Royal Wedding Breakfast: Ginger Scones

We all knew it was coming: you can’t have a Royal Wedding Breakfast without scones. So, I chose to start with the obvious. And to add a curveball and make them gingery!

The English might have issues with gingers, but Mrs. Beeton does not stint on candied ginger, and she definitely encourages adding dried fruit to her basic scone recipe.

She also does not stint on scone directions: Mrs. Beeton devotes a whole 4-page section to the making of scones. A “light hand,” she notes, is particularly essential to good results with these baked goods. Funnily, I recently found the exact same assertion in a southern cookbook’s discussion of biscuit-making.

Mrs. Beeton’s Scone Commandments:
1. In the basic proportions are correct they can be varied in many different ways (e.g., adding cheese, treacle, or nuts).
2. It is most essential to be accurate with proportions, e.g. too much soda will ruin the scones.
3. Whereas yeast mixtures are kept warm, scones etc. made with other rising agents should be kept as cool as possible. The cold air expands with the heat and so helps to make the scones lighter.
4. The best utensil for mixing scones is a round-bladed knife; it gets well down to the bottom of the bowl and can be used for mixing without pressing on the mixture.

(Cookbook Archaeology Note: Pinch dough lightly with fingertips till it reaches a mealy texture.)

5. The most important rule is to add all the liquid at once and mix lightly to a spongy dough.

6. The scones should be handled as little and as lightly as possible.

7. Scones should be cooked quickly – 10 minutes in a hot oven for small scones and 15 minutes for a round of 4 or 6.

8. Cool oven scones on a cooling tray to keep the outside crisp. Girdle (sic) scones are best cooled in a tea towel to keep the skin soft.

Plain Scones (Makes 10 round or 12 wedges)
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 c. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, chilled (or lard!)
1 1/4 c. chilled buttermilk

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment.
2. Whisk together the flour, salt, soda, and tartar. Use two knives, cutting in opposite directions, to blend the flour and butter. Do this for under a minute, then pinch the butter into the flour with your fingertips for about 30-45 seconds until it reaches a cornmeal-like texture.
3. Add all the buttermilk at once and mix it into the flour lightly with your hands. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it lightly, a couple of times only.
4. To make rounds: Pat the dough to 1/2 to 3/4-inch thickness and cut out 2 1/2-inch circles. To make wedges: Divide the dough in two and pat it into two 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick circles, then cut each circle into 6 wedges.
5. Place the scones on the prepared sheet, brush with milk or beaten egg, and bake 10 minutes, until golden brown.
6. Cool on a rack.

For ginger scones: Add 1/4 cup chopped candied ginger, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 1 teaspoon ground ginger to the dry ingredients whisked together at Step 2.