Scones: its in the finger twiddle
The first time I saw scones made at home was when my grandmother, who had come to visit from Australia gave me, a five year old, a crash lesson in twiddling your fingers around in dough. She was so able at putting these little teatime delights together that I was convinced that I could pull it through and tested it a few days later with my cousin Adela, who then was eight and at least a head and a half taller than me, seemed pretty much as big as you can get! We had the brilliant idea of taking over the kitchen and giving my mother a surprise wake up from her afternoon nap with warm scones, clotted cream, jam and tea. What we did manage was to destroy the kitchen. There was flour on the ceiling, all over us and it was the laughing that got mum out of bed. Still not too sure she was amused.
Later on I learnt that twiddling the tips of your fingers around in the dough was about keeping the butter as cool as possible, which in turn makes the scones, as most other pastries, fluffy and light.
WIth time I have modified the recipe substituting cream for joghurt. The flavour is not compromised and I feel better about eating them. I also use whole wheat, or buckwheat flour and many times add almond or hazelnut meal or both. For the glaze I substitute eggs wash for yoghurt.
3/4 cup [plus 1 tablespoon yoghurt for glazing]
1 1/2 cups flour (white, rye, buckwheat, potato, your choice) plus more for work surface
1/2 cup of almond meal, or hazelnut meal or a combination of both
1/4 cup brown sugar [optional]
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
150gm cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces [keep in the fridge]
2-3 Tbsp of cold water (use only if the dough it too dry)
Preheat oven 190 degrees C / 350 degrees F
Mix the wet ingredients [except the cold water] in a bowl and set aside. In a bowl large enough to knead the dough, sieve in the dry ingredients and mix them around. Take the cut butter out of the fridge and add it to the dry ingredients. Mix the dry ingredients with the butter with your fingertips, until the mixture starts looking like flakes similar in consistency to dry oats. If you would like to add dried or fresh fruits to the dough, for instance cranberries, raisins, blueberries, this is the time to do it. To avoid melting the butter incorporate them by turning them into the flour mixture with a spoon. Add the wet ingredients and knead vigorously into a ball and avoiding using of the palm of your hands. (At this point if the dough feels dry add water, the end cosistency should be just short of sticky). Put the dough ball on a floured surface, I do it straight on the baking sheet. Flatten out with your hand until it is about 3cm thick, without hesitating so that you are not touching the dough for too long. Cut the dough with a clean knife into wedges, four and then eight, or cut into circles with the rim of a glass, squares work too. Separate the pieces. It might be a little bit sticky, don’t worry, carry on. Pop them in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until they are nicely browned but not (too) dry on the inside. If you would like them glazed, pop them out of the oven halfway through baking and paint them with a mixture of yoghurt and water. Sometimes I omit this step, it depends on how much is going on in the kitchen.
Scones can be eaten warm out of the oven or during the next couple of days. They store quite well covered and out of direct sunlight.