Makes about 1 dozen scones.
These scones are especially good with a full-bodied tea such as Scottish Breakfast, or even Typhoo. I make them with currants, and sometimes I add cranberries (fresh or frozen, not dried). The trick, as with all flaky pastry, is not to handle the dough too much. Also, as soon as the buttermilk combines with the baking powder it starts to work, so it is best to have the cookie sheet, cutter and beaten egg ready to go ahead of time.
I always keep sticks of butter in the freezer, in case an urgent need for scones (or a pie) should arise. Rather than warming up the butter to a temperature where it can be successfully blended, I simply take a medium cheese grater and grate the still-frozen butter into the flour mixture. This produces an excellent flaky texture, plus the colder butter gives you a little extra time to work with the dough before it has to be put into the oven.
It is best to use a sharp cookie cutter for these scones (or any baking powder biscuit recipe), as a dull implement will squish down the dough and this results in uneven rising. Dipping the cutter in flour helps a lot, if you must use a drinking glass or other unsharp method of cutting out the scones.
- Mixing bowl
- Cookie sheet, ungreased
- Whisk or fork
- Medium grater
- 2½ inch round cookie cutter (or a drinking glass, etc.)
- small brush or other means of applying beaten egg to the scones
- 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, or 3 if cranberries will be added
- 2½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- ½ cup currants (or raisins)
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 lightly beaten egg, for brushing on top
Preheat the oven to 425 ºF (220 ºC)
Set aside a small bowl with about ½ inch of flour in it. This will be used to dip the cookie cutter into later. Beat the egg in a small bowl or measuring cup and set aside for later.
In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda using a whisk or fork, until the mixture looks even, and has no clumps.
If you are using frozen butter, grate it with a medium grater into the flour mixture. If the butter is cold but not frozen, then cut it into cubes and blend it into the flour using a pastry blender or two knives or whatever useful implement comes to hand. The goal is to have pea-sized lumps of butter distributed throughout the flour.
Mix in the currants (or raisins) with a fork, until they (and the clumps of butter) are evenly distributed.
If the oven has reached the desired temperature, add the buttermilk to the flour mixture, all at once, stirring constantly with a fork. Dig down and around to be sure all the flour gets wet. Depending on the exact type and grind of flour, more buttermilk may be required. The goal is a dough that just holds together without being wet. Sorry, but experience is the only way to know!
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and, using your hands, gather it together and flatten it down into a roundish shape about ¾ inch thick. While gathering and smooshing, try to incorporate any loose or dry bits of flour. A few seconds of kneading is okay, but don’t overwork the dough!
If you want to add cranberries, or some other kind of berry, now is the time! Just press them into the dough, spacing them evenly.
Dip the cookie cutter into the bowl of flour, then use it to cut out a round of dough and place it on the ungreased cookie sheet. Gathering the scraps, continue cutting out scones, remembering to dip the cutter in flour each time. Brush the top of each scone with some of the beaten egg. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden. Let cool on a rack.