My friends and I started a tradition nearly ten years ago of the “Scone Off”. I don’t think I was even involved in the original heated discussion over whether lemonade scones were better than traditional scones, but somehow I got drawn in to a competition of who could cook the best scones.
The inaugural Scone Off was inappropriately held in the middle of Summer, on the hottest day of the year, in a small apartment with a tiny galley kitchen that more resembled a sauna by the end of the afternoon. Three contestants cooked three scones each; plain, savoury and sweet.
The judges, our partners and one impartial ring-in, took their tasting very seriously. Scorecards were produced with judging categories including taste, texture, appearance and presentation. That year the Presbyterian Women’s Missionary Union cookbook provided the guidance for the winning scone. It didn’t rise as well as the lemonade scone, but it was light, golden and tasted just like a nanna would make, so it took out the prize. I came second that year, let down by a batch of burnt bottoms.
Over the years I’ve never won, though one year we got sick of scones and changed it to a Pizza Off and switched contestants. My husband’s pizza won, so I won by proxy (right?!). This year, I was determined to produce a winning scone because a) I now have a food blog, I should be able to cook a scone and b) I now live in the country, I should be able to cook a bloody scone!
This year we only had to cook one scone, any scone we chose. I put the call out on Facebook for a winning recipe. There were a lot of votes for the lemonade scones, but I knew my friend would be doing those (even though she’s done them every year and never won… She believes in the lemonade). I tried several recipes and ate a lot of scones. I was told to have cold hands, to rub the butter in, to not spin the cutter when cutting, to put the scones in a brownie tray to help them rise and many other tips. They were all great, but I just couldn’t get my technique right. I settled on these buttermilk fruit scones, which have come out perfect every time.
These are not pretty, CWA-approved, blue-ribbon scones. They are rustic, chuck-in-the-oven, crowd-pleasing scones. They are deliciously crunchy on the outside and moist and fluffy on the inside. They are not too sweet, with the only sweetness coming from the dried fruit. One of the judges called them a cross between damper and a scone. I served them with chantilly cream and Jam Lady jam, which obviously wooed the judges, as I came first! Suck it lemonade scones! (Yes, it gets quite competitive).
Mastering a scone recipe means you’ll always have something to serve when friends drop round for afternoon tea, or when you’re having a day that requires scones (warning: these days happen more often when you know how to make good scones).
Do you have a go-to scone recipe? Where do you sit on the lemonade vs. traditional argument?
Buttermilk Fruit Scones
Makes 10-12 scones (depending on how big you make them)
Recipe from Annabelle White
- 3 cups self-raising flour
- pinch of salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 80g very cold (from freezer) butter
- 1 cup dried fruit (I used sultanas)
- 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 cups buttermilk (adjust to moist)
Pre-heat oven to 200c, fan-forced.
Sift flour, salt and baking powder into a large bowl.
Grate the butter into the flour and stir with a knife to distribute within the flour. Don’t touch the mixture with your hands! Add the dried fruit and distribute that with the knife too. Your hands have still not touched the mixture.
Add the buttermilk, starting with 1 1/2 cups, adding more if needed to make the mixture very moist (I find I need the extra 1/4 cup). Fold the buttermilk through the dough with the knife, turning the bowl to help you, aiming for as little mixing as possible, but everything should be well combined. You want quite a wet dough, no dry bits hanging around.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently flip and turn it a few times to get it into a rectangle shape. You want the dough quite thick to give your scones some height. Cut the dough into squares (10-12) and place the squares on a baking tray.
Place them in the oven for 10 minutes, check them. They’ll probably need another 5 minutes, depending on your oven. You’re looking for golden brown tops and bottoms.
Serve warm with jam and cream.
Get inspired to make these scones, as I did, by watching this video of Annabelle White, New Zealand Women’s Weekly Food Editor, enthusiastically cooking them. You’ll want to make a batch immediately.