The basic scone recipe is from Nigella's How to be a Domestic Goddess, an apt title for scone-making. It uses 4.5 tsp of cream of tartar which seems a lot, but it makes them come out incredibly light. Like in pastry making, gentle handling of the dough is required to avoid heaviness. You could use a freestanding mixer to work the butter into the flour, but there are so few stages in the recipe I'd feel I was excluding myself from making them. For me, it doesn't seem quite right, not making scones by hand. They have a charming old-fashionedness to them that doesn't sit with electrical appliances, even with this more modern take on them. I have the same attitude to making cakes and crumble topping, but not with pastry, where the sharp steel blades of a food processor do a better job than my hot little hands ever could.
I think these make a nice weekend lunch if you are pottering around at home with the urge to bake something. With some butter and more Gruyère, maybe a few cherry tomatoes on the side, you've got the makings of a nice little meal. On colder days, these would be fantastic to have on the side of a bowl of soup.
500g plain flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
75g unsalted butter OR 50g unsalted butter + 25g vegetable shortening, cubed
40g (about 12) black olives, stoned and chopped
100g grated gruyere
6 anchovy fillets, drained (or desalted) and chopped
1 egg, beaten, for glazing
Preheat the oven to 220C and line a baking tray. Sift together the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar. Rub in the fat with your fingertips until you have a mixture resembling breadcrumbs. Mix in the anchovies, olives and cheese, and then stir in the milk. Just mix it enough so it just combines- when the dough starts coming together, press it into a ball with the palms of your hands. Place the dough on a floured surface, and roll out to 2.5cm height. Cut out rounds with a 5cm pastry cutter. Place gently on the baking tray and brush each of them with the beaten egg. Bake for around 15 minutes, till risen and golden.