March 27, 2012

VICTORIA SCONES

When I saw the rules for this month’s  Tea Time Treats challenge, hosted by Karen of Lavendar and Lovage and Kate of What Kate Baked, a shiver went down my spine and the ghost of my old domestic science teacher appeared briefly before me.  Scones are my nemesis.

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As the month went by and I noticed all the other scones popping up on my sidebar, I thought it was time I banished the teacher’s curse for ever and had a go.  Surely for once in my life I should be able to bake a batch of edible scones?

Mrs Stafford controlled her unruly pupils using a “good cop, bad cop” kind of approach, except that she was both good and bad cops.  She did it by choosing one child whose life she would make a total misery and one who would be teacher’s pet.  The unlucky one was me.  She turned me into a gibbering nervous wreck and some disaster befell me every lesson.  I would forget a crucial ingredient as I made up my little basket to take to school on the bus, my cakes would go soggy, my pastry would burn and my scones would have made perfect house bricks.  She declared in front of the whole class that I was useless at cooking and I have never made an edible scone ever since !!

scones1 My friend at work gave me her recipe for scones to try, the Claridges recipe, that uses cream and requires a lot of processes.  I thought I might have a go at that but then changed my mind – house bricks would be such a waste of the cream.

scones2

So I turned to my faithful old Be-Ro book, except that I decided to look in the brand new 41st edition.  Sure enough, the first page in the book was for scones, saying how easy they were to do and how the whole world and his mother have been baking scones quite effortlessly to the Be-Ro recipe since 1927. 

That’s the trouble, everyone talks about scones as if making them is nothing, as easy as scrambling an egg or buttering toast, adding to my acute sense of domestic inadequacy.  The last time I attempted scones was for a visit from my mother-in-law, about ten years ago, and they were terrible.  Hard and wonky little things with crozzled currants in them.  The only saving grace is that she is not known for her cooking skills and consequently thought they were “very nice dear”, but I exchanged glances with Nick over the teacups – we both knew different.  They were horrid.

So that was it.  Time to pull myself together, get on with it, bite the bullet, look the ghost of Mrs Stafford in the eye and bake some.  How hard can it be?

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The recipe was for Victoria scones, presumably with the same royal connections as the Victoria sponge (something else that gives me the collywobbles), and I thought it looked a good one for me to bake as it produced four large scones which you then divide up.  Less need therefore for perfection in shape and size, I thought.

I did everything absolutely to the book, ingredients measured to the last gram and all lined up like ducks in a row, oven preheated and baking tray greased.

The instructions in the recipe were a bit vague in places – presumably because everybody in the world already knows how to make scones with their eyes closed.  So when I got to the part where I had to “knead lightly on a floured surface” I wondered how you would do that with something that resembled a lump of porridge.  I had to add a lot more flour to be able to work the dough and my heart sank……I was destined to end up with house bricks again, I was sure.  Rolling it out proved impossible so I simply shaped and flattened them by hand.

scones5 Next I should cut a cross in the top and place ¼ glacé cherry in each section, but no hint was given how deep you should cut – in any case the dough was so soft it was difficult to cut into it at all.

scones6 Once they were in the oven, things started to look up.  They were rising and browning beautifully so I checked how much time there was left on the timer only to discover I had forgotten to set it going !!  Disaster !!  I had only the vaguest idea how long they had been in and would have to use my initiative to decide when to take them out of the oven.   Mrs Stafford rides again.  She was there, behind me, looking over my shoulder as I peered into the oven. 

At least nowadays you can see into the oven.  The 1960’s kitchen of my school days was equipped with wartime relics and the old gas cookers were those sturdy green enamel jobs with big knobbly taps and solid doors.  If you wanted to see how things were cooking there would be no option but to open the oven door and peep inside, something guaranteed to lose most of the heat and spell disaster for sponge cakes.  Or to risk leaving it a bit longer before opening it, resulting in brown burnt rings round my mince pies.

scones7But this time luck was on my side.  I took them out and gave them a bit of a prod, thought they might be not quite done and put them back in for two more minutes.  After the two minutes I decided to go for it and take them out. 

They looked yummy.  True, they would not win any beauty contest or village show but otherwise the signs were good.  They smelled nice and another prod revealed a little give – not like a house brick after all. scones91I was just spreading my second small triangle with butter and my own home-made plum jam when Nick arrived home from work.  We sat outside in the unusually warm spring sunshine with a cup of tea, a home-made scone and big grins on our faces.  They were delicious. 

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I thought I heard a slight moan from the ghost of my old domestic science teacher as she disappeared over the rooftops on her broomstick, or maybe it was just my imagination !!  I wonder what Queen Victoria would have thought of them?

You can see the recipe for Victoria scones on the Be-Ro website here in the section for scones and tea loaves.  You can also order your own copy of the Be-Ro recipe book from the “about us” page. 

Here’s my version of Victoria scones:

This is what I used

225g self-raising flour

pinch of salt

50g cold butter, cubed

50g caster sugar

1 egg

100ml milk

4 glacé cherries

This is what you do

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mk 6.  Grease a baking sheet.

Put the flour, salt and butter into a food processor and blitz until you get fine breadcrumbs.

Tip the mixture into a mixing bowl and stir in the sugar to distribute evenly.

Beat the egg with the milk.  Add most of it to the flour and mix to form a soft dough, reserving a little to brush over the scones.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead lightly.  Divide into four pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball, flatten slightly to about 1cm (½”) thick and shape into a round with your hands.

Cut a cross on the top of each scone with a sharp knife and place ¼ glacé cherry in each quarter.  Brush the tops with the reserved egg and milk mixture.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve with butter and jam and a cup of tea.

Makes 4 scones, which will divide into 4 portions each.

30 comments:

  1. This is brilliant.... I had a hate/ hate relationship with my domestic science teacher....what was it about those women ? I have also failed with scones more times than I can remember....but I am going to give this a go, and banish all thoughts of Mrs Stafford and my Miss Smith. Lovely.

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    1. Janice, go for it, girl !!

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  2. Mine was Mrs Bateman! My scones haven't ever been what you would all successful either. The scones look delicious; well done for beating your demons aka Mrs Stafford!

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    1. Gaynor, you too ?? We are a generation of women whose lives have been blighted by domestic science teachers !!

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  3. These look great. I've made some decent scones in my time and a lot of rubbish ones. For some reason the treacherous scone is never consistent for me. I would have liked to have had domestic science lessons but that just wasn't the thing for boys back then. I had to do woodwork instead and woodwork teachers had the same approach as domestic science teachers. I was definitely the pupil to be picked on - my woodwork efforts were used as examples of what not to do. At first I worried about it but then I discovered the electric guitar and never worried about woodwork again. Oddly enough, later in life I found I was better at woodwork than the guitar. C'est la guerre.

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    1. Phil, I would happily have swapped with you to do woodwork instead, but that was not an option either !! It looks like the old teaching methods were fairly standard.

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    2. And by the way, for myself I would have chosen to learn the drums but the piano was the only option - I was never any good at that either !!

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  4. Excellent post!!! We didn't do cooking at school but I'm sure I would have been the same! My trick for making scones is a very light hand, no kneading or rolling. It is funny how everyone always thinks they ate so easy to make but they're not! Yours look lovely anyway

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    1. Dom, I'm so glad it's not just me that find them a trial to make.
      My most useful domestic science lesson was the very first one - "how to look after your dishcloth". I have never forgotten the principles of kitchen hygiene and the pitfalls of getting it wrong. But I didn't learn anything about cooking that I couldn't have got in a much kinder fashion from my mother.

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  5. Wonderful! I only did domestic science at school for one year, and since I was 12 and had been producing the family dinner several times a week since I was 8 it wasn't exactly inspiring. Later I went to college and did professional catering and that was great.

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    1. Susan, it's a subject they don't seem to teach anymore, which is a shame, because taught properly it can inspire youngsters to want to cook and eat real food.
      I find it sad that there are racks and racks of prepared meals in supermarkets and shoving them in the oven or microwave is what a whole generation think cooking is.

      You had the best kind of training - having to do it from a young age followed by formal learning. That's why you're such a good and fearless cook !!

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  6. I'm thinking... La Borde treble cream, these scones, some Morello cherry conserve and a pot of Taylor's of Harrogate Yorkshire Tea... outside in the sun... out of the damned wind!!
    Still it is only March!

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    1. Tim, that sounds like heaven - apart from the wind !!

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  7. Oh well done you Jean, so glad you gave that wretched Mrs Stafford her marching orders. Your scones look absolutely scrumptious.

    I don't think scones are anything like as easy as they say. Sometimes I can make really good ones and at other times they are like bricks. Also find if going out for a cream tea (qui moi!) there aren't that many places that do really good scones.

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    1. Choclette, maybe the idea of just rustling up a batch of scones for visitors as they ring the doorbell is just an urban myth after all.

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  8. Congratulations on your scone success! I made them for the first time recently and luckily they turned out well. I did choose a very, very simple recipe! Macarons however are my nemesis. I'm sure we will be seeing more lovely scones from you now :)

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    1. Baking Addict, thanks! You can't get simpler than this recipe !! I might well try some more, maybe I'll get really adventurous and try cheese scones next !!
      As for macarons, even the thought of making them gives me the collywobbles - I am full of admiration for all those who try whether they turn out right or not.

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  9. Your scones look great and I like the look of the Be-Ro book...do you know where you can get it from? :-)

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    1. Laura, thank you. I got mine when I spotted the details for it on a bag of Be-Ro flour, but if you follow the link to the Be-Ro website above and go to the "about us" page, there are instructions there. You simply send a cheque for £2.50 per book to the address given.

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    2. Thanks! McDougalls Flour also do one which I have and is very good but think I will get the Be-Ro one too!!!

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  10. Your scones look great and so delicious with a cup of coffee. I make scones quite a lot as my husband loves them with his coffee.
    This recipe looks good and I'm for sure going to try this one.

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    1. Irene, if you make scones quite often you should find these a doddle to make.

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  11. I am really envious that you have the latest Be-Ro book; I ordered mine ages ago and it hasn't arrived yet! GREAT post thanks Jean and I have made these scones before from an older Be-Ro book, so I know they are good!
    Karen

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    1. Karen, I got mine last autumn which was luckily before the rush !!
      I have a collection of old Be-Ro books (how sad is that!) and the Victoria scones recipe is in every one. I had never noticed it before, or more likely I didn't look at it because scones were a complete no-no - until now.

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  12. Yes!!!! Your demon slain at last, Jean. :-) My sister makes her scones like that and they are always delicious.

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    1. Perpetua, it was a major victory - the first edible scones I have ever made in my life !!

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  13. I love the comforting, homely look of your scones. I always think it's difficult to make scones look "beautiful" (if that makes sense?) If anything, the more rustic the better!

    Congratulations on defeating your baking demon

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    1. Jo, thanks, rustic is what I probably do best !!

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  14. Great blog Jean, pics are always appealing. I remember biking in Australia and stopping by a roadside cottage 'diner'. To our surprise fresh berry scones with fresh whipped cream....thanks for reminding me!

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    1. Judi, somehow I don't associate scones with Australia- how lovely !!

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