There isn’t much nicer than freshly baked still-warm Date Scones with butter melting into them on a Sunday morning. They smell heavenly, taste even better and only take about 20 minutes to rustle up, including baking time. A freshly brewed pot of tea or coffee (tea for me please), the morning paper or a good book and I’m in Sunday morning Heaven.
The original recipe calls for plain flour and 6 teaspoons of baking powder, but I think they work perfectly just using self-raising flour if you have it on hand. If not, stick with the original.
I’ve listed a few tips I’ve learned about making the perfect scone:
- Don’t be tempted to handle the mixture to much. Scone mixture does not want to be kneaded. If it looks knobbly and not smooth then you’ve probably done it perfectly. One way to make sure you don’t overwork the dough is to combine the wet and dry ingredients with a knife until it just comes together.
- Pat the mixture into a flattish oblong/circle and then cut out the shapes by scoring with a knife or using a scone/cookie cutter. If you feel you must use a rolling pin, then roll very gently and as little as possible. You want them to be light and fluffy, not compacted and dense – I advise leaving the rolling pin out of this one.
- Another great tip is to have your milk and butter cold direct from the fridge. Many recipes call for these ingredients to be at room temperature, but for scones, you need them cold. Some people in the know even call for the butter to be frozen. After measuring out the quantity you need, dice it (chop it into small evenly sized blocks). These blocks are then rubbed-in (using your fingertips) or cut-in (using a special tool called a pastry-cutter). I’ve also read that a fine cheese grater works well on frozen pre-measured butter. The reason for the butter to be cold is you don’t want it softening and forming gloopy clumps in your mixture. Your fingertips are the coldest part of your hand, allowing the butter to stay cold for longer which in turn allows you to create fine bread crumbs. The smaller butter pieces then only melt under the high oven temperature which forms delicious pockets in the scone, aids the rising and creates a light and flaky texture.
- An egg or milk wash painted over the top sparingly gives the scones a lovely golden brown colour during baking. Be careful you don’t slop on too much egg or milk wash though as you don’t want the scone sitting in a puddle of goo.
- Placing the scones slightly closer together, even almost touching, forces them to rise upwards instead of sideways.
- Lastly, if you are using a scone cut-out/cookie cutter, then push it straight down into the mixture and pull it straight back up again. Don’t twist it like you might for a cookie. I’m not sure how true this is but I’ve read that twisting can cause the scone to be a bit lopsided in the oven instead of rising evenly.
3 cups self-raising flour (or plain but then add 6 tsp baking powder as well)
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
75 g butter
¾ cup chopped dates
1 Tblsp sugar
1 to 1½ cups milk, approximately
extra milk or egg for wash
cinnamon sugar mixture for sprinkling (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 220°C standard or 200°C fan forced. Line a baking tray with a sheet of baking paper.
- Sift the flour, baking powder (if using), salt and cinnamon into a bowl.
- Cut the butter in until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Add the chopped dates and sugar and give it a quick stir to combine.
- Make a well in the centre and pour in 1 cup of milk, mixing with a knife to combine. Only if you need to, add more milk, a few drops at a time as you don’t want the mixture to be too wet and once the liquid is in the bowl, it’s a devil of a job to get it back out again if you’ve added too much.
- Lightly flour a surface and work the mixture gently, patting it into shape so you can cut out the shapes or score it with a sharp knife into squares.
- Place the scones close together (I leave about 1 – 2cm – some people say they should touch, but I like the air/heat to be able to move between them) onto the prepared baking tray.
- Brush the tops with the egg or milk wash and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture (optional).
- Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.