These scones are 100% authentic Irish. The recipe was originally from my paternal Grandmother Bridget Nelis who was from Dunree, Donegal, Ireland. She would get up every morning and make scone for her family of 9 children - Anna, Betty, Margaret, Patsy, Isobel, Billy, Paddy, Gerrard and my dad George! Despite having 5 girls of her own, she passed on the recipe to my Mum, Vivienne, who has hence "passed" it on to me.
My mum has been making scone for as long as I can remember, and when I got married Seán said the only reason he married me was so he could have my mum's scone for the rest of his life!
Anyway, when I said my mum passed me on the recipe she literally said, two handfuls of flour, splash of buttermilk etc, no measurements. So it's taken me some time to perfect the quantities and of course because I'm now in Miami I can't get hold of the original Neills "Soda Bread Flour" so I had to work my way round that too. (Apparently Neills is the best Soda Bread Flour if you live in Ireland!)
My mum traditionally makes scone in a circular loaf shape, but I've made them as individual scones because they are easily transportable. You can also make variations - plain, fruit, treacle, apple etc - but I've gone for the fruit version basically because it's Seán's favourite. The recipe works the same for plain scones. I will work on the others at a later date.
There are very few ingredients - it's the process and techniques that are all important. These include a "big fork" and "flouring the sides of the bowl". Small details that make a big difference.
It goes without saying that lashings of proper butter, jam and whipped cream make these sensational, but make sure if you only put one thing on these make sure it's proper butter, not a low-fat spread.
Let me know if you have a go at making them and how they turn out... I'm now thinking that maybe I should have checked with my mum first to see if I should be spreading the Family Recipe.
Nelis Irish Scones
350g “Neills" Soda Bread Flour, sieved
or if in the U.S., 350g Bread Flour, sieved plus 1 heaped teaspoon of Baking Soda
1 heaped teaspoon of Fine Salt
100g Raisins or Sultanas (optional)
Big metal serving fork, for mixing
8cm Cookie Cutter
Makes 6 Scones
Making the dough:
This will sound strange but there is something about making these scones that goes beyond throwing all the ingredients in a bowl and hoping everything will turn out alright! This recipe needs you to pay attention to the look and the feel of the dough and to be able to tell when it’s a bit dry or a bit wet, and knowing when to add another scattering of flour or a drop more buttermilk. I’ve tried to be as exact as possible with the ingredient measurements but you need to use your own common sense and adjust as necessary. Remember I adapted this recipe from my Mum who says “a handful of flour and a splash of milk”… no measurements at all! That said once you’ve got the “feel” of it, the scones are really quick and easy to make - but you may need to attempt them a few times to perfect them.
Okay… Preheat the oven to 190C/380F.
Sieve the flour into a medium bowl, along with the baking powder and salt. Make a well in the middle of the mixture and pour in the buttermilk and fruit, if you are using fruit. Mix it all together using a “Big Fork”. By this I mean a serving fork - not a dinner fork. I’ve tried using a wooden spoon but it just doesn’t work!
The dough should come together in a wet sticky ball after a few minutes. At this point sprinkle some flour around the inside of the bowl, then lift the bowl and shake/rotate it in a circular motion. Thedough should roll around in a ball gathering up some flour as it goes, see photo above.
Cutting the scones:
Turn the dough out onto a cold surface sprinkled lightly with flour, then flatten it with your hands until it is about 3cm thick. It should be big enough so that you able to cut out 4 rounds with an 8cm cookie cutter. Each should weigh approximately100g. Place the rounds onto a baking sheet.
Roll the remaining dough into a ball, flatten out and cut out the 2 remaining rounds.
Put the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, take them out and turn them over and bake for another 3 minutes to color the top, if needed. The scones should make a hollow sound when you knock on the base of them. Cool on a wire rack and wrap in a tea towel or napkin to keep fresh, or cut and eat whilst warm!
Slice in half, smother in butter, add your favorite jam and devour! If you’ve the calories to spare, add a dollop of whipped cream.
Proper Irish scones should be rustic, chewy, soft and substantial. That said the finished scone texture shouldn’t be too tight or hard.
If they don’t rise it is either because you didn’t use enough baking powder or sieve the flour to get air into the dough. Also using plain flour instead of bread flour can produce flatter tighter scones.
I sprinkled flour over the scones before baking to make the photo look better, I wouldn't recommend doing it though!
The scones are best eaten on the day they are baked. Keep them covered after they have cooled a bit. If they are a touch stale the next day then toast them - they are delicious!
[bake scones like the Irish... get the recipe here]