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
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.
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.