In my early 20’s, I spent a summer working at an old inn on the Isle of Skye. My job was to help out in the kitchen, which meant mostly peeling potatoes, scrubbing pots, and chatting with the chef. This was before there was a bridge connecting Skye to Scotland’s mainland, when the island still felt remote and old-fangled. On my days off, I did a lot of hiking; and one blustery day I came upon a tiny croft house that had been turned into a spinner’s shop. The woman who lived there spun her own yarn (from the wooly sheep that took over the hillside next to her cottage), and knitted it into sweaters she sold to tourists.
She also baked. I got to popping in on most every day off, and she’d always have a fire going. She would make a pot of tea and serve it with scones hot from the oven (clotted cream on the side). I’d eat and get warm while she spun wool and shared local gossip. Let’s just say I ate a lot of scones that summer, and I left Scotland a wee bit heavier but knowing what a good scone tastes like. When I got back to the states, I tried baking my own (epic fail), ordering them in coffee shops (hockey pucks, every one), or buying them at the grocery (oily tasting, never flakey).
I’d pretty much given up scone eating until recently. When food blogger Kamran Siddiqi says these are “proper” scones, he clearly understands the challenge at hand. No lumpy doughiness passing as something edible, these are real live flakey wonders, ready to pair with a proper cup of tea (wool sweater optional). Siddiqi—who’s all of 22 years old but cooks like he has been in the kitchen for decades—comes from an international food-loving family. And while we’re fans of his savory recipes (cookbook number two maybe? Please??) Hand Made Baking is devoted to just that—the cakes, cookies, pies, and pastries we’ve been ogling on his blog for a long time now.
“The very first time I baked scones for my mother,” says Kamran, “she cautiously bit into one, saying, ‘I really don’t like scones.’ But almost immediately, she smiled. Like many people, my mother had memories of scones best described as dull, heavy, or dry. Instead these were buttery, moist, and tender. The secret to good scones is to handle the dough as little as possible and to use cold ingredients to achieve flaky layers; that’s about it! These are proper scones—ones that will heal anyone’s memories of bad scones. Friends often ask me to make this recipe, especially during the summertime, to accompany the many jars of handmade Back of a Napkin jam that I make.”
- 2½ cups/300 g all-purpose flour
- 5 Tbsp/65 g granulated sugar
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp fine-grain sea salt
- 6 Tbsp/85 g cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-in/12-mm cubes
- 1 cup/240 ml heavy (whipping) cream
- 1 large egg, cold
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- ½ tsp granulated sugar
- Pinch of fine-grain sea salt
- Demerara sugar for sprinkling
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and rub it into the flour mixture with your fingertips, two butter knives, or a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal and no pieces of butter are larger than a pea.
- In a glass measuring cup, beat together the cream, egg, and vanilla. Pour the cream mixture into the flour mixture, and stir until a dough forms.
- Lightly flour a clean work surface and turn out the dough, gently kneading it onto itself for 10 seconds.
- Pat the dough into a square about ¾ in/2 cm thick and let it rest for 15 minutes. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425°F/220°C. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Once the oven has preheated, use a knife to cut the dough into nine squares and put them on the prepared baking sheet. Or use a round cutter or the rim of a glass dipped in flour to punch out circles of dough. Be sure to cut them as closely to one another as possible; you should get six rounds, and when you pat the dough back together (it doesn’t need to be a square this time), you should be able to get three more rounds. Avoid rerolling the dough during this second stage, as this will result in tough scones.
- In a small bowl, beat together the egg, granulated sugar, and salt. Lightly brush the tops of the dough pieces with the mixture and wait 1 minute until the topping sets. Sprinkle the tops with Demerara sugar (about ½ tsp per scone). Bake for 13 to 18 min¬utes, until the scones are golden brown. Be sure to rotate the pan halfway through baking.
- Allow the scones to sit in the pan for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool for 5 to 10 minutes more.
- Serve the same day.
We have a split vote in my household on which way the berries should be incorporated into the dough—sandwiched between two layers, or kneaded into it.
The first method: Roll out the dough into a 7-by-12-in/17-by-30-cm rectangle and place the berries on one side of the dough, leaving a ½-in/12-mm border. Fold the dough in half and press down on it with your hands until the dough is ¾ in/2 cm thick. Proceed to cut. If the berries slide out, just push them back in.
The second method: Simply knead the berries into the dough before you pat it into a square and cut it.
RASPBERRY AND DARK CHOCOLATE: Knead chopped dark chocolate (whatever floats your boat; 2 oz/55 g or thereabouts should be sufficient) into the dough. Add 1 cup/125 g of raspberries by either folding the dough over them or kneading them into the dough.
CHOCOLATE: Knead about 2½ oz/70 g of good-quality (54 to 70 percent cacao) chocolate into the dough.
BLUEBERRY-LEMON OR BLUEBERRY-ORANGE: Mix 1 tsp of finely grated lemon or orange zest into the flour mixture, and incorporate 1 cup/125 g of fresh or frozen (unthawed) blueberries into the dough.
RAISIN: Mix 1 cup/125 g of golden raisins into the dough.