Updated: Oct 2
Light buttermilk scone with crisp skin on the outside and airy centre.
I love a scone with golden and crisp skin on the outside, a scone that is well baked through (no pale bottoms or sides!), without aftertaste of soda or baking powder, without any gooeyness. We are talking here old-school, traditional Irish scones that were available (a while ago!) in Bewley's on Grafton Street. It probably tells you very little, but if you have had a chance to try their coffee and scone - it tells you all you need to know! Sitting in the mezzanine, with strong cappuccino, raisin scone and a good book, was my guilty pleasure during student years in Trinity College.
Ok, back to the recipe.
There are only few ingredients in this scone recipe. I will also share with you simple technique and process to ensure your scones have light texture and crisp, golden skin on the outside.
For a good bake:
Flour - we are using self-raising flour in this bake and no additional raising agents. It will help to keep scones in shape (even distribution of raising agents) and ensure there is no aftertaste of baking soda or baking powder. For a good bake, sift flour and chill together with the bowl before adding butter. By doing this, you will hit cold butter with cold flour (less of a risk of butter melting and gives you a bit more time for mixing).
Butter - we are using unsalted butter in this bake. Butter in this easy recipe, on top of adding great flavour, has one more important task. It ‘coats’ flour with fat layer. By doing this as a first step, you will prevent the flour from releasing too much gluten after buttermilk is added. In short - you will end up with nicer, lighter scone texture. It’s the same logic as using reverse creaming when preparing cakes. For a good bake here - coat each piece of butter in flour, then press into hazelnut-sized, flat discs and coat in flour again. Then, work butter into flour - use palms of your hands pressing butter into flour (same move as if your hands were cold - sliding butter/flour in-between your hands). You know the butter is incorporated when the texture resembles fine, sandy meal. Try to be swift at it, not to melt the butter.
Sugar - smidgen of vanilla sugar gives this scone a lovely flavour. Replace with regular sugar if you can’t find it (don’t add vanilla bean paste or extract).
Buttermilk - use cold and shake well before mixing with the rest of ingredients.
Preparing the dough - once you have the butter incorporated into flour, add sugar/salt/raisins. Then make a well in the centre, add buttermilk and mix in, working from the centre around the bowl, until shaggy dough is formed. Then gently press the dough few times to bring it together. Try to avoid excessive kneading. The dough will come together easily - don’t add more flour or buttermilk. See pictures for step by step method.
Shaping - dust work surface with flour, tip the dough and dust the top with flour, move around a bit to dust the bottom. Gently pat into about 6cm thick disc shape. Dust scone cutter in flour and cut shapes. Press vigorously all the way to the bottom and lift right up, try not to twist.
Chilling shaped scones will help to ensure the texture is light and airy (gluten will relax, butter will firm up). It will also help with keeping scones in shape. You want to hit cold scone with hot oven to ensure best rise.
Baking at higher temperature helps the scone to puff up and creates airy texture. Preheat the oven with the baking dish in (preferably cast iron pan but large baking tray will work too).
If you love scones, here are some of our favourite scone recipes:
Irish Buttermilk Scones Recipe
Yield: 5 small or 3 bigger scones
Time: 15 min prep + 1hr chilling + 20 min baking
Tin: cast iron pan or large baking tray
250g self-raising flour + 1 Tbsp for dusting the surface
50g butter, cold and diced
1/4 tsp table salt
5g vanilla sugar (replace with sugar if you can’t get it)
50g raisins (optional)
140ml buttermilk, cold and shaken before the use
+ egg wash - 1 egg lightly beaten with 1 Tbsp water and a pinch of salt
1. Prepare the dough: Sift flour into your main mixing bowl, refrigerate to cool (10min). When ready, cut butter into small pieces and add into flour. Dust each butter piece in flour and then gently press in-between fingers (to create flat, hazelnut-size discs) - dust in flour again. Then, using palms of your hands, incorporate butter into flour (same move as if your hands were cold, coating/sliding flour in butter in-between your hands). You know the butter is incorporated when the mixture resembles fine, sandy meal. Try to be swift at it, not to melt the butter. Add salt, sugar, vanilla sugar and briefly mix in, then mix in raisins (or other add ons if using). Make a well in the centre of the bowl, vigorously shake cold buttermilk and pour it into the well. Mix it in with the rest of ingredients until shaggy dough is formed. Don’t add more flour or buttermilk. Now - gently press the dough few times to form cohesive dough (try not to knead too excessively, the dough should come together easily).
2. Shape: Dust work surface with flour (1 Tbsp). Tip the dough onto work surface, dust the top with flour and pat gently until about 6cm thick (don’t flatten too much, don’t use rolling pin). Dust scone cutter with flour, cut scones (press the scone cutter vigorously, down and lift up, try not to twist).
3. Refrigerate scones for 30min-1 hour. In a meantime, preheat the oven, with cast iron pan or baking tray in, to 220C/200C fan forced. You will be placing scones on hot pan/tray. Just before baking brush the tops with egg wash, place parchment paper on the hot tray/cast iron pan, place the scones and bake.
4. Bake at 220C for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 200C/180C fan and bake for another 10 minutes.