My neighbours down the road have set up a street stall for charity. They lay out slabs of Mars Bar cake and Rocky Road fudge. There are shortbread biscuits with faces drawn in pastel icing, but these are not their best sellers. Their best sellers are the plump cheese scones they sell in pairs. They’re gone by lunchtime.
Cheese scones are the simplest and most delicious of quick, home made bread. I’ve faffed around with baking powder and bicarbonate of soda, thought about the advantages of tepid water, whole eggs or milk straight from the fridge. But if there is one thing in life which you shouldn’t overthink, it’s cheese scones.
- Ingredients: 250g of self-raising flour, 175g of cheese and butter (together); 75ml of milk, 1 egg
- Discretionary Ingredients: Half a teaspoonful of ground mustard seeds, a pinch of salt, a handful of chives
For this version, only self-raising flour, cheese, butter and a little milk are necessary. Some people incline to a sprinkle of cayenne pepper, others prefer a mild, unspiced scone. But for what it’s worth, I recommend ground mustard from a Colman’s tin. Chives help and an egg is good for decoration. As for the cheese, I would suggest a sharp, hard cheese. Aged Red Leicester and Appleby Cheshire both look very pretty. But I made the scones in this picture with a bog standard mature cheddar. I have given the measurements for two well-rounded scones. Just scale up for more – I don’t keep these hanging around.
- Method: Sieve your flour or, at least, stir it briskly with a fork. Add in a dash of ground mustard and salt (though you really don’t need the salt, there’s a lot of salt in cheese). Grate the cheese and butter into your bowl of flour; I treat these as interchangeable. Because I like scones with a bit of bite, I use more cheese and less butter. With your fingertips, crumble the flour, cheese and butter together in a bowl. Add in droplets of milk until you have a nice, elastic ball which no longer sticks to the side of your bowl. Roughly and quickly, roll out your elastic ball. Cut it into shapes, put the shapes on a buttered tray or baking parchment and brush them with beaten egg. If you want them to look even nicer, scatter shavings of cheese across the tops. Then stick them in an oven warmed to 175°C Pretty soon they will start to smell good. After about fifteen minutes they should be done.
If you feel like making an extra effort, pound a handful of chives into a pat of butter, reshape the butter into something neat, and put it on the table with the scones. If you don’t feel like making an effort, you might consider slicing some fresh chives (or a green onion) into your flour once it’s crumbled. That will give your scones a nice scent and appearance for very little extra effort.
Best tip of all – buy a simple, cheap scone cutter. It will make no difference whatsoever to the flavour of your scones but people will start telling you how wonderful they are.