Monday 30 May 2016

Ginger and Date Scones

Scone. How do you pronounce that word? Here, it is generally said to be "skon", unless you are talking about the place itself, in which case it is "Skoon". If you are reading this in North America, you probably think it rhymes with stone. 

No, it doesn't. Stop doing that. 

Scones (especially their pronunciation) have been a bit of a thing for a long time in our family. My grandmother's consistently rose like clouds when she cooked them at home in Australia. Unfortunately, when she tried the exact same recipe in North America, the flour produced hot, buttery batches of rocks - fresh baked disappointment - due to the local flour's refusal to cooperate. But the British delicacy didn't have to be homemade; every time we went on a trip to the beach town of Lorne, we could count on visiting the same tea shop overlooking the ocean.  There my grandmother would carefully scrutinise all the menu choices before choosing the same thing time and time again: a cream tea. I think she was of the jam then cream school, but I won't swear to it.

We made the odd batch of scones at home growing up using the ever reliable Bisquick, but it wasn't until I moved to Scotland that I made them from scratch. Here, so many claim to make the BEST scones that I was a bit wary of trying to make them myself. Eventually I conquered my fear, telling myself  at the end of the day, anything straight out of the oven served smeared with melting butter and generous dollops of jam is going to be good, no matter how incompetent a cook you are.

A few years ago my mum went on a visit to Australia and raved about a particular variety of scone: ginger and date. She feasted on them several times during her stay, and being somewhat of a ginger fanatic, recommended I also try making them. She suggested this on a regular basis for quite some time...

"So, have you tried making ginger and date scones?"
"I miss those scones in know, the ginger and date ones? Have you made them?"
"Did you find a good recipe for ginger and date scones yet??"
"'re baking? Are you making scones? With ginger? And dates?"

Still, I can't say I was ever really tempted to make them until this past week. I was at home, awaiting her and her companion's arrival while looking after a poorly 3-year-old, trying to think of something simple I could make with the ingredients I had on hand. Years ago, my mother and I had walked the West Highland Way together, and she had been particularly delighted by Rose Cottage, a B&B that had greeted us with fresh scones and a pot of tea. I looked to recreate that moment (scones after a trek across the ocean rather than following a 14 mile stroll) and then realised that I had both candied ginger and dates in my possession, so perhaps it was time to try the variety my mother had requested I try so many times. The one ingredient in the recipe I did not possess was buttermilk, but that was easily remedied by adding lemon juice to milk and waiting for the mixture to magically transform. 

The rest was just as simple: dry ingredients and chopped butter into the food processor, blitz, dump into bowl & add buttermilk to bring together, mixing as little as possible, fold in dates and chopped ginger. Put mounds onto greaseproof paper, then sprinkle coarse, demerara sugar on top and bake until nicely browned. Brew tea and wait for mother, trying one for quality control while waiting. 

So yes, mother, I have made them. And yes, they were nice. Thank you.

The link is here, but the recipe is also below:


    • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into 8 chunks
    • 1 cup buttermilk (just under a cup of milk, add a Tbsp of lemon juice, stir, then let sit for 10 minutes)
    • 3/4 cup dates, chopped
    • 1/4 cup crystallized ginger, chopped
    • 1 tablespoon demerara sugar 


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda & salt.
  3. With pastry blender cut in the cold butter until mixture looks like fine crumbs (or blitz in a food processor)
  4. Stir in buttermilk until dough forms a ball, then stir in dates & ginger.
  5. On an ungreased baking sheet & using a 1/3 cup measure, drop dough 1 inch apart, then sprinkle with sugar.
  6. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown

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