There is no doubt in my mind that the best scones in Cape Town are served at Kirstenbosch Tea Room. They are moist and fluffy to begin with, and when you add the jam and clotted cream they’re served with, it takes them over the edge into total deliciousness.
I’ve made scones for many years but was never particularly happy with them, especially after I started having tea at Kirstenbosch. So I decided to experiment with trying to recreate the Kirstenbosch scones. After much research on different techniques, I came up with this recipe, which I think is pretty close.
There are a few important things to bear in mind when making scones (many of which apply to making pastry too, as a matter of interest):
- The butter needs to be really cold. It helps to cut it up into cubes before adding it to the flour, although I often just chuck it in and roughly chop it up in the bowl.
- The mixture should be handled as little as possible – the less handling, the fluffier the scones. The butter is first rubbed into the flour as lightly as possible (I’ve included a short video on how to do this in case you don’t know), then the liquid is added and mixed in using a knife. The last stage requires hands again to just gently push the dough together. I’d suggest flouring your hands before doing this as the dough is quite sticky.
- The oven needs to be really hot when you put the scones in. There are several rising and activating ingredients included in the recipe (baking powder, bicarb, lemon juice, yoghurt) and the faster the scones rise, the lighter they will be.
I used to cut the scones out using a cookie cutter, but I really like this method of just cutting up the dough. It’s much easier, there is no wastage, the scones seem to rise more assisted by the neighbouring ones, and they end up with soft edges, which I personally love. If you prefer them to be completely separate though, by all means cut them out. Just remember to cut straight down, rather than twisting the cutter (which reduces rising) and place them apart on the baking tray.
You can serve them simply with butter, or add jam and cream for added luxury (watch out for the cream moustache!).
Serving them as a savoury snack works really well too, if the fancy takes you. Just leave out the sugar and feel free to add interesting touches like chopped herbs, grated cheese, sliced olives or sun-dried tomatoes. Top savoury scones with anything from plain butter, cream cheese or ordinary cheese to smoked salmon, tomato, pesto and/or grilled veggies like aubergine and red peppers, or even use them as the base for Eggs Benedict. (Yum, I’ve just inspired myself – I think I’ll make Eggs Benedict soon!!)
- 3c plain white flour plus extra for dusting
- 1½T sugar
- 3t baking powder
- 1t bicarb
- Pinch salt
- 100g cold butter, cut up into cubes of 1 – 2cm
- Juice of half a lemon
- ½c plain yoghurt (low fat or double cream)
- 3 – 6T milk, or a mix of milk and more yoghurt
Optional to serve:
- Honey or a selection of jams
- Whipped or clotted cream
Preheat the oven to 220°C. Prepare a baking tray with some baking paper and sprinkle some extra flour on your countertop or a wooden board so it’s ready for later.
Place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix together.
Add the butter to the flour mix and cut it up further if necessary, coating the pieces with flour.
Then rub the butter into the flour mixture. Pinch and rub the pieces of butter between your fingertips, while lifting the mixture to incorporate air, until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. It’s better to work it less than more, so don’t worry if there are still a few bigger pieces of butter. See here for a quick demo.
Add lemon juice and yoghurt and using a knife, mix them in.
Now add 3T of milk and mix again with the knife.
Keep adding milk and mixing with the knife until all the dry bits are incorporated and you have a moist and slightly sticky dough. With floured hands, gently push the dough together where necessary to form a rough ball, again without handling it too much. Turn it out onto the floured surface.
Again with floured hands, pat it down to about 4cm thick then turn it over, making sure there is flour underneath, so you have a floured surface of dough facing up. Gently shape it into an approximate square or rectangle.
Then carefully transfer it to the baking sheet.
Shape a bit more if necessary, before using a sharp knife to cut into squares of about 5cm x 5cm. It will be sticky but use the knife to gently try to shift the squares slightly apart on the paper.
Place in the oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes until the scones have risen and the surface is starting to change colour to a very pale brown. The scones should be just firm but still soft.
Remove from the oven and cool for a couple of minutes before separating the scones gently with a knife.
Place them in a bowl covered by a tea towel to keep them warm while you make your final preparations for tea.
Serve with butter, jam or honey, and whipped cream.
© Alexandra Lawrence and Inspired Nourishment, 2014