Granny's Scone Recipe - handed down through the family
Here is a foolproof authentic Scottish scone recipe, handed down through generations of Johanna's Highland forebears. To make the best scones you need cold hands - or is that a Scottish baking myth? Johanna's granny made her scones with sour milk but buttermilk will work. And vanilla essence is a modern and faintly exotic addition!
Johanna's Granny made the best scones.
Granny's Scottish Scone Recipe.
My granny, Johanna writes, was called Flora Macdonald (1904 - 1991). This recipe came from her mother Catherine (Kate) Gillies who was from Snizort on the Isle of Skye - born in 1879. Before that, I reckon this recipe and method came from her mother, Flora Gillies, a crofter's wife - who also lived on the Isle of Skye.
8oz (225 g) self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1.5 oz (40g) caster sugar
a pinch of salt
1.5 oz (40g) soft-ish butter or margarine - chopped into chunks
1 egg - beaten.
As for the milk, use whatever kind you have in the fridge. Granny would use milk she had allowed to go sour - and her scones were always so light and soft - but I haven't tried this. Buttermilk works well, if you can find it in the shops - use 1 carton (284 mls). Or use ordinary milk mixed with a small amount of lemon juice - then pop it in the microwave to warm through - this works well too.
You could double the quantities - if you want a big batch of scones! - they freeze well.
Turn the oven up to its highest setting , say, 220 C / 390 F (as long as it is hot!). Pre-heat a baking tray. (No grease or flour on tray yet.)
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Most recipes say rub in the butter or margarine into the flour - but I hardly rub it. Like granny did, I start off using a knife - as it helps to keep the mixture cold. Or use the food processor. Blitz it!
Remember - it is better not to over-handle the mixture. Granny had cold hands - this surely helped! (Her pastry was light as a feather too!) Then add the beaten egg and some of the milk - mix with the knife too at this point.
Add some vanilla essence at this point - though I don't think granny would have used such an exotic ingredient! Then add the rest of milk to get the mixture to bind - do not make the mixture too wet.
It should come together in a softish ball. Obviously, if it's sloppy, you'll not be able to cut out your scones!
Flatten the ball gently with your hands. I usually have the ball at least 1.5 inches (4 cm) thick. Remove the hot tray from oven and sprinkle with a little flour. Place scones on tray and bake for about 10 minutes, depending on your oven. I place the tray near the top of my oven.
These scones are nicest eaten the same day. The next day they are okay, but after that, they don't taste so fresh. They freeze very well though.
My Granny's scones were an exception - it may have been the sour milk or the knife - I recall that hers were soft and tasty even two or three days later. I have never quite managed to reproduce that texture. But they toast well - if a day or two old. Nice with marmalade or Scottish heather honey for breakfast!
However, Johanna’s granny might have been a great baker, but she never entertained the Kaiser and other toffs with her scones. But Mrs MacNab near Balmoral Castle did. Read all about her below…
Mrs MacNab’s Scones - a traditional Scottish recipe
As you have read above, lightness, coolness and quickness in the dough-making seems to be key in all of the many scone recipes. Mrs MacNab was a farmer’s wife near Ballater. That town, of course, is near Balmoral Castle, the royal family’s holiday hideaway in Scotland ever since Queen Victoria had it built.
So great was the reputation of Mrs MacNab’s scones that distinguished guests at Balmoral, including King Frederick of Prussia, used to pop in for tea regularly (or so the story goes.) This Frederick was really Kaiser Frederick III – the one who married Queen Vikki’s eldest daughter, called after her mother.
I like to imagine Mrs MacNab, passing the scones, desperate for a conversational gambit, saying in her fine Aberdeenshire accent ‘An foo’s yer mither-in-laa?' (How is your mother-in-law.) To which Kaiser Fred would reply. ‘Ach, still ze queen…’
Anyway, if you want to attract German nobility with one of the famous recipes from Scotland, mix 16 oz / 454 g flour with a teaspoon of salt, a small tsp of bicarbonate of soda and 2 small tsp of cream of tartar.Rub in 2 oz / 55g butter. Stir in a beaten egg and a half-pint / 284ml buttermilk.
On a floured board, knead by hand as lightly as possible. Tear into big enough pieces of dough to enable you to cut them into ‘scone-size’ quarters, having pricked them with a fork.
(This is our interpretation of the original instructions.) But, basically, handle the mixture as little as possible. It seems that both Mrs MacNab and Johanna’s granny had really cold hands. (So that’s where Johanna got her own cold hands from……trust me.) Finally, bake in a very hot oven for 10-15 minutes.