Will it bend? Rachel Allen buttermilk scones

If your previous scone efforts have been of the Nokia 5 series indestructible brick varietal then this recipe is for  you. 

I’m a big fan of Rachel Allen and her buttermilk scones recipe is pretty internet-famous so I decided to give it a go, because it said ‘difficulty=easy’ on the page and making 'hard' scones that would turn out hard all sounded a bit hard. The secret is to RTFM on this one: do exactly what the recipe says and your scones will be a winner. 

Winning scone of champions and following instructions

Tips: 

Scone science is very complicated and controversial

There is much debate on the best raising agent to use for scones and the cream of tartar/buttermilk/bicarb soda science is what makes them non-Nokia so get all the things ready before you start and get the measurements exact

The buttermilk came fresh in a carton in the chilled section of the supermarket where you get milk

I had a conversion fail at the start going from grams to cups -US standard cup and AU standard cup are not the same so remember it’s fourish cups not 2ish cups of flour 125gms =cup, cup dependent of course

I used normal, plain flour and not 00 Italian pasta flour so that gets them even lighter if you can get that

I cut the dough out with a normal water glass because I didn’t have a scone cutter and it worked ok

Rachel Allen likes crispy golden brown bottoms

Don’t panic if they take a few minutes longer in the oven to go dark golden because I just about pulled them out too soon and then I went ‘no, I must trust Rachel at this critical time’ and they look good I think. Rachel Allen goes on about the crispy outside and bottoms and the soft middle which I didn’t really get before but I do now, it’s amazing and what makes them so different from the atrocities you get at Starbucks et al.

Squishy and soft hooray :)
Jam and cream for the full Queen experience

Will they bend? Nope these ones are not doughy nor brick-like in any way and I was pretty impressed with the colour and height on them, especially for a first attempt. Rubbing the butter into the flour takes ages but if you get organised, it's fast and the recipe makes a lot and you will feel talented and successful in your renewed scone making abilities. Seriously, stick to the recipe and (I even sifted the dry ingredients which I normally could never be bothered with) and you will be tapping crispy bottoms, just like Rachel. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 500 g light Italian or plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 heaped tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 heaped tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 125 g chilled unsalted butter, cubed
  • 25 g caster sugar
  • egg, beaten
  • 275 ml buttermilk or milk, plus extra for the egg wash
  • 50 g caster or granulated sugar, (optional)

METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 220C/gas 7. 

2. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and salt into a large bowl. Using your fingertips, rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and mix well. 

3. Set aside about a third of the beaten egg and combine the rest with the buttermilk, then add to the flour mixture and mix briefly to combine into a moist dough. Place on a lightly floured work surface and knead ever so slightly to bring together, then press or roll out to a thickness of 2cm. 

4. Using a 6cm round cutter, cut out approximately 12 scones and place on a floured baking tray. 

5. Add about a teaspoon or so of buttermilk to the remainder of the beaten egg to make an egg wash. Brush the scones with the egg wash (and dip the tops in sugar if you wish) and bake in the oven for 10–12 minutes or until golden brown on top. Serve while hot. 

Adapted from Rachel Allen, Bake (Collins)

Smartphones are pretty dumb without data

Smartphone adoption statistics seems to get a lot of media coverage and open up debates about how businesses need to adopt their models to the new world of the mobile consumer and the 'second screen.'

What the research seems to ignore is that most smartphone owners have very small data allowances that render the device no better than a $30 Nokia flip phone from 2002. 

Case in point was TEDx Sydney last weekend. It was a fantastically well run event let down a tad by the lack of open WiFi at the venue. If the premise of TED is to share ideas then surely WiFi would have enabled much greater amplification? 

I was on a reasonably large local data plan and could tweet and post photos freely (when the 3G reception held together). Many attendees had dragged along a full suite of smartphones, tablets and laptops, only to find they couldn't connect. Relative to the 800-odd people at the event, I thought the online streams were pretty quiet and a great opportunity was lost to invite in a global online community. 

So perhaps now we need to concentrate our efforts not on the hardware but on data enablement. 

Statistically, younger people are more likely to publish to social networking sites but they are also less likely to have expensive company data plans. User-generated content is the holy grail of social media so any investment to enable photo and video sharing will surely be worth your while. 

Without data, smartphones are pretty dumb regardless of how many people have them.