Thursday, 26 April 2012

Apple and Raisin Scones

I had already written a whole whinge about the weather. I'd complained about my umbrella, and the wind, and the gutters, and other people's umbrella etiquette, and lorry drivers who deliberately drive through the puddles to splash you, and hair that never once stops frizzing. Then I walked home and my heart - like the sky - lightened. The clouds were fluffy and white. The leaves were that light, bright green that only lasts for a couple of weeks in Spring. The sun was shining - the sun! - from a well-washed, pale blue sky. It might be only a temporary respite but I already feel ten thousand times happier. Are you sad you won't get a chance to read my whinge? I'm not. 

With god in his heaven and all right with the world, this is the time to write up a little treat from last weekend. We spent the nights being sociable and the days being hermit crabs - a-pottering, a-gardening, a-hammering and generally fixing up our lovely little house. What better to fuel such a weekend than afternoon tea? And specifically, scones - in my humble opinion, one of the greatest perks of my British blood. They're simple, classic, a tiny bit austere - nothing flashy (no poncy macarons or primped gateaux). They're certainly nothing special to look at, these examples being particularly bobbly and rough (it's the cream of tartar, apparently). This recipe, from Nigella's How to be a Domestic Goddess, doesn't even have sugar. It's practically health food!

But then you slather them in clotted cream or thick, thick butter. Or both. A dollop or two of jam. And there you have it - afternoon tea heaven. I tweaked these ones a bit to use up a glut of apples and the added fruit did actually work really well (particularly with blackberry jam), but the apple is by no means necessary. There's just something about home made scones, even plain, that is just nectar. It's heaven. It's a whole extra meal in the day, a sign that you're not at work, that your afternoon is given over to sitting out on the lawn, with delicate little morsels, ladylike dresses, beautiful crockery and maybe a cheeky glass of fizz. It's ceremony and indulgence and all round brilliant. Even when you're wearing your painting clothes and knee deep in grass seed because you're planting the lawn for afternoon teas later in the summer. Don't you love it when a plan comes together?

Apple and Raisin Scones
Adapted from Nigella's How to be a Domestic Goddess 

- 500g plain flour
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda
- 4 and a half teaspoons of cream of tartar
- 50g cold, unsalted butter, cut into little cubes
- 25g Trex (vegetable fat) or just another 25g of butter (which is what I did)
- 75g of raisins or other dried fruit
- 2 small eating apples, peeled, cored and cut into teeny chunks
- 300ml milk
- 1 egg, beaten, for brushing over the tops.

Preheat the oven to 220C and line a baking tray with parchment.

Mix the flour, salt, bicarb and cream of tartar in a big bowl - she says to sift them, I didn't bother. Then add the butter (and Trex if you're using it) and rub it in until evenly dispersed, like breadcrumbs. Stir in the apple and raisins. Pour in the milk all at once, mix very briefly and turn out onto a clean, floured surface. Knead it very lightly to form a dough.

Roll out until it's about 3cm tall (more than an inch). It doesn't really rise much at all, so basically make them as high as you want the finished version to be. Dip a cutter in some flour and cut them out, then put on the baking tray very close together so that the sides will stick together a bit and stay very tender.Re-roll and re-cut until you've used all the dough up.

Brush the tops with beaten egg then bake for 10 minutes or until golden. These are lovely freshly baked and don't really keep at all, so if you've got any left over then bung them straight in the freezer for future sunny Sundays.

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