Whether it’s called a 'skon' or a 'scone' in your household, little can top this tea-time accompaniment, hot out of the oven. With its burnished golden top and light, fluffy interior – and ferrying a good dollop of cream and smear of jam, it’s the ultimate comfort food snack.
As far as home baking goes, perfecting the scone has been shrouded in mystery. Retaining moisture on the inside while achieving that coveted golden edge – and enough height – is a science all of its own, especially given there’s no buttery icing or sweetened ganache to enhance it. It’s all in the way you handle the humble ingredients, meaning margin for error is scant.
Lucky for you, then, we’ve coughed up the secrets to perfecting the scone, so you can have a batch ready to go at any time:
Top 10 scone tips
1. Dip your cookie cutter in plain flour before cutting each scone to avoid it sticking to your mix.
2. Paul Hollywood suggests using strong bread flour, like self-raising, as it gives a great structure to the scone with a fluffy, light crumb.
Ring the changes: pumpkin, paprika and pecorino scones
3. According to our favourite Gourmet Farmer, Matthew Evans', buttermilk, or (milk with some yoghurt added), is the trick to his favourite scone dough (get his recipe here).
4. A good tip for keeping your scones moist during cooking is to place them close together on the baking tray, says Luke Nguyen in Luke Nguyen's United Kingdom. The reason being that when they butt up to each other this way, they don’t dry out. But if you're baking for competition, it's a different story. In River Cottage Australia, a local CWA banking champion Nelleke Gorton explains to Paul West - who's planning to enter the pumpkin scone competition at a local Harvest Fair - that cooking show judges want to see the edges of each scone.
5. The secret ingredient in SBS’s Bakeproof columnist Anneka Manning’s foolproof featherlight scones is cream. When mixed in with a flat-bladed knife, it adds lightness to the dough.
6. Anneka also suggests using your fingertips rather than your whole hands to mix the dough, as the palms are the warmest part of our hands. 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.
You can use a food processor to prepare the scone mix, just be sure not to overmix, otherwise, the dough will become tough and the scones will lose their airiness.
7. If using an egg wash (or milk) to brush your scones, be sure not to let the wash drip over the sides of the scones.
8. For extra airy scones, double sift the flour.
9. And of course, be sure to handle your dough gently, and as little as possible.
Try Paul West's no-fuss scone recipe.
10. Finally, when your warm scones are out of the oven, if you want to preserve the light texture, don't cut them with a knife. As Nelleke Gorton tells Paul West, it's best to use your fingers to prise them apart gently.
For a real hot treat, try these extra crisp blueberry skillet scones, hot off the griddle. Warning: you may be converted to the stovetop treatment.
“This is a simple and rustic recipe for perfectly moist scones. For the quintessential British experience, it’s essential to serve your scones warm with clotted cream and jam. A good tip for keeping your scones moist during cooking is to place them close together on the baking tray.” Luke Nguyen, Luke Nguyen's United Kingdom
Everybody loves a scone – especially when warm from the oven. Even though they have a reputation for being tricky to make, in reality they're fast and simple, especially when you have a good recipe like this one. The secret to the lightness of these scones is the cream – a trick I learnt many years ago.