I like my scones to be short and flaky, not spongy and springy (the texture you get when you use egg). The key to a good scone is in the method. You want to keep some of your butter in large pea-sized pieces, this creates the flaky texture. You also don’t want to work the gluten in your flour too much, which will make your scones tough.
Buttermilk Scones with Almond & Brown Sugar Topping
Makes 8 square scones
350g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
40g light brown sugar
½ tsp sea salt
120g cold butter, cut into cubes
For the topping
additional buttermilk for brushing
40g almonds, chopped roughly
60g light brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir with a whisk to break down any lumps. Add the cold butter and rub together with your hands until you get a breadcrumb texture.
Add the buttermilk and stir gently with a fork to make a dough. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and bring together into a mound, fold it over on itself and press down. Repeat this motion once more so it all comes together; don’t overwork the dough.
Form the dough into a rectangle about 3cm thick, cut lengthways into two halves then cut each half into four square scones. Mix the brown sugar with the almonds. Brush the top of each scone with buttermilk and dip into the topping mixture. Place on a baking tin lined with parchment and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Place in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes until golden. Serve warm with butter and honey.
Extracted from A Sense of Home by Helen James (Hachette Books Ireland, approx €22.50). Photograph by Simon Watson.