My Favorite Irish Scones Recipe

Monday, January 17, 2011

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Last week In my Shepherd’s Pie post, I mentioned that I had rediscovered the dish while on a trip to Scotland.  What I didn’t mention was that this trip to Scotland was part of a two week concert tour in the British Isles with a group that I used to perform with.    I learned a lot about myself during that trip.  For instance, I realized that I would have never made it in a rock band. Being stuck for days on end in a smelly, run down bus, staying in a different dive hotel every night and eating in greasy spoons are not my idea of a good time.  I’m not very good at “roughing it”.  I get cranky when I’m not comfortable.   Just ask those poor people who were travelling with me.  I’m sure they’d be only too happy to tell you!  In fact, I was such a “Diva”, they even gave me my own tiara.

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See that menacing looking guy in the right corner.  He was our evil tour manager.  He hated me.  I hated him too.  He refused to stop for potty breaks until at least ten people had to go.  Do you know what it’s like riding along bumpy country roads in a rickety old tin can of a bus for over two hours when you have to pee?   I do, and it ain’t pleasant.

But, there are some advantages to living a nomadic lifestyle.  When I wasn’t complaining about the crappy mode of transportation, the sub-par accommodations or the mean tour manager, I really enjoyed soaking up the local color of my surroundings – especially in the breathtaking heather-lined hills of the Scottish Highlands and the lush, verdant valleys in the Irish countryside.  

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And, the flowers!  Oh my goodness, those gorgeous, brilliant flowers!   Peeking through cobblestone paths, climbing up the walls of charming little thatch-roofed cottages and dotting the banks of each river’s edge, they were here, there…

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…and everywhere!

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I absolutely fell in love with this little stone cottage in Old Galway!  I was ready to move right in.  It even has a name – Ivybank Cottage.  How cool is that?  I want to name my house too, but I’m afraid it might confuse the mailman.

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But, one of the true pleasures for me on that trip was learning what a scone was supposed to taste like.  And, I’ll give you a hint.  It isn’t a big, dry, heavy brick with a few petrified raisins thrown in that you might see in the display case at that omnipresent coffee shop chain which shall remain nameless.  No, no, no, my dear readers!  A real, honest to goodness Irish scone is nothing like that.  It is light and airy and fluffy and just melts away in your mouth.

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Those lovely, cloud-like scones I consumed in Ireland, and Scotland too for that matter, have spoiled me forever.  Since then, I’ve never been content to just grab one at a coffee shop and go.  And, try though I did, I never could replicate them in my own kitchen.  I’m Italian, not Irish!  How was I to know that I was doing it all wrong?  Then, I found Aoife’s recipe.   Aoife is the Dublin-based voice behind The Daily Spud, an award winning and highly entertaining food blog dedicated to the humble tuber.  While most of her recipes include potatoes in some way, shape or form, many do not, like the one for these wonderful scones.  I had the pleasure of meeting Aoife a few years ago at the first IFBC in Seattle, and loved her.  She is sharp, creative and clever, just like her blog!

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The secret to making a perfect Irish scone first lies in the butter, and Ireland produces some of the world’s best.  Irish butter is made with milk from free roaming, grass fed cows who are said to produce “the sweetest, richest milk in the world”.  Those “Happy Cows” from California have got nothing on their Irish counterparts, who loll around all day munching on the lush, nutrient-rich grasses of the Emerald Isle.  Irish butter has a higher butterfat content than regular American butter, and thus has a much richer flavor.   It is noticeably silkier, denser and creamier, with a sunny golden color.  The most readily available brand found here in the States is Kerrygold.  It costs a little more, but I think it’s worth it.  Your finished product will only be as good as the ingredients you put in.

The other secret to making great scones is to use a flour with a low percentage of protein.  Low protein equals low gluten, and gluten toughens delicate baked goods.   If you can find White Lily brand flour, use it.  Its  lower protein content will help to make your scones incredibly tender.

Another trick I’ve found to guarantee light and fluffy scones, is to sift the dry ingredients together at least twice.  Three or four times is better, but twice will do.  And, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this, but do not overwork your dough! Overworked dough bakes up into tough pastry.  You don’t want that.  Mix the ingredients just until your dough forms and not a second more.  Do this and you will be rewarded with scrumptious, buttery scones that defy gravity.

Now, if only I could find something to help me defy gravity.

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33 responses to My Favorite Irish Scones Recipe

  1. On January 17, 2011 at 12:45pm, nicole said...

    your photos of the flowers are stunning.

    I love scones, even the crappy coffee house ones so I’m sure I would LOVE these. I love a warm scone with some butter and jam. I’m happy your recipe does not have raisins too!

  2. On January 17, 2011 at 12:48pm, Kate said...

    I’ve spent a fair bit of time in the UK and similar to how Guinness gets better the closer you are to Dublin (I know everyone says it but it’s totally true), the scones get better too. The Europeans really do know their butter, I have yet to find anything that compares this side of the pond. Thank you for sharing this recipe, it sounds divine.

    • On January 19, 2011 at 8:00am, Susan said...

      I agree completely. I can get the Kerrygold at my local market. But, I can also sometimes find good imported French butters at Whole Foods too.

    • On January 21, 2012 at 12:41pm, J. Maguire said...

      Try butter from Vermont. When my Irish relatives were here, they told me that Vermont was the only place they could find good butter. My Irish cousins are farmers, they have their own cows, and make their own butter, they know what they are talking about.

  3. On January 17, 2011 at 2:13pm, Donna said...

    YUM!!! Thanks this was a fun post to read… you DIVA you!
    {{{HUGS}}}
    Donna

    • On January 19, 2011 at 8:01am, Susan said...

      :D

  4. On January 17, 2011 at 2:42pm, Rosa said...

    Those are fantastic! What a great texture they have…

    I would love to visit Ireland.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  5. On January 17, 2011 at 2:48pm, Barb said...

    I, also, am happy that your recipe doesn’t have raisins in it. I love scones, and so does my husband. Looking forward to trying your recipe!!

  6. On January 17, 2011 at 3:21pm, Wendy said...

    Gorgeous travel pics. The scones look awesome.

    • On January 19, 2011 at 8:01am, Susan said...

      Thanks, Wendy!

  7. On January 17, 2011 at 3:25pm, Rachel (S[d]OC) said...

    I’m with Barb. Thanks for no raisins!

    I understand about the tour thing. I spent spring break on tour with the choir in college. We had a nice bus (with a potty) and we stayed in people’s homes and not icky hotels at night, but it still made for long, tedious days. By the time the tour was over I couldn’t wait to get off that bus and not see those people again for a few days! Most of the time the host families were nice and so were their homes, but sometimes they were just weird or hyper-religious and wanted to talk to you about Jesus all night. A week on tour and my voice was shot. I could never do it for weeks on end.

    I love scones, but have probably not had many good ones (although I’ve certainly had better ones than the unnamed coffee chain variety). Would you believe that when I went to Ireland a few years ago I never had any? They were never on the menu at breakfast.

    The butter in Ireland is indeed the best. I buttered my bread ridiculously on that trip. I do love using Kerrygold when I feel like spending some money. It’s great for baking because it softens quickly (although there is a margin of error there when it gets too soft).

    • On January 19, 2011 at 8:07am, Susan said...

      We were originally supposed to be hosted in people’s homes too. But, because we were a professional ensemble, Irish law wouldn’t allow it. Don’t know why. I do prefer having my freedom and privacy when traveling, though, so it was probably a good thing.

      The European butters are softer than ours, and there is some adjustment needed for baking. Probably because of the higher butterfat content. But, you just have to use it for some things like scones, shortbread and croissants. :)

  8. On January 17, 2011 at 6:16pm, Phyllis Kirigin said...

    Mouthwatering! BUT how can you wax poetic about that wonderful butter as the #1 secret to making these delicious scones and then say “. . . or margarine?” Seriously, they’re wonderful.

    sweetpaprika.wordpress.com

    • On January 17, 2011 at 6:39pm, Susan said...

      Oops! You’re right. That was from Aoife’s original recipe and I forgot to remove it. No, no, no margarine…ever! ;)

  9. On January 18, 2011 at 1:46am, Pattie @ Olla-Podrida said...

    Scones are my weakness. It’s been a while since I’ve been to Ireland, but I do remember eating a lot of bread, and it was all so delicious.

  10. On January 18, 2011 at 9:01am, bellini said...

    Looking back on it your experience in Scotland had many highpoints. What a beautiful country, so green and lush. Scones used to be a regylar thing around here but I have rarely found the perfect recipe. I think this is the one that can be my new “go to” recipe.

    • On January 19, 2011 at 8:09am, Susan said...

      Oh, yes! I’m very thankful that I got to make the trip. Where else can you see snow in June, but in the Scottish Highlands! :)

  11. On January 18, 2011 at 10:58am, Patrice said...

    This post had me cracking up…particularly the part about the evil tour manager! Scotland looks amazing. The photos of the trip and the scones are beautiful.

    • On January 19, 2011 at 8:11am, Susan said...

      Hehehe! He really was kind of a jerk. I just tried to ignore him.

  12. On January 18, 2011 at 11:09am, Stefania said...

    Sono davvero belli , ciao una buona serata

    • On January 19, 2011 at 8:12am, Susan said...

      Mille grazie, Stefania! Sono molto felice che vi piaccia. :)

  13. On January 18, 2011 at 11:31am, Suzanne said...

    beautiful photos of your trip, love scones so I know these would taste great!

  14. On January 20, 2011 at 3:50am, Annemarie said...

    Ever made lemonade scones? Flour, baking powder, cream and carbonated lemonade, simple simple simple and the texture and flavour is wonderful!

  15. On January 20, 2011 at 8:22am, Ntaylor said...

    Beautiful photos! I’ve been trying scone recipes for ages to try and recapture the feeling of visiting my grandparents in England as a child. Having trouble. Will try yours.

  16. On January 21, 2011 at 5:45pm, Margaret said...

    I learned to love tea and scones growing up in England and they are still my favorite things to drink and bake. The British/Scottish/Irish scones are so different from what Americans know as scones. These look lovely and I will make them really soon.

    How interesting about your past life. And how great (even sans bathroom) to do it again.

  17. On January 26, 2011 at 4:48pm, Joanna V said...

    What beautiful scones. And a great tip for sifting the dry ingredients more than once. I have some Kerrygold butter, but I believe it is salted – can you tell me whether you used salted or unsalted butter for these? Thanks.

  18. On January 31, 2011 at 7:32pm, Daily Spud said...

    How on earth did I miss commenting on this ’til now?! Thank you so much for the shout out Susan and I’m so glad that you’ve taken to the brother’s scones. As for Irish butter, it’s only when I go abroad that I realise how spoiled I am – Kerrygold is what I have every day. And, needless to remark, I’m with you 100% about using butter in these scones – the “…or margarine” was from the brother’s original version, though I’ve never made them with anything other than butter myself :)

  19. On February 01, 2011 at 2:17pm, Patricia said...

    I’m from Dublin, but I’m studying in Scotland at the moment, and I’ve become known as a butter snob over here :) Kerrygold is the only Irish butter I can find over here, so it’s my little luxury in life :)
    Scones are one of my favourite things in the world, and I find an extra help towards the airness is adding some cream, for when your feeling luxurious :)

  20. On January 21, 2012 at 12:45pm, J. Maguire said...

    My Irish cousnins tell me that Vermont butter is as good as the butter in Ireland. They are farmers, I believe them. Our trip confirms your comment on the butter in Ireland.

  21. On March 13, 2012 at 11:33pm, dennis said...

    I notice a lot of people have a dislike for raisins in their scones! I make mine with black currants, cranberries and crushed walnuts and I get nothing but compliments! Also I use 1/2 apf and 1/2 cake flour and a tablespoon of red wine vinegar! I know it sounds garish but believe me they are wonderful!!!!!!!!!!!1

  22. On March 13, 2013 at 1:08pm, Elise said...

    The first time I ever had a real scone was at afternoon tea in Scotland. It was so good! These scones look just like them. Thank you!

  23. On August 17, 2013 at 11:26am, Emma said...

    4 cups is equal to 32 oz. is the flour supposed to be 2 cups or 4 cups?

  24. On February 16, 2014 at 2:22pm, Cheryl said...

    Definitely 2 cups. Had to double recipe at last minute when I realized. Didn’t turn out well and they were kind of expensive mistakes!

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Hello and welcome to SGCC! I’m Susan, a professional writer, food columnist, recipe developer, wife, mother, daughter and sister, who used to be a lawyer in a previous life. My love of food comes from a long line of wonderful and creative Italian home cooks who didn’t always have a lot, but knew how to make a lot out of what they had. I hope that you enjoy yourself while you’re here, and visit often! read more >>

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