One of my fondest memories of Ireland is sitting down to an afternoon cup of tea and a hot buttered scone. My mother makes delicious raisin tea scones, so when I lived in New York, I promptly tried to replicate her recipe, to impress my new husband.
What I produced were nothing like the soft, doughy textured scones of my childhood.
“Hockey pucks, with raisins,” are the words my husband carefully chose to describe my efforts. To tell you the truth, he was right. We are lucky we didn’t break our teeth trying to bite into the toughly-crusted kernels of dough, which emerged from my oven.
And so, I put my recipe away, together with my dreams of baking hot, delicious scones for all my New York area friends. I only resurrected my old recipe a few years ago, upon moving to Kentucky.
The secret to scone success, I discovered, is all in the flour. Forget about regular all-purpose American flour. It does not suit this purpose at all, at all. I learned that Irish wheat has a much softer husk, than American wheat. The closest to soft, Irish flour, that can be found on this side of the Atlantic, is cake flour.
Upon this discovery I started making scones once again, made some minor changes to my mother’s recipe, and created a great American alternative.
These tea scones are not made with baking soda and buttermilk. The raising agent used is baking powder with regular milk. This may not be the most well-known recipe for Irish scones, but let me assure you, my mother has been using it for the past fifty years, and we love them.
4 cups of cake flour*
3 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
4 oz or 1 stick of butter
1 cup of sugar
3/4 cup of golden raisins
3/4 cup of regular raisins
3/4 cup of milk
1 egg and a drop of milk for egg wash
sprinkling of sugar for the top
* Note: If you wish to make a somewhat healthier version of this recipe I recommend using 2 cups of cake flour and 2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour.
Here are the main tools of the scone baking trade.
Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. I like to use a sifter. I never think a whisk, breaks down flour clumps as finely as a sifter.
Cut the butter into small pieces, then rub into the flour using a dough blender. Or just do what I do, rub the butter and flour between your hands and fingers.
Blend the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. I use both hands to do this, but my right hand was in use taking the shot. So just imagine how it is done.
Add 1 cup of sugar and mix.
Add both kinds of raisins and mix well, making certain to break up any clumps of raisins.
Beat the eggs and milk together. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in most of the liquid. Reserve a little to add only if the dough is too dry.
Mix with a large spoon or your hand to pull the flour and milky eggs together into a soft-but-not-too-sticky dough. Add some extra flour if the dough is sticking to the sides of the bowl.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle with a little more flour. Regular all-purpose flour is alright at this stage of the scone making game. Knead the dough lightly. Do not overwork this mixture since it does not contain any yeast. Too much handling will only make the scones hard.
Flatten to a round about an inch-and-a-half high. This can be done with your hands or by lightly rolling out the dough. Don’t over roll this dough.
Use a biscuit cutter to cut out round shapes. A cup or a glass will work just as well. Place the scones on a greased baking tray.
Brush the top of the scones with an eggwash (one beaten egg with a little drop of milk). Then sprinkle the top with a little sugar.
Bake in a pre-heated 425 degree oven for 10 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 400 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven when the tops are turning a lovely golden color. After about 25 minutes total cooking time, I usually check the undersides are not burning. When scones are cooked they sound hollow when their bottoms are lightly tapped.
Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Don’t let them sit in the baking tray, since this can make the bottoms soggy.
Make a nice cup of tea. Enjoy your tea scones, slathered in creamy butter, or spread with jelly or jam. Perhaps, you can try some clotted cream and jam, to give them an English twist.
Happy baking and enjoy.
Here is the recipe in printable format.
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Slan agus beannacht leat!
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom