My scone-baking days began in childhood at shearing time on my parents’ property. I have lovely memories of bundling up a freshly baked batch of scones in a tea towel to keep warm and taking them up to the shearing shed to be devoured at ‘smoko’. Nowadays, when I’m pushed for time or only have the basics in the pantry, scones fit the bill perfectly. They're also a favourite to make when I want to bake something nostalgic and soul-warming.
The Australian scone, as we know it today, seems to have evolved from griddlecakes, which were traditionally cooked on a heavy iron griddle on the stovetop. When raising agents were added to flour, the dough was then baked in the oven instead, resulting in the lighter, more well-risen version of the scone.
The simplicity of the basic scone is marvellous, but the dough is actually a versatile beginning for many baked goods, including Britain's roly poly, the Australian damper, as well as strawberry shortcakes and cobblers from the US. And you can’t go past our modern innovations such as cheese and bacon scrolls (try these and you’ll never buy them again) or chocolate, coffee and raisin rolls (which are more like a cakey biscuit). All based on basic scone dough, they are worth the extra steps to make them.
As for perfecting this incredibly versatile dough, here are my tips:
1. Cut the butter into small, even pieces and, if the recipe specifies, soften it slightly before using; this will help incorporate it into the flour more quickly and evenly.
2. Only use your fingertips, not your whole hands, when rubbing in the butter. As the palms are the warmest part of the hands, the butter is more likely to melt in contact with them, which can result in heavy scones. Also, keep the palms of your hands facing upwards and lift the flour high out of the bowl when rubbing in the butter, as this will aerate the mixture and help give the scones a lighter texture.
3. Handle the dough as little as possible to prevent the finished scone dough from being heavy. The less you work your dough, the lighter your scones will be.
And my final unofficial, tip for scone enjoyment is to wrap them in a clean tea towel to keep them warm – just for old time's sake…
3. Cream scones
Anneka's mission is to connect home cooks with the magic of baking, and through this, with those they love. Read our interview with her or for hands-on baking classes and baking tips, visit her at BakeClub. Don't miss what's coming out of her oven via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Photography by Alan Benson. Styling by Kristine Duran-Thiessen. Food preparation by Tina McLeish.
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