Drop Scones Made on the Hearth
Here are two traditional Scottish recipes for pan cakes to be eaten at breakfast, or for a teatime treat. Scotland has a rich tradition of using a griddle for baking, or girdle as it is called in Scotland. The original girdle, of ancient times, was simply a flat stone set in the hearth. It is perhaps due to Scotland’s relative poverty in the past, that instead of the oven, this simple and basic method for baking breads and cakes has persisted. There are a wealth of recipes such as oatcakes, soda scones, drop scones, bannocks, and crumpets to name a few.
When I was young I remember making drop scones with my grandmother. We ate these hot, spread with lots of butter and jam. We always made them with regular milk, however, the traditional recipe I have calls for buttermilk – turning them into something more like American style pancakes, that are so popular today. Just like an old Scottish recipe I have for soda scones, the resemblance to American biscuits is uncanny.
There is also a recipe here for Scots crumpets, another favourite. These are not like the spongy leavened English crumpets but more like a pancake. One side is smooth and brown; the other dotted with holes. These too can be spread with butter and jam, and eaten rolled up.
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
25g castor sugar
50g cold unsalted butter
Preheat your girdle, or large heavy based frying pan, over a medium heat. You need to be able to use the batter right away, as it bubbles up as soon as you mix it together.
Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl. Rub in the butter to make fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar. Now stir in the buttermilk. Stir just enough to incorporate everything evenly. Do not beat. Lightly grease the pan with butter – I use a pastry brush to spread the butter around. Start dotting spoonfuls on to the pan. You do not want them to brown too quickly as they need time to cook all the way through. When you see the mixture beginning to dry around the edges and up the sides this is when you want to flip them. Brown on the other side and remove either to a cooling rack, or folded tea towel, to keep them warm if you want to eat them straight away.
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
25g castor sugar
30g unsalted butter, melted
300ml whole milk
1 large egg
pinch of fine sea salt
Take a girdle, or heavy based wide frying pan, and put it over a low heat to get it ready.
Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Stir in the castor sugar and the salt, making sure there are no lumps. Beat the egg in a jug, add the milk and butter. Stir this into the dry mixture. Stir just enough to combine – stir as little as possible so it doesn’t become elastic.
Pour the batter into the jug that was used to combine the wet mixture.
Take a small cloth or rag, rub it in butter and use this to grease the pan. You may not need to grease the pan – I have a well seasoned girdle that doesn’t need to be greased, giving the crumpets a lovely even brown surface.
Pour out the crumpets, as many as will fit into the pan without touching. They should be 10cm – 12cm in diameter.
Bubbles will start to form and then burst on the upper surface of the crumpet. Before the upper surface dries flip it and cook it on the other side until golden brown. This should only take 2 – 3 minutes in total. Have a trial to make sure the heat is just right, you may need to adjust it.
Keep the cooked crumpets in a folded tea towel to keep them warm.