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.
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.