Scones seem to have been around forever as quick but delicious snacks for morning tea or anytime. I have many memories, of visiting aunts or grandparents, where my sister and I were given a hot scone spread with butter and jam to feast on.
It remains a traditional afternoon tea snack in Britain, where it is said to have originated centuries ago.
Unbelievably, how to serve it has been the subject of much social media debate there in the last few months, after a National Trust property in the county of Cornwall published a picture on its website of scones spread with whipped cream and topped with a dollop of jam.
Outraged netizens said that in Cornwall, it must be jam first, with the cream on top.
The opposite method is the tradition only in the neighbouring county of Devon, added the critics - and the website apologised.
I know which I prefer, but I am not going to restart the argument by saying what it is.
The British took the scone around the world, while America went its own way. A close relation of the scone is called a biscuit in the United States and, particularly in the southern states, it is served with ham or chicken as a meal and with gravy as breakfast.
Meanwhile, the British version turned up everywhere else and is found on cafe menus and featured in hotel high teas.
Date scones are a favourite in my household, although, from time to time, I also make a savoury version using cheese and bacon or a fruity version using sultanas or dried cranberries.
However, I have been testing more unusual ingredients and have discovered how flavoursome pumpkin scones can be.
Choose almost any type of pumpkin or butternut squash, but look for hard, bright orange flesh, which means it will be sweeter and less likely to go mushy when cooked. The flavour should come through as a mild savoury counterpoint to any sweet topping you choose to put on the baked item.
I've also been surprised to discover the appeal of lemonade scones. They are made with canned or bottled sparkling lemonade and can turn out spectacularly light and fluffy. The method is so simple and you need only self-raising flour, cream and lemonade. They are less "cakey" than regular scones and the raw dough needs careful, minimal handling.
In fact, the less handling the better is the rule for all scones, so don't overhandle the dough. And serve them while warm from the oven as they lose their attractiveness when cold and stale.
- 300g orange pumpkin (above)
- 250g self-raising flour
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- Pinch of salt
- 1 Tbs caster sugar
- 60g cold butter, chopped
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 Tbs milk or buttermilk
- Steam the pumpkin until the flesh turns soft. Allow to cool, then remove skin and mash.
- Preheat oven to 200 deg C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
- Sift flour, nutmeg, turmeric and salt into a bowl. Add the sugar and chopped butter. Rub butter into the flour mixture with fingertips until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Make a well in the centre of the mixture. Add egg, milk and mashed pumpkin. Stir gently until a soft dough forms. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
- Using a lightly floured rolling pin, gently roll dough out until 2 to 3cm thick. Cut with a floured cutter or knife to make 10 scones.
- Place scones close together so they are just touching on prepared tray. Brush with milk and bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden. Serve with butter or jam and cream if preferred.
- 320g self-raising flour
- 170ml cold, fizzy lemonade
- 170ml thick cream
- 2 Tbs milk
- Preheat oven to 200 deg C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
- Sift flour into a bowl.
- Make a well in the centre of the flour and add lemonade and cream. Mix to form a soft dough (do not overmix as this will result in tough scones). The dough should be fairly soft and a bit sticky.
- Turn the dough onto a well-floured board and gently roll to 3 to 4cm thick and cut with a floured cutter or knife to make 10 scones.
- Place the scones close together on the prepared tray, with them just touching. Lightly brush tops with milk. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until pale golden and cooked through.