Perfectly Plain Afternoon Tea Scones

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High tea at the Imperial Hotel for my birthday (w/Anni Graham, Katelyn Parsons & Jessamin Birdsall)


  • 450g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 110g cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 50g caster sugar (optional see note below)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten, with enough milk to come up to about 250ml mark
  • Extra milk for brushing


Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius. You will need a baking sheet and a 5-6cm fluted pastry cutter,

First sift together the flour, bicarbonate and cream of tartar—this is important to spread the raising agents throughout the flour. Add the butter, and with your fingertips, quickly and briefly rub it into the flour until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour the milk/egg mixture in all at once. Quickly and lightly mix the milk into the flour mixture with your hand until you have a very soft but not sticky dough (although for scones it’s better for the dough to be too soft than too dry).

Tip the dough on to a floured surface and pat it into a disc 2-3cm thick. Don’t worry if the surface is uneven. Dip the pastry cutter into some flour and cut out individual scones. Place them close together on the baking tray. Gather up the scraps and gently make another disc and continue cutting out scones until all the dough is used up. Brush a little milk on the top of each scone to give a shiny finish. Bake for about 10-12 minutes.

The scones should be lightly browned on top and the sides will be dry but soft. They will probably not look uniformly pretty—some may have toppled slightly. This is as it should be: uneven, lumpy, but light. To keep the scones soft, cover them with a clean dry tea towel. Let them cool slightly before serving.

  • Makes 12-14 scones
  • Serve with thick cream and strawberry jam
I like to leave out the sugar and serve with fresh berries or sliced bananas (berries are hard to come by here) and sugar-less pouring cream. The fruit adds enough sugar for it to seem like a treat, and still be healthy! — Emily

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