Scones are quick and simple to make but I have so many recipes for them that I get confused as to which one is best. So last Sunday I decided to try two recipes and compare them directly. Firstly, I chose a recipe from the stalwart of everyday home cooking – Delia, and secondly, one from the man hailed as the new god of baking – Paul Hollywood.
I was taught to make scones as a child and the following golden rules (most probably my mother’s) are embedded in my brain:
- Use a very light touch, work quickly and don’t over mix the dough.
- Try to cut as many scones from the first roll as possible as the more you work the dough the heavier they will be.
- Bake the scones as close to eating as possible – they always taste better fresh from the oven.
To be honest though even if they turn out a bit dense or uneven, freshly baked scones are always better than horrid, dry, shop-bought ones and once you’ve smothered them in strawberry jam and clotted cream you won’t notice any flaws.
So back to the scone off and whose recipe was best according to the Shelton household. My son hates scones and so didn’t vote. My husband preferred Paul Hollywood’s and my daughter and I favoured Delia’s. So it was:
Delia 2 – Paul 1
I don’t think there’s a male versus female thing going on here, but I do think the large, manly size of Paul’s scones (which he describes as small!!!) did win my husband over. His are also richer and involve an additional step, a process called ‘chaffing’ (sounds slightly worrying in view of his sex god status but all will become clear below).
I liked the simple taste of Delia’s scones better and I definitely AM swayed by the no-nonsense nature of her recipe. There’s no showing off here and straight forward store cupboard ingredients which certainly suits my style of cooking better.
Delia Smith’s basic scones (from her Complete Cookery Course)
Make about 12 scones
- 225g of self-raising flour
- 40g of butter at room temperature
- 150ml of milk
- 1 ½ tablespoons of caster sugar
- A pinch of salt
Pre-heat the oven to 220oC and grease a baking sheet.
First of all, sift the flour into a bowl and rub the butter into it rapidly, using your fingertips. Next stir in the sugar and salt, then take a knife and use it to mix in the milk little by little. Now flour your hands a little and knead the mixture to a soft dough – adding a drop more milk if it feels at all dry.
Then turn the dough out onto a floured pastry board and roll it out to a thickness of not less than 2 cm using a lightly floured rolling pin. Take a 4 or 5 cm pastry cutter and place it on the dough, then tap it sharply so that it goes straight through the dough – don’t twist it or the scones will turn out a peculiar shape. After you have cut out as many scone shapes as you can like that, knead the dough trimmings together again and repeat until you have used it all.
Then place the scones on the greased baking sheet, dust each one with a little extra flour and bake for 12-15 minutes until crisp and golden brown. Cool on a wire rack and eat them slightly warm.
Paul Hollywood’s scones (from ‘How to Bake’)
Makes 15 small scones (I made half the quantity and ended up with 7)
- 500g of strong white bread flour
- 80g of unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
- 80g of caster sugar
- 2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
- 5 teaspoons of baking powder
- 250ml of whole milk
- 1 medium egg beaten with a pinch of salt
Heat oven to 220oC and line two baking sheets with baking parchment.
Put 450g of the flour into a large bowl and add the butter. Rub the flour and butter together with your fingers to create a breadcrumb-like mixture.
Add the sugar, eggs and baking powder and use a wooden spoon to turn the mixture gently, making sure you incorporate all the ingredients.
Add half the milk and keep stirring to combine. Then add the remaining milk, a little at a time, and bring everything together to form a soft, wet dough. You may not need all the milk.
Sprinkle most of the remaining flour onto a clean surface. Tip the dough onto it. Sprinkle the rest of the flour on top. The mixture will be wet and sticky. Use your hands to fold the dough in half, then turn it 90 degrees and repeat (Paul calls this ‘chaffing’). Do this a few times to form a smooth dough. Be careful not to over work your dough. If it becomes too sticky use some extra flour to coat it or your hands.
Sprinkle a little more flour onto the work surface and the dough, then use a rolling pin to gently roll up from the from the middle and then down from the middle. Turn the dough 90 degrees and continue to roll until about 2.5cm thick. ‘Relax’ the dough slightly by lifting the edges and allowing the dough to drop back onto the surface.
Using a 7cm pastry cutter dipped in flour so that it doesn’t stick, stamp out rounds and place on the trays. Don’t twist the cutter, just press firmly, then lift up and press the dough out. Cut out as many as you can and re-roll the dough bearing in mind that the more you re-roll the less fluffy the scones will be.
Leave the scones to rest for a few minutes, then brush just the tops with the beaten egg to glaze.
Bake for 15 minutes.