Cheese scones, English, savoury and light, were one of the first things I learnt how to cook in school home economics lessons. The scones we turned out at school were really pretty awful – there was not enough cheese, and they were full of margarine. But a good cheese scone, properly spiced, made with butter and plenty of strong cheese, can be very different, such that Dr W will eat three, buttered, in one go and then make strange contented sighing sounds for the next couple of hours.
This is (as my home economics teacher doubtless realised, despite her margarine/cheese stinginess problems) a great recipe for kids. It’s easy, it introduces them to the rubbing-in method they’ll use when they’re feeling advanced enough to attempt pastry, and it’s hard to mess up. And what child doesn’t get a huge kick out of baking something to go in his own lunchbox?
We ate these as part of a sort of high-tea arrangement late on Sunday afternoon. I like them with lots of butter and a little Marmite, which really makes the parmesan and cheddar in the scones sing. When buying the cheese for these scones, make sure your cheddar is a mature, flavourful variety.
To make 8 cheese scones you’ll need:
225g self-raising flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon powdered mustard
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
50g softened, salted butter
50g cheddar, grated
25g parmesan, grated
150ml whole milk, plus a little to glaze
Preheat the oven to 230° C (450° F).
Sift the flour, salt, mustard and cayenne into a bowl (hold the sieve up high – you’re trying to aerate the mixture as much as you can). Cut the butter into pieces and rub it into the flour mixture with your fingertips until you have a mixture that resembles breadcrumbs. Grate the cheeses and stir them into the flour mixture. Pour all the milk into the bowl with the flour and cheese, and use a knife to bring everything together into a dough.
Roll the dough out on a floured surface until it is 1cm thick, and cut into rounds with a fluted 6.5cm cutter. Arrange on a greased baking sheet and brush the top of each scone with milk. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the scones have risen and are golden. These are fantastic served straight from the oven. If you want to ring the changes, try adding a tablespoon of Herbes de Provence with the cheeses for a cheese and herb scone – really good served with a slice of sharp cheese.