Ros Rants: The secrets of scones


Scones are a special part of the Cookery School experience, so we are strict with exactly how they are made – after all, they are notorious for causing culinary disasters! We love making them for breakfast and do a whole range of different flavours – regular with jam and cream (or cream and jam), apple, raisin, cheese and herb and even whisky-flavoured, served with whisky whipped cream.

These beautiful baked goods are very easy to make, but equally, there is lots of room for error and the result can sometimes be hard, tough inedible lumps of dough. The biggest secret to scone success? Mixing as little as possible and as lightly as possible.

I hate to say that I have watched well-known pastry chefs kneading their scones on television programmes. I yell to them through the television to stop as their scones will be tough.  They make them look lovely and straight and up and down but I can tell you for sure that they will not be melt-in-the-mouth or delicate.  By kneading the scone dough, the gluten is made active and the scone is then no longer cake-like but rather bread-like.  Bread needs to be kneaded but scones need to be treated with the lightest of touches to remain airy.


The perfect scone method

As with all baking, weigh out all ingredients before you start.  I love using cups as my mother and grandmother worked that way. These days we have converted my inherited recipe into ounces and grams but cups are still my favourite! Place all the dry ingredients in a bowl and gently mix them together, then mix all the wet ingredients together (beaten egg, milk and oil).  We love using oil as it is light on animal fat and also very easy to use. Because we serve the scones with butter or whipped cream, it is okay not to use butter in the scone itself.

However, if you prefer a scone made with butter, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the flour resembles a coarse type of grain.  You will then only beat the egg with milk and omit the oil.

With wet and dry ingredients separate, ready to mix, and a greased tray ready, quickly add the wet ingredients to the dry ones.  Using a fork and mixing with as few strokes as possible, pull the dough together quickly.  Once it has formed a rough ball, tipple everything onto the work surface.  If the mixture is too wet, sprinkle a little flour onto the surface so that the dough can be moved around more easily.  Using your hands, pat the dough out into a rough square and then fold it over once on itself.  This fold gives the traditional mark in the middle of the scone.  Once baked one can easily pull the scone apart in the middle because of this fold.

Using a floured cutter to stop the dough from sticking to the cutter, cut the dough into scones and place them on a greased baking tray, making sure that they have space to rise.

Use a little of the leftover milk and egg mixture or some milk to brush over the tops of the scones to give them a lovely sheen.

Place in hot oven 230°C or 450°F until they are golden brown.  Remove from the oven and serve immediately, either with lashings of jam and cream (if sweet) or just butter (if savoury).

Find our full scone recipe here. 

Small tips – like how to make the perfect scone – can elevate your home cooking from good to great. Find more tips and tricks on our blog, or join one of our classes or courses!