The last three weeks (bar the jubilee sponge) I’ve tried to ignore all things baking and or blog related. The reason? I’ve been on a rather extreme detox. Twenty-one days without caffeine, alcohol, wheat, gluten, dairy, fruit (besides bananas), red meat, sugar or anything processed… Apparently even sauces like vinegar and soya sauce constitute ‘processed’ foods. So it’s been a rather bland few weeks crammed with lots of fresh leafy green veg, legumes, soya, chicken and fish. It’s been an absolute test of willpower – and quite a few nights in the pub sipping water. Today is day twenty-one.
I sat on the couch this morning, fingers tapping impatiently, as the sweet scent of creamy scone and sticky baked strawberries wafted out of the kitchen. The sweetest thing I’ve had in the last few weeks is 100% natural, dried Ugandan banana bits (without added sugar) from the health food shop and my mouth was literally watering, waiting to sink my teeth into soft, warm strawberry scone slathered with sticky sweet jam and whipped vanilla cream.
Once they were out the oven and slightly cooled, I pried a butter knife into the side of one and gently split the crumbly scone. Impatiently I dolloped ruby jam on it and topped it with freshly whipped vanilla cream. I had just one bite, and it was sublime. It’s hard to tell whether this was down the quality of the scone, or my anticipation of something sweet and forbidden. That aside, I think baking ripe strawberries and cream into scones creates an additional layer to this simple pleasure. Don’t be afraid to use overly ripe, slightly squidgy strawberries – they will just become stickier, sweeter and more melty.
To start with, I was a little apprehensive of kneading the delicate fruit into the scone dough – but as long as you don’t over work it, it’s pretty straight forward and doesn’t make the dough soggy.
The inspiration for this recipe comes from River Cottage Handbook No. 3: Bread which has a recipe for scones that calls for double cream – and what better pairing for double cream than summer strawberries?
Makes about 8 scones
In a measuring jug beat the cream, egg and vanilla together. Set aside.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl. Cube and add the butter. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Work quickly to avoid melting the butter. Add the sugar and stir until combined. Alternatively you can put all the ingredients in a food processor and whiz together to get the same effect.
Add the strawberries and gently stir them into the crumbs to fully coat them.
Add the eggy cream mixture and work with your hands to form a soft dough. Be careful not to over work.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead briefly to make it a little smoother. Don’t worry if it isn’t very smooth – rather than over working the dough and squidging the strawberries. Using a little flour on top of the dough, pat it gently to a thickness of about 4cm.
Using a pastry cutter about the size of a wine glass, cut out the scones and lay on the baking tray. When cutting the scones, press the cutter straight down rather than twisting it, as this gives the scone a better chance of rising properly.
Brush the tops with milk and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
Once baked, transfer the scones to wire rack and allow to cool for a few minutes. Serve warm with a spreading of strawberry jam and a dollop of whipped vanilla cream or clotted cream. Or simply with a generous layer of butter.