Ask Peter: Scones
I am writing to you from British Columbia after returning here from two months roaming New Zealand. While there we fell in love with scones . . . savoury scones, cheese scones, date scones. Most days on the road we would take a break and have coffee and a scone. Now we are home, I want to add scones to our morning breakfast. But the choice of recipes I can find here are woefully inadequate. John
Hello John, nice to have an inquiry from BC and good to know you had two months in our gorgeous country. I’m also pleased you’ve become hooked on the good old New Zealand scone; such a simple yet competitive thing in many ways. Everyone will have their favourite recipe and flavour, and everyone’s grandmother will have the best-ever recipe. And I do mean ever! As a child I used to love making cheese scones with my folks. Ours were always square or rectangular, as we didn’t have a round biscuit cutter so we simply cut them out with a butter knife. Then one day I was watching my mother make scones and she performed a magic trick. She used a water glass to cut them out. Suddenly we were eating round scones! My life was forever changed. Between my two mums (I’m lucky to have two), Timmy in Australia and Rose in Whanganui, and my father Bruce (also in Whanganui) I have had magnificent scone gurus throughout my formative years and what I can tell you is:
- Never overwork the mixture — it becomes firm rather than light.
- Use a metal spoon or knife to mix the dough, not your hands as they’re too warm (hopefully — we are mammals after all).
- Make sure the mixture is a little more damp (not moist, damp) than you might think. It’s the moisture that heats up and expands when baked, and combined with the baking powder, makes your scones rise. Too dry and they just don’t perform.
- Check your oven. You might be able to bake a cake or roast well, because they cook for longer, but scones take between 10-15 minutes depending on their size and ingredients, and need a good even heat.
- Butter must be used straight from the fridge — warm butter can’t be rubbed into flour easily.
- If adding spices (I love to add smoked paprika or coarsely ground coriander seeds to cheese scones) add to the flour at the start.
- If adding cheese, chopped dates, currants or goji berries (soak gojis in hot water for 10 minutes, then gently squeeze out excess liquid), add once the flour has been almost fully mixed in. If adding fresh herbs, add to the buttermilk.
See my recipe here for the best cheese scones ever (really!)