Of course you can put what you like on your scones, but I’ll usually opt for a cream tea. Cream tea etiquette is fiercely disputed in the West Country. The Cornish put strawberry jam on their scones first, then the cream; in Devon and Dorset it is customary to do it the other way round. Personally, I prefer raspberry jam and I always put jam on first... even though River Cottage is on the Devon/Dorset Border!
- 300g plain white flour, plus extra for dusting
- 2 tsp baking powder
- A good pinch of salt
- 75g unsalted butter, at cool room temperature (neither fridge-cold nor soft), cut into cubes
- 50g caster sugar
- 1 medium free-range egg
- 1 tsp natural vanilla extract
- 120ml double cream
- A little milk, for brushing
Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Using a food processor if you have one, whiz together the flour, baking powder, salt, butter and sugar until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. (Otherwise, sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a mixing bowl, rub in the butter with your fingers then stir in the sugar.)
In a separate bowl, beat the egg, vanilla and cream together, then add to the rubbed in mixture and bring together with your hands to form a soft dough.
Turn the dough out on to a floured surface and knead very briefly, for 10 seconds or so, to make it a little smoother. Now, using a little more flour, pat or gently roll out to a thickness of about 4cm.
Using a 6 or 7cm pastry cutter (or a larger one, if you like), cut out about 8 scones – pressing the cutter straight down, rather than twisting it, as this gives the scones a better chance of rising straight up.
Lay the disks on a lightly greased baking sheet, brush the tops with milk and bake for about 15 minutes, or a little longer if the scones are large. To check that they are cooked, insert a wooden cocktail stick into the middle; it should come out clean.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool for a few minutes, then serve warm.