Photo by the writer
Photo by the writer

Nothing goes with an afternoon tea more perfectly than scones and finger sandwiches. Placed somewhere between bread and cake, scones — a favourite in England and Ireland — are soft and flaky and can be eaten sweet or savoury depending on the condiments you use.

The origins of scones can be traced back to Scotland, where they were first introduced in the 1500s: made using unleavened oats baked on a griddle, the original scones were round and flat and resembled bread more than the cake-y version we see today. Historians speculate that scones could also have come from Wales, where traditionally tiny cakes made from yeast were baked on bakestones or griddles.

The modern version of scones that we know, however, exploded in popularity when baking powder became available to the masses in the mid-1800s — it was sold only by chemists, not grocers. Created by British chemist Alfred Bird in 1843 because his wife was allergic to eggs and yeast, baking powder made things faster and easier to bake in the kitchen and resulted in an explosion of lighter, fluffier cakes and baked treats.

This quintessential British treat is quick and easy to make

Lemon and Currant Scones

Have these scones with cream and jam if you’re craving something sweet or just dab on some butter to make them savoury. Don’t want lemons and currants in your scones? Skip out on them and bake the scones plain.

You can also play around with different combinations: eg orange zest and ginger, cinnamon and raisins, or sprinkle cheese on top of a plain scone to make it savoury — the possibilities are endless. Serve these fresh with some hot chai.

Ingredients (Makes 8)

For the scones

2 cups flour 3 tablespoons sugar 2 tablespoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon lemon zest 1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional) 1 cup dried redcurrants 1/2 cup unsalted butter 3/4 cup heavy, cold cream 2 small eggs or 1 large egg

For the egg wash

1 egg 1 tablespoon cream

Method

Before you start, cool the mixing bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes and then chill the butter for a few minutes.

To make lemon zest, shave the skin of the lemon with a grater. In a mixing bowl, blend the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder) and then add the lemon zest. Add a teaspoon of lemon juice if desired. Add currants to the mixture.

Take out the butter and cut into pieces. Place the small pieces back in the freezer for five minutes to chill the butter more.

Add a little butter to the mixture when blending till it is a crumbly texture.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and then add the cream to it. Whisk well.

Then, add it to the dry ingredients-butter mixture a little at a time. Keep on mixing it till it becomes a dough-like texture.

The dough should be sticky and soft.

Sprinkle some flour on the dough to make it easier to knead. Fold the dough and knead well — at least once or twice. Then form the dough into a ball.

Sprinkle flour on a flat surface and roll out the dough three/four-inches thick. Cut the rolled-out dough into four. Halve each of the four sections.

This should result in eight pieces.

Line a baking pan with baking paper. Place the scones two inches apart as they double in size. Whisk the egg and cream to make the egg wash. Brush the scones with egg wash and lightly sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 15-20 minutes at 200 °C or until golden brown. Cool on racks before serving with malai (cream) and jam.

Published in Dawn, EOS, July 9th, 2023

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