9 Mar 2010

Scottish Scones: A valiant first attempt

I must say, I was impressed by how many of you gathered up the ingredients and made Scottish Oatcakes for yourselves. Unfortunately something tells me that my first foray into making scones won’t be quite as inspiring.

The goal was to make two varieties of scone, since there seem to be so many types out there and I needed to start somewhere. Although traditionally scones are round and flat and baked on a griddle before being cut into four pieces, since the magic element of baking powder hit the culinary world, scones are generally baked into the light and fluffy wee cake-like creatures we know and love.

At least all the ones I’ve seen look light and fluffy. Mine were not. No, mine were fairly flat.

The first recipe I used I had fetched from the internet. It called for butter, self-raising flour, caster sugar, a pinch of salt and about 150ml of milk. I raised an eyebrow at the lack of additional baking powder but went with it anyway. Since then I have seen recipes that call for an egg and some that include sour cream instead of milk. There seems to be a division on whether to add baking powder.

I struggled with the dough because it was really sticky, even though I had measured everything out carefully. I ended up having to add more flour just to be able to work with it. Finally I got it to a state where I could palm it out and use a glass to cut the little rounds, but by then I felt I had gone too far with the flour and was worried they would turn out too dry. Then I forgot to wash the tops with milk before putting them in the oven. Oops.

Baked for about 12-15 minutes on a high oven these are what emerged:
The texture inside was lovely and soft and they tasted wonderful, like sweetened, stodgy and moist yet slightly depressed clouds. Added some clotted cream and some gorgeous homemade raspberry jam from the farmers’ market and they became a treat to be reckoned with.
For the next batch it was back to Sue Lawrence and her recipe for porridge scones, which she has adapted from a war-time recipe card that she found. I like the thrifty concept of using up leftover porridge and turning it into a dessert.

Sue’s recipe does not call for butter and just uses the porridge as the binding agent. About 50 grams of medium oatmeal helps bulk them out and give them a homey, rough outer texture. She also uses light brown muscovado sugar and a bit of cream to give them a hint of that porridge-in-the-morning flavour. A pinch of salt and some baking powder and away we go. I had the same problem with the dough this time and added extra flour.

Twenty minutes later, the porridge scones were born and soon I was enjoying one with a bit of butter and jam. These weren’t as sweet tasting as the first ones, and I enjoyed the earthy texture and even the lack of buttery-ness, but maybe that’s because I needed to convince myself of their healthy attributes.
(As a side note, I would not recommend forgoing a proper meal and just eating scones, clotted cream and jam for your tea because you’ll feel like an aging horse dragging yourself into bed. I took all the leftovers to work to save myself from repeating the experience).

I have yet to try Maw Broon’s recipe for treacle scones, which sound delightful, and there are a plethora of recipes to sample on the internet. Overall my first try at scone making was alright, however for something that looked so simple on the page, it just didn’t go as planned. Good flavours, but no lift. No fluff, no puff.

Does anyone know a full-proof Scottish scone recipe? Is there a special technique? What am I doing wrong?

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