When I lived in a house I used to love freshly baked scones. Not all the time, you understand; it was one of those things I’d do now and then. I got a lot of pleasure from the scent of baking loveliness emanating from my oven.
Now I live on a boat.
The first thing I’ve got to tell you is that… I’ve never actually used my oven.
Not even for freshly baked scones.
Those times are scone
Well here’s how it is. I’ve always had electric ovens, and now on the boat I’ve got a gas oven. Maybe it’s something I picked up from my grandmother; she had no sense of smell (the result of a mildly disastrous tonsil-and-adenoid removal operation when she was a child) and so she never would use gas because, she said, she wouldn’t be able to smell a leak.
My problem with the gas oven is that in order to light it I have to put a match to the back of the oven. I find that thought mildly disconcerting. Only mildly, but enough to put me off. One day I’ll probably get over it, but right now it’s just not appealing to me.
But there are other issues with freshly baked scones that, so far, just haven’t translated well to boat life. The first thing is space. Baking seems to require a lot of space. At least, when I do it. I like to have a big surface to work on, and bowls and weighing scales and flour and butter and icing sugar and a mixer and everything spread out… and everything… oh cripes.
Sometimes, god help us all, one needs to flour a surface and roll things out. Flour a f*cking surface. Have you seen the size of my kitchen? Then you have to cool things, and that requires an expanse of cooling racks… and all the cake tins are everywhere… gawd. After a couple of hours, my kitchen looked like the final scene of Ghostbusters after the Stay Puft marshmallow man has exploded all over New York City.
Oh I know what you’re thinking; I’m just not a very tidy baker. Well, this is true. But that’s what I’m working with.
It’s all stover now
Another problem with baking is that I tend to eat everything I’ve just baked. Immediately. So that’s not great.
But, something I like more than almost anything in the world is just one or two freshly baked scones. Preferably with cream and a tart blackcurrant conserve (not strawberry – too nondescript) – although a sour cherry jam has also gone down rather well before now. So when I feel the urge to eat a fresh scone or two – as opposed to a whole batch of twelve done in the oven, because I could easily do that – I make a couple of stove-top scones – otherwise known as griddle scones. Not quite baked, but near enough.
It’s really easy. Pay attention.
You will need:
A stove! Obviously. Saying that, I haven’t tried this on a camp fire but that would probably work too. In winter you could try this on your woodburner.
A good heavy-bottomed pan, cast iron is ideal (but just use what you have)
A biggish mixing bowl
A cup of flour. Yes that’s right, I use cup measures a lot. Even though I have a glorious digital scale that even measures liquids, right now the battery has run out and I don’t have a replacement. I have a set of proper cup measures, and I find them really easy; but if you don’t have any, a standard cup measure is around 250ml, so you can use a measuring jug. Or just use a cup, I don’t care.
I tend to use spelt flour (white or wholemeal) as ordinary wheat flour doesn’t always agree with me, but you can use plain flour. If using spelt or plain flour, add two teaspoons of baking powder to make sure the scones puff up nicely. Or, you can use self-raising flour and omit the baking powder, unless you want your scones to fly out the window.
A standard cup measure is around 250ml, so you can use a measuring jug. Or just use a cup, I don’t care.
Half a cup (say 125ml) of milk, buttermilk, yoghurt, cream, or something of that sort.
An egg. Self-explanatory.
An ounce of butter. I don’t measure it exactly, it’s around an eighth of a 250g block. When I was a kid and used to bake with my grandmother, blocks of baking fat were marked in ounces so it’s kind of ingrained on my psyche what an ounce of butter looks like. It’s maybe a half inch slice off the block. Something like that anyway.
An ounce of sugar. I don’t measure this either, I just sort of throw in a couple of dessert spoonfuls.
A pinch of salt, if you want. I don’t usually bother but it probably improves the taste fractionally.
Dried fruit. You can add a handful of raisins or sultanas, or whatever, if you have some. Usually I don’t have any knocking around, so you can do just as well without. You could add cinnamon or nutmeg if the fancy takes you.
What you do:
OK. First cream the butter and sugar together – just beat ‘em around in a reasonably large bowl until they go creamy-looking.
When I was a kid and used to bake with my grandmother, blocks of baking fat were marked in ounces so it’s kind of ingrained on my psyche what an ounce of butter looks like.
Break your egg in…
Add the milk or yoghurt or whatever you’re using…
Add your dry ingredients…
Mix it up! Use a wooden spoon at first.
The mixture will soon form into a dough which you can pull together with your hands. If it’s too sticky, add a little more flour. If it’s too dry, add a little milk.
Rolling, rolling, rolling
Many recipes for griddle scones will advocate rolling out at this stage, but that’s not necessary. We do not need to get involved with rolling pins, my friends.
We do not need to get involved with rolling pins, my friends.
Divide the dough in two and form into two balls; the quantities here are enough for 8 scones, so depending how many you plan on making right away, each ball will produce 4 scones. Let’s just do 4 for now, and keep the rest for later.
Take one dough ball and cut it into four quarters. Now take one of your quarters and roll it between your hands into a small ball. Then flatten it between your palms until it’s around half a centimetre thick.
Now you’ve got a little round which will be your first scone. Do the same with the others.
(If you’d rather roll them out with a rolling pin and cut them into rounds with a cutter, be my guest… my grandmother never had a rolling pin but used to roll things out using an empty milk bottle.)
The heat is on
Heat your pan. It only needs to be on a medium heat. I don’t recommend adding any oil to the pan when you do this, or you’ll get a weird fried effect. Stick your scones into the hot pan… not too close together, you don’t want them to bond… you can stick them in all at once, or do them one at a time, depending on how big your pan is.
I don’t recommend adding any oil to the pan when you do this, or you’ll get a weird fried effect.
After a couple of minutes the scones will start to rise and if you flip one over you’ll see the bottom should be nice and dark. Not burnt, mind you. Turn ‘em over and do the other side.
Here today, scone tomorrow
That’s it! In a few minutes they should have puffed up perfectly. You’ll have perfect almost freshly baked scones that you can eat almost right away. You should let them cool a little, on some kitchen paper or a clean teatowel ideally, but eat them while they’re still warm – slathered in jam and cream! Or butter. Whatever.
In a few minutes you’ll have perfect almost freshly baked scones and you can eat ‘em almost right away.
If you have dough left over you can keep it in the fridge wrapped in cling film for a few days, or even freeze it. Which can be handy if you want to rustle up some not-quite freshly baked scones when a friend comes by. Or just for yourself, obviously. Sometimes I eat these for breakfast.