Makes 8 large scones
The Canadian Living Entertaining Cookbook is one I remember well from my childhood. However, I only know it for a single recipe: the English Tea Scones. This is a classic recipe for plain scones and, growing up, my mom made some variation of these every Sunday. To this day, it is the only recipe that I am aware of she has ever cooked from the book. Perhaps she’ll beg to differ.
These scones are light and fluffy and delicious completely plain in their own right. They also lend well to a variety of adaptations. A favourite for me growing up was the ‘cinnamon roll’ version, made by rolling the dough thinly, spreading lightly with (more) butter, and sprinkling with cinnamon and brown sugar. Include raisins or dried currants and pecans too if you’re a fan. Another common variation was cranberry with lemon zest. Still today when I go home to visit these are baked freshly on Sunday mornings and a stash can always be found in the freezer throughout the week.
It goes without saying that my mom’s scones are the inspiration for today’s recipe. I made these a few weeks ago just before the chives in our garden had bloomed. Chives are always one of the first things to pop in the garden, so I wanted to make something to highlight them. Coupled with a stray sweet potato that needed to be used, and the remainder of a block of aged cheddar, these were the perfect accompaniment to a tomato soup dinner.
These scones are best served slightly warm the day they are baked but, as mentioned, they do freeze well and can be re-heated in the oven or toaster oven.
- 1 medium sweet potato (about 1 cup cooked, mashed)
- 1 tsp chipotle purée* (optional)
- 3/4 cup buttermilk (or plain yogurt)
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 cup regular pastry flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 6 tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cubed
- 1 cup aged cheddar cheese, plus extra for topping, grated
- ½ cup fresh chives
- Mexican chilli powder for garnish (optional)
*To make chipotle purée, place one can of chipotles in adobe sauce into a blender and puree until smooth. Store in a jar in the fridge and use to flavour sauces, stews, eggs, or anything else you think could use a smoky kick.
Preheat oven to 450°F
Peel and dice sweet potato. Place in a small pot of cold water and bring to a boil. Cook about 15 minutes, or until soft. When the potato is cooked, place in a medium bowl, mash and set aside to cool slightly. At this point, you can also stir in a little chipotle purée for a subtle smoky heat. Note: You can also use leftover mashed or roasted (and then mashed) sweet potato or squash here.
Measure buttermilk into a glass measuring cup and stir in the baking soda. Set aside while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Mixing these two will create a carbonation effect in the buttermilk, which contributes to the light, airy texture of the scones.
Meanwhile, sift flours, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Using your fingers, or a pastry cutter, incorporate the butter into the flour mixture. It is ready when you have a fine crumb texture, but with a few pea-sized chunks of butter remaining).
Add the chopped chives and one cup of cheddar cheese into the flour mixture and toss gently with your hands to incorporate.
Mix the sweet potato and buttermilk mixture together, whisking gently until the potato is evenly distributed. Finally, fold this into the flour mixture until all the flour is just incorporated.
Empty the dough* mixture onto a well floured surface. Working with floured hands gently press it into a circle with diameter of about 12-14 inches. Slice into triangles and gently transfer to a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet. Top with extra grated cheddar and a sprinkling of Mexican chilli powder, if using.
Bake scones in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, until fluffy and golden. Allow to cool for five minutes before serving.
*This dough is quite moist, so don’t worry about perfect shapes here. My mom rolls the dough and cuts it into circles, somehow managing to do so with perfection. If you’d like to try the rolling method I encourage you to do so. I have not mastered this and, quite frankly, think it just adds unnecessary time to the preparation. I love scones because they are rustic, so whatever shapes you end up with – go with it.