Irish Buttermilk Scones
The secret of making good scones is light quick mixing and a hot oven. --Clare Connery
I've discovered a wonderful new book called In an Irish Country Kitchen by Clare Connery. Much more than a collection of recipes, Connery explains the history and origin of each dish as well as providing eloquent introductions to Irish agriculture, fishing, and baking traditions. The book is also filled with beautiful photographs of the food and the land.
Her scone recipe calls for buttermilk, as "Buttermilk scones are always much lighter and more spongy than those made with flour and baking powder". (Traditional buttermilk was the liquid left behind from the butter making process. Modern buttermilk has a special bacteria added to regular milk that makes it thicken and slightly sour.) I had never used buttermilk in baking, but felt confident following Connery's careful instructions. The resulting scones were wonderfully light, moist, and delicious. I took her final suggestion and we ate them straight from the oven with butter and jam.
(recipe adapted from In an Irish Country Kitchen by Clare Connery)
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
pinch of salt
2 tbsp butter
1 cup buttermilk
Beaten egg or milk to glaze (optional)
Preheat the oven to 425. Sift together the flour, baking soda and cream of tartar in a medium large bowl. Cut the butter and rub it into the flour mixture with your fingers until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Create a well in the center and add the milk. Use a thick knife to mix in the milk and form a dough. Roll out the dough on a floured board to 3/4 inch thick and cut into rounds or triangles. Put scones onto a lightly floured baking sheet and brush with milk or beaten egg, if desired. Bake for about 15 minutes until light golden in color.