I have never been a fan of austerity in baking. Give me egg yolks. Give me butter. Give me cream or, better yet, give me buttercream. I don’t want to eat dessert, I want Dessert with a capital D. Which is why, for many years, I did not understand the appeal of scones. My mother didn’t bake them, so the scones I ate were store-bought, dry, crumbly things, perhaps adorned with a few miserly flecks of dried currants, that stuck to the roof of my mouth like paste no matter how much jam I slathered on them.
Everything changed, however, when I made cream scones for the first time. Oh how deliciously the crumbs of butter and flour clung together, moistened by thick cold cream. Folded with fresh berries, baked until golden brown, and served warm with (yes!) more butter and jam, cream scones were (and still are) my idea of heaven.
Today I wanted to bake something without having to leave my flat for ingredients (a lovely incidence of laziness colliding with serendipity to produce something wonderful). One of my favourite food bloggers, Daisy at Daisy’s World, has been making beautiful, inspirational things with rhubarb, so last week I bought rhubarb and sour cream, thinking I’d make a rhubarb sour cream coffee cake (which is yet to come!). But it’s been hot here, and I wasn’t in the mood for anything quite as heavy as a coffee cake. Scones – which you can throw together, bake, and consume in under half an hour – were plainly the answer.
This recipe works: the sour cream gives the scones a moist, delicate crumb, and the chunks of rhubarb become delightfully soft while remaining quite tart. The scones are not too sweet and utterly delicious slathered with heaps topped with a dainty dollop of jam. As an ignorant American, I have only a dim understanding of what people (in the United Kingdom) are cooking for the upcoming Queen’s Diamond Jubilee weekend, but, er, scones seem appropriate. So this recipe is timely as well.
350 grams rhubarb (about 3/4 lb, or four stalks), sliced in half lengthwise and cut into one-centimeter chunks
4 tablespoons sugar + 2/3 cup sugar + 1 tablespoon sugar
220 grams (1/2 lb) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
330 grams (3 cups) flour, sifted + additional flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
200-300 ml (3/4 cup to 1 and ¼ cups) sour cream
Preheat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius (425 degrees Fahrenheit). Prepare a baking sheet (or two) by lining it with parchment paper. Combine the cut-up rhubarb with four tablespoons of sugar and set aside.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. Using your fingers, a fork, or a food processor, mix in the butter and 2/3 cup sugar until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
Working quickly so as to keep everything very cold (this makes your scones lighter and flakier) add enough sour cream to produce a dough that is soft but not wet. Fold in the rhubarb.
Divide the dough into two portions and turn out onto a floured board. Again working quickly, pat with your hands into round disks about seven or eight inches across and one to one-and-a-half inches thick. Cut in triangular wedges and transfer to your prepared baking sheets. (Alternatively you can pat all the dough into a sheet one to one-and-a-half inches thick and cut using a round biscuit-cutter.) Sprinkle the tops of the scones with the remaining tablespoon of sugar.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the scones are golden brown and peel away easily from the parchment paper. Let cool on the baking sheet for about five minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Makes 12-16 large scones.
I’m glad you’ve realised that scones are the height of decadence! they are incredible, especially with clotted cream. These sound particularly awesome!
I have a completely unsubstantiated theory that the reason why so many scones are so dry and dusty is because people cut way back on expensive fatty things during wartime rationing. I researched this hypothesis but was unable to confirm it. I did, however, learn the following: “In Scots the verb scon means to crush flat or beat with the open hand on a flat surface, and ‘scon-cap’ or ‘scone-cap’ refers to a man’s broad flat cap or ‘bunnet’.” (Thank you Wikipedia!)
Well, it’s hard to say. My recipe for scones contains only butter and a little milk – no cream at all and they aren’t dry in the slightest. I guess it just depends on ratios. Certainly, traditional scones contain no cream and but a little milk. Though I have had clotted cream and cream scones and they work very, very well!
I’m sure your scones are delicious!
Heck yes, no austerity in baking! Especially not with scones… you NEED all that lovely milk fat to give the scone enough lift to become tender AND flaky! These look delicious, and I’m sure they’re even better slathered with heaps, I mean, a tiny dollop of double cream. 😉
I had forgotten quite how much I loved cream scones until I consumed six of them in not-quite 24 hours. Cream scones with clotted cream is the pinnacle of artery-clogging bliss. Thanks for the comment Christine!
I think I’m on the fence re: austerity in baking: if you own a farm and have access to lovely eggs and cream everyday, certainly you ought to use it and you are probably doing enough physical work that it won’t hurt you. Some things need richness: strawberry shortcake is not worthy of the name without real cream. But many things — muffins, for instance, or many quick breads — don’t need heaps of fat to be good. I’m sure your scones are delicious.
I also am not a fan of excess: I think too much fat can make baked goods leaden and greasy. And I totally agree with you about muffins and quick breads. My mother has always made her cakes and sweets low-cholesterol for my dad by ‘cheating’ on the quantity of egg yolks and butter and they’re delicious. But I think scones need a good amount of fat or else they are dry and chewy.
Rhubarb scones with clotted cream…seriously, where can I get these right now?! I shouldn’t read blogs on my lunch hour as it makes me not want to eat my pathetic Lean Cuisine….which is what I have when I’ve been gone all weekend and there’s nothing in the fridge.
I’m gonna have to make these on Saturday for sure.
I always make that mistake (read food blogs when I’m hungry). Let me know if you do make them — I really liked the addition of the rhubarb, it’s so wonderfully tart, and I am not a huge fan of very sweet desserts.
Rhubarb gods are against me. My local grocery store ran out of the frozen variety. How can this be?
For sure there are lots of bad scones out there. But these look great!
Thank you Michelle!
I love rhubarb so much, but have never thought about them in scones. They look amazing! PS. I’ve had rhubarb ( in the US obviously) in France, Italy and Germany, but not in England, yet. I’ll have to search harder next time I’m in London for it.
Rhubarb is quintessentially British, I think, because it is such a good cold-weather plant. Right now it’s in season and on menus everywhere. Thanks for the nice comment!
oh how delightful. Susan this looks so very yummy. Rhubarb is such a wonderful thing and i would have never thought of folding it into a scone batter, a must try. question; did you avoid the traditional round shape on purpose?
It’s funny — the wedge shape is traditional in the US, so I make scones that shape mainly out of habit — but the other reason to do it that way is that the more the dough is handled, the more likely the scones are to become chewy. When you cut scones using a biscuit cutter, you’re always left with scraps that need to be folded back together and recut, and those scones are never *quite* as light.
Very good point about the over handled dough. I didnt know that the wedge shape was traditional in the US, it certainly looks look in your pics. I will try both next time and see what I think.
was going to ask about the shape too but I just read your answer. round or wedge, they sound fantastic. that last photo….gosh. nice one susan!
Thank you Shuhan. I have been working on my photography. Feeling a wee bit Martha Stewart but if it makes you drool I consider it a job well done. 🙂
These look wonderful. Not austere at all, but just perfect.
Thank you Daisy! I don’t know why I never thought of putting rhubarb in scones before. It is yummy!
I bet! Looks great!
Having grown up in Cornwall I have pretty serious opinions over the best way to serve and eat scones (it’s always clotted cream and it’s always always a thin layer of jam and then mounds of glorious Cornish clotted cream, not how those Devonshire fools do it 😉 )…
BUT, putting that to one side I don’t think there’s much (apart from the pasty – another Cornish bugbear) that has been more abused by mass production and distribution than the poor scone. What do they do to them to end up with such a dry claggy tasteless mess? It defies belief!
I am so glad that you got to experience the pure, airy, fluffy – and totally addictive – pleasure a freshly baked scone can bring. Just like a sweeter version of perfectly cooked US-style biscuits, a creamy artery clogging delight. And what a great recipe!
Oh no! You’re from Cornwall AND a scone expert? (Clearly the two go hand in hand.) I’ve violated the Cornish scone ethos! I ate my scones WITHOUT clotted cream (I was too lazy to go out and get any). So embarrassing! Sorry! At least the scones were nice. Xx
I am! And you know what scones without Cornish clotted cream is like biscuits without gravy… Actually i’m no scone fascist, they’re your scones, you should have them how you damn well like. Hell, i’ve even eaten them with butter! I know! (Don’t tell anyone)
That article is hysterical, BTW. Love the truculent farmer dissing the grainy cream from across the way.
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These certainly take the idea of scones to a much more decadent height – absolutely love them 😀
Choc Chip Uru
I’m pretty attached to my scone recipe, but these look great. I’m going to give them a try for sure!