The secret to an airy and light scone with a pillowy interior

Pare a traditional scone back and it has the potential to carry any flavour including savoury

Apple, cheddar and thyme scones. Photograph: Harry Weir

Apple, cheddar and thyme scones. Photograph: Harry Weir

 

A light and airy scone recipe is an essential one to have in your repertoire. Scones are probably one of the quickest baked treats to rustle up and are so much more delicious when home-made.

The key to a soft pillowy inside is to avoid overworking your dough and to resist the urge to add in excess flour when rolling out. Pare a traditional sweet scone back and take away all of its cream and jam glory, and it is a blank canvas; it really has the potential to carry flavour. 

I have a predilection for savoury foods. Some would say I have a bit of a cheese obsession. When dining out, I often opt for a cheese course over dessert. This comes as a surprise to many; as a trained pastry chef, it is assumed that I have a sweet tooth. Well, of course I do, it is my profession. But tasting sweet things all day means that when I get home, I crave a savoury snack. These scones are a perfect quick fix. 

I have two apple trees growing in my garden, one full of ruby-red baby crab apples, the other blooming with large chartreuse-coloured, sweet but mildly tart beauties. Once they start dropping off the branches in September, I try to find a myriad of different ways to use them.

The marriage of sweet and savoury is a well-established one. Cheese pairs so beautifully with fruit, and I love how Cheddar mellows the sweet but slight acidity of apple and melts into the dough in this savoury scone. Once baked, the apples become soft and fluffy, and the addition of thyme brings all the flavours together and gives a slight woody background hum.

Mature Cheddar is the one to opt for here, as the strength of the flavour really comes through once baked. We are so lucky to live on an island with so many wonderful cheese producers. I’m using Hegarty’s Cheddar, a beautifully nutty and distinctive cheese from Co Cork.

These scones are perfect for breakfast, a mid-morning or afternoon snack, great in lunchboxes or particularly good with soup as the weather gets cooler. They are lovely served warm with a pat of butter, or with cheese and chutney.

Once you have grasped the basic recipe, you can experiment with different cheeses and herbs. They freeze incredibly well too.

Apple, cheddar and thyme scones

Ingredients 
Makes: 8 
235g self raising flour 
¾ tsp salt 
1 tsp baking powder 
25g unsalted butter, cubed 
150g grated mature cheese 
1 tsp chopped thyme 
1 large (about 150g) eating apple, chopped or grated 
2 eggs 
115ml milk

Method

1 Preheat the oven to 200 degrees or 180 degrees if using a fan oven. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

2 In a large mixing bowl, sieve together the flour, salt, and baking powder.

3 Add the butter and rub in with your fingers until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the grated cheese, chopped apple, and thyme and mix well to combine.

4 Crack one of the eggs into a bowl and whisk together with 100ml of the milk. Mix just until the dough comes together. Dust the work surface with a little extra flour, turn out the dough, and roll out until you have a 18cm circle.

5 Cut out eight scones using a 6cm circle cutter and place on the baking tray. Whisk the remaining egg with the 15ml milk and brush the tops of the scones with a little of the egg wash.

6 Bake the scones for 20 minutes until the tops are beautifully golden brown. Cool slightly before serving.

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