Twists on a teatime favourite

Melt-in-the-mouth and sat­is­fy­ing, the sim­ple scone lends it­self to a va­ri­ety of flavours, all de­li­cious at the sum­mer table

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crumbly and lightly sweet­ened, scones are sim­ple bakes, yet they are the main­stay of the tra­di­tional af­ter­noon tea and a defin­ing el­e­ment of a cream tea. As well as pop­u­lar fruit scones con­tain­ing cur­rants or sul­tanas, they can be savoury, flavoured with cheese or herbs.

Be­lieved to have orig­i­nated in Scotland, they were ini­tially large, grid­dled oat rounds, called ban­nocks, di­vided into tri­an­gu­lar slices, known as scones. The name may be linked to the Stone or ‘Scone’ of Des­tiny, where Scot­tish kings were crowned, or de­rived from the Dutch word ‘schoonbroo­d’ or Ger­man ‘schon­brot’, mean­ing ‘fine bread’. It was the in­tro­duc­tion of bak­ing pow­der in the mid 19th cen­tury that marked the move from the grid­dle cake va­ri­ety to the leav­ened ver­sion of to­day.

Serv­ing pref­er­ences

It was then that Anna, Duchess of Bed­ford ob­served the 4pm prac­tice of tak­ing af­ter­noon tea. The scone is tra­di­tion­ally the sec­ond course, fol­low­ing the sand­wiches and com­ing be­fore the cake.

The sim­pler cream tea con­sists of freshly baked scones, clot­ted cream and jam, usu­ally strawberry, ac­com­pa­nied by a pot of tea. It is Cor­nish style to spread jam on first, fol­lowed by cream, and Devon style to spread the jam on top of the cream.

There are also re­gional dif­fer­ences to the pro­nun­ci­a­tion of the word it­self, be­ing ei­ther ‘scon’ to rhyme with ‘gone’ or ‘scone’ to rhyme with ‘own’.

They are a much-loved Bri­tish bake, although closer to a pas­try than a bread, shar­ing al­most iden­ti­cal in­gre­di­ents al­beit in dif­fer­ent ra­tios.

To en­sure a batch of scones comes out of the oven well-risen and with a light, fluffy tex­ture, it is best to en­sure the in­gre­di­ents are kept as cool as pos­si­ble and not to over-knead when mak­ing the dough.

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