Thursday, December 9, 2010

Baking Scones: A Comedy of Errors

When I was last back in the UK, my Granny made the most delicious wholemeal scones. Having a hunkering for them, I asked her to send me the recipe so I could make them myself. A straightforward recipe, I thought they would be a breeze to make...then Fate stepped in to make my attempt so much more 'interesting' than it should have been!

Firstly the wholemeal flour. I presumed I could buy it anywhere...wrong. I'd been to the Organic Cafe & Food Shop in the morning but didn't bother looking at their flours since I planned to buy it at the normal supermarket. The only wholemeal flour Choithram's had was made by a local company (Jenan) and I didn't get the feeling that it would be the highest quality flour in the world so off I drove to Spinneys (just 5 minutes away) to find that they didn't have any wholemeal at all. After an emergency call to Simon to go to the Organic Shop and buy me my flour on his way home, he arrived home with self-raising wholemeal flour and assured me that was all they had had. Last time I was shopping in LuLu I had seen they stocked a huge range of flours so yesterday I made the 30 minute journey in the hope they would have normal wholemeal flour. All they had was strong wholemeal bread flour. After verifying with my Mum I learned the self-raising would be better than the strong bread flour...30 minutes back home again to use the flour that I already had. A great start! One bright thing was that LuLu had the black treacle I needed whereas neither of the other 2 supermarkets had it.

I carefully measured out all the dry ingredients and followed the instructions to "rub the butter into the flour until it forms fine crumbs". Sounded so easy, but with butter straight out of the fridge it was anything but. Once that was finally done, I added the other dry ingredients and then the milk. I think that after all my driving around and then faffing around rubbing the butter and flour together I must have been a bit tired because where it was written '1/2 pint of milk' I read '1 pint of milk'. It's not hard to imagine what adding twice the amount of liquid did to my dough - it was more like a pancake batter but it was only when the recipe said to roll the dough into a ball that I cottoned on to the fact that I had made a rather large mistake! What to do? Double all the dry ingredients and make twice as many scones or throw the first batch in the bin and start again? With the air turning blue, I poured the whole lot in the bin and set off to the supermarket to buy more milk.

Second time around, I'd left the butter out of the fridge so the 'rubbing' was much easier and quicker and this time I added the correct amount of liquid. After trying to stir it with a wooden spoon I realised that only using my hands would do the job properly. Now, I am not very tall and my kitchen units are a standard height which are fine for chopping veg but when it comes to getting your hands in a big glass bowl and mixing a dough...I had to stand on my tip-toes to reach in, was covered in flour and all I could think was, "I am never making b****y scones ever again". With the dough finally kneaded together, rolled out and scones cut out, I put them in the oven and waited for them to cook.

Fifteen minutes later with the smell of freshly baked scones in my nose, I cut one open, lathered on my jam and took a bite...of heaven. Yes, absolutely delicious!! All the effort to get to that point undoubtedly added to the flavour and I decided that it had been worth it and I will most certainly make them again. Next time I'll be sure to have the butter at room temperature, will never again mistake 1/2 and 1 pint and I realised that once the ingredients were roughly mixed I could have tipped them out of the bowl onto the worktop and kneaded it on it will be a breeze when I come to make them again (hopefully not tempting Fate!)

I was given the ingredients in imperial so I've put the metric equivalents in brackets
1 lb (450g) wholemeal flour
2 oz (50g) butter
1/2 tsp salt
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tbsp black treacle
Half pint (275ml) milk - approximate, add slowly and check consistency (as I typed this I realised that I actually didn't use enough milk since I misread - again! - my equivalent chart and I put 225ml of milk instead of 275ml, but they still turned out perfectly fine)

If you get self-raising wholemeal flour then add an additional 1/4 tsp baking powder

1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees (fan assisted oven)
2. Rub butter into flour until it forms fine crumbs
3. Add other dry ingredients
4. Mix milk and treacle (it may help to warm them both slightly, especially the treacle)
5. Make a well in the flour and slowly pour in the liquid, mixing as you go until you can form it into a ball
6. Flour your worktop and lay the ball of dough down to roll out to about 1cm thick (or a bit thicker if you prefer)
7. Cut out your scones (I used a 4.5cm cutter and got about 36 scones but if you use a bigger cutter then there will of course be less scones)
8. Put scones on lightly greased baking tray and cook for about 15-20 minutes

Try to resist eating them all at once!!


  1. Nice read! But unfortunately I don't have time for baking!!

  2. Hi Ruth,
    those were really lovely scones. And a lovely afternoon where you served them. I will try and reproduce them and if they turn out as nice as yours I might publish the recipe on my site too if you don't mind.
    Hope to see you soon again.

  3. Thank you, Anja. Of course, please free to reproduce it.
    Was a great afternoon, see you in the new year!