Sunday afternoons – especially sunny, springlike Sunday afternoons – were made for traditional English tea of sandwiches and scones.  Yesterday was a bit coolish for sitting outside on the patio, but it was the perfect day for sitting inside with the bright, daylight-savings sunlight streaming through the windows.  Last weekend was officially the first day of Spring – yesterday was officially the first day that felt like spring.    And, every year, it makes me want to run around and skip rope and pick daffodils like a child.

So, to celebrate the longer days, to embrace the warmer temperatures, and to thoroughly relish the knowledge that summer is right around the corner, I treated the mister and my mother-in-law to an afternoon tea of scones with homemade lemon curd.  Scones are one of those treats that are so easy to make, it’s almost embarassing to take such pleasure in them.  You can have the batter put together in 10 minutes, then it takes another 18-ish minutes to bake, so in less than a half an hour, you can be sitting down to piping hot, slightly sweet scones with gorgeous, sticky jam melting into the layers.

When it comes to making scones (and American biscuits, too, which they so closely resemble), the most important thing to remember is to handle them as little as possible, especially after you add the liquids.  Alton Brown had the best suggestion when it comes to recipes which require butter to be cut in – he says to chill the measured butter (about 15 minutes or so in the freezer will do the job) and use a cheese grater to grate the butter into the flour mixture, so you only have to lightly rub in the butter into the flour, minimizing the chance that you’ll melt the butter, which you don’t want to do.

Buttermilk and Raisin Scones

  • 3/4 cup buttermilk (or, you can use 1/2 cup milk + 1/4 cup Greek yogurt)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • pinch salt
  • pinch cinnamon or nutmeg
  • 5 oz butter, frozen and grated
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1 egg, 1 tsp milk and some demerera sugar for glaze

Preheat oven to 425 F and prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper.  In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and spice and set aside.  Add the grated chilled butter and toss to combine, rubbing in slightly, then add raisins and make a well in the middle.  In a 2-cup measuring pitcher, mix the buttermilk (or milk and yogurt combo) with the eggs, mixing thoroughly until smooth, then pour into the dry ingredients and use a spoon to mix quickly – don’t overmix!  This is going to be very sticky.  Flour your work surface, then pour out the batter and dust the top with another tablespoon or so of flour.  Pat the dough into a round, then roll smooth to about 3/4″ thickness.  Use a 2-2 1/2″ round cutter and you should wind up with 14-16 scones.  Be careful when you gather up your scraps and re-roll, try not to overhandle the dough.  Beat an egg, slightly thinned with a teaspoon of milk, and brush over the tops of the scones, then sprinkle with the demerera sugar, then pop them in the oven and immediately turn down the heat to 400 F and bake for 17-20 minutes until golden on top.

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