out of genuine interest in the method, but propelled by her sense of civic duty into exposing Tom as a charlatan and faker baker.
When he mentioned that he used both self-raising flour and baking powder, she felt the evidence against him mounting. When he got to the bit about adding buttermilk, the case, in her mind, was closed, for she could comprehend neither why you would add baking powder, having already used self-raising flour, nor why you would use buttermilk, having used baking powder. However, rather than come out with his hands up, Tom continued with his description, quite unruffled, and it slowly dawned on his accuser that he might, indeed, be a scone maker after all. She perhaps understood him best when he delivered his inevitable summation, which was simply to say “but that’s why mine taste better than yours”. Her case collapsed – rather, one suspects, like her own scones.
These scones are an altogether lighter and more delicate affair than the substantial triangular blocks that operate under the name of scone in the US and are sold by at least one well-known chain of coffee shops. Just slightly sweet, these scones make a great destination for a knob of butter or blob of jam. They’re best eaten fresh, though they will keep in an airtight tin for a few days. You can use margarine in this recipe if you like, though I prefer to make them with butter and I add a wee pinch of salt over and above Tom’s original formula. The recipe is also easily halved if you just want a small supply.
- This makes around 14 x 6cm round scones & takes approx. 15 min to prep + 15 min to bake
- 450g self-raising flour
- 1 heaped tsp baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 100g butter, chilled and cut into small cubes, or soft margarine
- 90g caster sugar
- 2 medium eggs
- 7 tblsp buttermilk
You’ll also need:
- For round scones, you’ll need a round cutter (mine was about 6cm diameter), or you could just use a very sharp knife to cut the scones into triangles or squares; plus you’ll need a large baking sheet
- Preheat your oven to 200C (or 190C for a fan oven)
- Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and whisk together well.
- Rub in the butter or margarine until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Stir in the caster sugar.
- Break the eggs into another bowl and add the buttermilk. Lightly whisk with a fork, just breaking the eggs, and add to the dry ingredients.
- Mix gently with a wooden spoon until a dough forms and pulls cleanly away from the sides of the bowl.
- Turn out onto a floured surface and pat lightly into a round about an inch thick. Don’t knead.
- Cut rounds using a metal cutter, flouring after each cut. Don’t twist the cutter but use a straight downward action. Try not to handle the dough too much when gathering any uncut scraps together to make the remaining scones. Alternatively, cut the dough into triangles or squares using a sharp, floured knife.
- Place the scones on a floured baking tray and lightly dust the tops with flour.
- Bake for about 15 minutes until lightly browned.
- Split the scones, spread with butter, jam, cream (or all three) and enjoy.
- You can, of course, add spices, such as a teaspoon of cinnamon, to the flour, or stir in some dried fruit when you’re adding the caster sugar.