Post rewritten and recipe updated January 2021. First posted January 2013.
A big jug of coffee had just been set in the hearth, the seed-cakes were gone, and the dwarves were starting on a round of buttered scones, when there came a loud knock.-The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
No afternoon tea in a Hobbit’s cozy home is truly complete without a generous mound of scones, ready to be adorned with butter or accompanied by jam and clotted cream. As we step into Bilbo’s world, uncover the secrets behind the beloved buttered scones that graced his table in The Unexpected Party.
A Timeless Tradition: Scones Fit for Hobbits
Scones are the epitome of simplicity and warmth. This recipe focuses on the traditional plain scone due to the mention of butter, as its sweetened counterpart would have been paired with cream. While variations exist, the essence of this traditional treat remains closely aligned with its Scottish origins.
From Hearth to Oven: Evolution of the Scone
Over the centuries, the scone has undergone subtle transformations, maintaining its essence while adapting to new techniques.
- the inclusion of bicarbonate/baking soda in the late 1800s to help the scones rise. Because soda needs acid and moisture to activate, cream of tartar and buttermilk is also included.
- one large cake cut into wedges is now baked as individual circular serves.
- Scones were once traditionally cooked on a griddle (girdle), a flat circular iron plate, with a hooped handle to allow it to hang over a fire. Today, these scones come out of the oven.
Mastering the Art of Perfect Scones: Tips and Techniques
Achieving the ideal fluffy scone lies in the nuances of technique and ingredients. Here’s how to ensure your scones are nothing short of perfection:
- Choose the Right Flour: Opt for cake flour with a lower protein content, resulting in a lighter texture.
- Embrace the Sifter: Sifting the flour is not merely a step; it’s a practice that lends an airy quality to the mixture.
- Mix with Care: Incorporate the ingredients without overworking the dough, ensuring its lightness is preserved.
- Chill with Cold Butter: Rubbing in cold butter creates layers within the dough, imparting a flaky finish. If you use melted butter, the moisture is already absorbed into the flour when you mix, leaving you with a dry, doughy scone.
Making Ahead and Serving Scones
Scones are best savored fresh from the oven. Some cooks swear by chilling the dough overnight before baking it the following morning, which will also you some early preparation before your party.
- Davidson, A., et al. The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford University Press, 2014.
- White, F. Good Things in England: A Practical Cookery Book for Everyday Use, Containing Traditional and Regional Recipes Suited to Modern Tastes, Contributed by English Men and Women Between 1399 and 1932. J. Cape, 1932.