Okay I’ve made a lot of scones in my life. I’ve been cooking them for as long as I can remember. Following the recipe below I even won prizes for them at the Bombala Show when I was a teen. Okay, not a grand claim to fame, I grant you, but the competition is fierce in those country towns.
Mum always said that the reason I made good scones was because I had cold fingers (and toes – but that’s immaterial when it comes to scone making). While I don’t think she knew why that made a difference, it was something that the CWA (Country Women’s Association) ladies would have said made a difference…at least back in those days. These days the CWA have joined the 3-ingredient bandwagon with flour, cream and lemonade the main ingredients. Check out this story of 92 year old Muriel Halsted. It’s pretty similar to the version I make with lemon, lime & bitters when I’m short of time. I’ll tell you about that another time.
Anyways, Mum was right, having cold hands does make a difference when you’re making scones. It’s to do with how the hot air of the oven hits the cold butter and the light layers you get as a result. The more slowly it melts (and if it’s cold to start with it melts more slowly), the morel little pockets in the dough it creates as the scone rises, and therefore the flakier the texture in the end result. In fact, aside from rubbing the butter into the flour, the less that you can handle your scones the better.
These days my hands aren’t cold. Not only do I live in South-East Queensland and a climate not known for being cold, but I’m in my 50s and have my own in-built heating system these days. I get around that by popping my buttery flour into the fridge for a bit.
But I digress. The scones I want to tell you about today are posh scones. Fortnum & Mason’s scones.
I’m a firm believer that there’s a scone (and a mac cheese) for many situations in life, and these aren’t the quick scones that you pop on when someone pops around or when it’s 2pm on a Saturday afternoon and you really feel like a scone. These ones take a little more planning. They’re more the scones that you make when you’ve got your hands on some excellent jam, have some leftover whipped cream in the fridge and the time and the inclination to put your hands in flour. They’re more “one is expecting company so one had better let the cook know” type of scones. As I said, posh scones. The sort of scones you’d put on a nice plate or a tray as part of a proper afternoon tea.
These are by far the lightest scones I’ve ever made. By far. The trick seems to be in the double waiting or resting period. Actually, make that triple in my case. Not only did I give these my usual 10 minutes in the fridge after I’d rubbed the butter into the flour, but I also rested the dough for 30 minutes after I’d brought it all together (remember, you resist the temptation to knead scones) and another 30 minutes once you have them cut on the tray. That’s a lot of waiting time – which is why, as yummy as they are, this recipe will never be the one that I turn to for everyday scones. I simply don’t have that much patience.
Fortnum & Mason have very kindly released the recipe for these into the wild – you’ll find it here. Of course, mine don’t look as lovely as the ones in the book do, but they taste amazing – and that’s what counts.