Despite warnings that it was not very good, I decided to give the BBC’s new series, The Great British Bake-Off a try and reader, my nearest and dearest (and The Telegraph telly reviewer) weren’t lying. While as a baking nerd, I wouldn’t expect lots of new (to me) information, none of the food historians featured seemed to be able to let their enthusiasm for their subject show, while the human drama of the contest was equally unsatisfyingly represented. (I felt the camera didn’t need to linger quite so long on the sobbing bus driver whose marmalade tea loaf sank in the middle.) I would also have liked to hear more technical stuff from Mary Berry – cooking is an art, baking is a science, as we all know. (‘We’, being those of us who have made something once perfectly, only to have a subsequent attempt collapse in a sticky mess.)
One thing the second programme did induce (yes, I watched both episodes, in fact I shall probably watch them all, shouting at the telly and complaining about it on twitter all the while) was an intense craving for savoury scones. I might have made these again, if I had had any bacon in the house, but I only had some strong cheddar. Woe is me.
(From The Reader’s Digest Cookery Year (1976), Basic Cooking Methods – Buns and Scones by Margaret Coombes and Suzanne Wakelin of the Good Housekeeping Institute.)
Preparation time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 15 mins
Ingredients (for 12 scones)
8oz plain flour
1/2 level teaspoon salt
2 1/2 level teaspoons of baking powder
2oz butter or firm margarine
4oz grated cheddar cheese
About 1/4 pint milk
Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Mix the flour into the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Blend in the cheese. Gradually add the milk, mixing it with a round-bladed knife until the dough is soft and manageable.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, divide into two equal portions and knead lightly with the fingertips. Shape each portion into a round, 3/4 inch thick. Cut each round into six triangular portions and set them on a greased baking tray; prick the top with a fork.
Bake the scones in the centre of a pre-heated oven at 425F (220C, mark 7) for 12 – 15 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.
I originally started making these thinking I would do a half-portion, weighing the flour and baking powder accordingly but then rubbing in the full 2oz of butter. I of course then added and mixed in the extra flour but forgot to add the rest of the baking powder with the consequence that my scones were a little more dense and took a little longer to cook through in the oven than if I had not been distracted during the measuring. I also left the salt out entirely, reasoning that as I was using salted butter, it was unnecessary.
Even with my error, they turned out very well – soft and full of flavour, and I would probably toast them before eating them anyway. I have ended up with rather more than I had planned, so I’ll freeze some and update this post to let you know if/how the freezing affects them. (I suspect not at all due to the fat content.)
Sconed by Elly