Plain, meaning without added fruit, but light, airy and just the right amount of crusty surface makes these scones the perfect backdrop to preserves and clotted cream.
You can make them with buttermilk and natural yoghurt in place of the milk, and you can use 1 level teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and 2 level teaspoons of cream of tartar with plain flour if you want to experiment, but the recipe below seems equally good to us and the ingredients are always available.
Begin by rubbing the butter into the sieved flour quickly, using your fingertips,then stir in the sugar followed by a pinch of salt.
Now, using a knife, mix in the milk little by little, and when it’s all in, flour your hands and knead the mixture to a soft dough (you may find you need just a drop more milk if it feels at all dry).
Place the dough on a floured pastry board and with a rolling pin (also floured) lightly roll it out to a thickness of about 3cm. (This thickness is vital. The reason scones don’t rise enough is because they are rolled too thin.)
Then take the pastry cutter and tap it sharply so that it goes straight through the dough – do not twist or the scones will turn out a strange shape!
When you have cut as many as you can, knead the remaining dough together again and repeat. Then place the scones on the baking sheet, dust each one with flour and bake near the top of the oven for 12–15 minutes.
When they’re done they will have risen and turned a golden brown.
Then transfer them to a wire rack and eat as soon as they are cool enough, spread with butter, jam and clotted cream.