The best fruit scone recipe - these scones are light, almost fluffy, not stodgy and studded with plenty of raisins. Perfect for a classic English cream tea.
Good scone, bad scone
Scone is the hero of every cream tea, whether you put cream or jam on first.
But making them may be tricky. Apparently the easiest, simplest, plainest bakery products, they are amazing if you get them right. If you don't, they are squatty, stodgy, sticky things tasting mainly of baking powder.
I tend to avoid commercially produced ones – a scone from a supermarket is not good news. They will stick to the roof of your mouth and clump unpleasantly when buttered.
Homemade ones, even so called ‘homemade’ from large bakeries, always win. And mine have been excellent, ever since I got my inspiration from Dan Lepard's book Short & Sweet – The Best of Home Baking.
Scones are definitely the best warm from the oven, but they also freeze beautifully, or rather defrost beautifully. Freeze any leftover from a batch on the day of baking, and take out as many as you need the night before.
And if you’re really fussy you can defrost one, slice it and show it the grill briefly. It’ll be as wonderful as freshly baked.
How to make scone dough?
The dough is easy to put together even without mixing appliances.
Start by rubbing not a lot of butter into the mix of dry ingredients, flour with quite copious amounts of baking powder and some salt.
Whether you add sugar to the flour mix is up to you. I tend to mix the sugar with wet ingredients until it half-dissolves but you can cut corners and save on washing up by adding sugar to the flour. then sloshing yoghurt and cream straight from the container.
A word on the leavening agent here: what I suggest is the homemade baking powder, probably quite a lot more effective than what you buy in tubs, let alone self-raising flour which I do not respect. Recipes differ and self-raising flour is always the same – it’s not what you want to use in a wide variety of bakes.
But back to the baking powder mix: if you have no cream of tartar and/or bicarbonate of soda, or just refuse to faff, use four teaspoons of standard baking powder.
Fruit in scones traditionally is currants but I and a lot of people look askance at pips in currants. Plump sultanas or juicy raisins are much more popular with everyone.
They should be added to the dry ingredients, otherwise the fruit distribution will veer wildly.
The wet ingredients are where recipes differ. The simplest, old-school ones say to just use milk. Some insist on all-double cream but that’s awfully rich and a scone should not be too rich – after all you need space for clotted cream.
So I opt for the cream added on serving and using only a little of it, with plain yoghurt, as wet ingredients.
And I don’t add an egg though some people do – I find it makes the scones stodgier.
It's good to allow enough time for all the ingredients to be used at room temperature, as it is generally advisable in baking, unless expressly counter-advised. So once we have the yoghurt mix at room temperature, it needs to be stirred into the dry ingredients just with a fork, and only until everything is roughly combined.
The dough is then turned out onto a work surface dusted with flour and given a few gentle kneads, just to help it shape into a round about 3cm thick.
Shape without a twist
The cutter I usually cut my scones with is 6cm in diameter – that size of scone is perfect in my view. Not ridiculously enormous, but substantial enough not to reach for another one. Not immediately at least.
Cut the scones with well-floured cutter so it comes in and out of the dough smoothly – nothing worse than lifting the cutter with the scone stuck inside. And most importantly: don’t twist the cutter or the sides won’t be able to lift in the oven, or not as impressively.
The next tip is to let the cut scones stand in the baking tray for at least fifteen minutes before baking – which will also allow the oven to get nice and hot.
In baking them, slightly less is more, they should not excessively darken. They’ll crack, but that’s to be expected and a sign that they’ve risen proudly.
When out of the oven, transfer them onto a wire rack and wrap in a clean tea towel - it will keep them moist.
And once you’ve got this recipe mastered you can then ponder whether to put jam on first, or cream. Or butter and no jam. Or make some clotted cream of your own. Wholly recommended.
More scone recipes
Best buttermilk scones with raisins soaked in rum. These buttermilk scones are very light and easy to cut: out of a scone cake into triangles.
Traditional, plain English scones. My best scone recipe to date produces fluffy classic scones, as big or as small as you want to cut them. Homemade scones freeze very well though are really the best warm from the oven.
Soft scones with pineapple flavour. This recipe makes plain scones with pineapple tang, that’s because the dough is made with pineapple juice instead of milk. A surprisingly good result.
More cream tea treat recipes
Clotted cream is thickened cream made by long and slow heating double/heavy cream in a shallow dish. Homemade clotted cream is so good it’s dangerous, and the star of Cornish or Devonshire cream tea with scones and jam.
Homemade strawberry jam recipe made with jam sugar. You can halve the ingredient amounts to make just two small jars of strawberry jam. The addition of lemon juice and black pepper hugely enhances strawberry flavour.
Slow roasted strawberries become jammy but not too sickly, coated in luscious syrup, and they have a multitude of uses in desserts, cakes and afternoon tea confections.