This rain is relentless. Winter seems never to have arrived this year and, in its place, we have endured week after week of endless dark dank autumn. Not once have I felt the bright crisp chill and the crunch of the frost on the grass.
At the weekend we were treated to a couple of days where the sun was in full swing. It was as if we were being rewarded after a long and heavy penance. On Sunday I can remember venturing outside, standing in the sunlight and almost feeling that forgotten warmth which can seem to far away at this time of the year. Realising that we were only hours away from the next storm my thoughts turned to the kitchen and something comforting. Nothing hits that spot for me quite like a homemade scone. I like the plain variety with jam (blackcurrant) and cream but that feels much more suited to the summer. In the dampness I want something savoury.
Emma tells me that her grandmother is the architect of the very best cheese scones and immediately I am warmed by the realisation that cooking and baking particularly is something that connects us with one another and through the generations. Just yesterday I was talking to a friend about baking and she was reminiscing about her mother making cakes and she being allowed to lick the bowl. My children still do that now and I am always far from convinced that this isn’t preferable to the finished cake itself for them. Emma wasn’t telling me about her grandmothers cheese scones by way of a challenge (at least I don’t think so) rather that these recipes, these experiences we share with our families are not just food, they are memories, they are lifetime moments that we pass onto those that we love. We might make adjustments but it is the sharing, the sense of unity and congregation that is so important. You can buy a decent cheese scone at Marks & Spencer but tell me, where is the joy and the connection in that?
In a bowl I put 150g of plain flour and 100g or spelt flour (you could use wholemeal if you like, but do try it this way if you can) along with a little chopped thyme, three teaspoons of baking powder and a pinch of salt. Adding 50g of butter cut into cubes I rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. You could do this in the food processor but I can’t be bothered with the washing up and I find the gentle rubbing in process rather soothing. When thats done I add 100g of strong cheese. Now listen, if you are going to make these scones with “Mild Cheddar” you may as well not bother because that, quite frankly, is cheese for people who don’t like cheese. Sorry about that…ahem..
Now pour in 200ml of Buttermilk. By the way, did you know that 200ml is the same as 200g? I only realised that about a year ago and what a revelation it was. Anyway, now mix the buttermilk into the dry ingredients (I use a palette knife in a cutting and folding movement) until you have a rough dough. Turn it out onto a floured surface and roll it out. If you ever suffer from scones which turn out like biscuits its possibly because you are rolling the dough too thinly. You know you have done this when the recipe says you will make 8 and you have 24. So, no thinner than 3cm please, then cut out your scones with a cutter (I used a glass) and put them on a lined baking tray.
Now brush them with beaten egg and if you so wish sprinkle a few flecks of cheese on the top. Then put them in the oven preheated to Gas 7 or 220c/425f for between 10 and 15 minutes.
You might want butter on them but I just want them as they are.
Come on then rain, do your worst.
150g Plain Flour
100g Spelt Flour
100g Strong Cheddar (or similar)
3 tsps Baking Powder
Pinch of Salt
1 tsp Chopped Thyme