I went through a phase of failed scones, and eventually returned to the tried and tested, never fails, Katie Stewart recipe, from the Times recipe book that was one of my formative culinary influences. Here it is converted to metric. The secret of scones is to handle the dough as little as humanly possible, and be particularly gentle rolling it out. Katie also says you have to sprinkle the baking sheet and the top of the scones with flour. No idea what effect this has, but since she says so, I always do it.
Scones are great if you need to suddenly provide afternoon tea, as it only takes 20 minutes or so to make them. They can really only be eaten on the day they are made; they just aren’t the same after they’ve hung around for a while. If you do have leftovers, it’s best to freeze them and then reheat from frozen before serving.
For about 10 scones
225 g plain flour
1/2 level tsp salt
4 level tsp baking powder
20 g butter
1 1/2 tbsp caster sugar
1 egg made up to 120 ml with milk
A few raisins or sultanas (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200 C. Sift flour, salt, and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingers and stir in the sugar. Add the dried fruit now if using. Lightly mix the egg and milk together and pour all at once into the centre of the dry ingredients. Using a fork, mix quickly and gently to a dough. It should be soft but not wet. Turn out on to a lightly floured working surface and pat or roll out to a thickness no less than 1 cm. You can form it into a circle and score wedges with a sharp knife if you want triangular scones (this method reduces handling and also eliminates the need to re-roll scraps). Otherwise, firmly stamp out rounds with a 5 cm cutter, flouring the cutter each time you use it, and never twisting it as you cut. You can re-roll the trimmings and cut more, just be aware that the scones from the re-rolled dough will be less pretty and won’t rise so well. Place not too closely together on a floured baking tray and sprinkle the tops with flour. Bake near the top of the oven for 10 minutes until risen and brown. The sides should feel a little bit springy. Cool on a wire rack before serving, ideally with jam and cream.