In a World of Bad Scones, 3 Reasons Why Nigella's Are the Best

In a World of Bad Scones, 3 Reasons Why Nigella's Are the Best

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Elizabeth Licata
Apr 10, 2018
(Image credit: LINGTREN IMAGES/Shutterstock)

If you ever want to start a war with England, you could try throwing all of your tea into the ocean, or you could just ask a room full of British people how to pronounce the word "scone," then back up and let them take care of the rest.

People have been arguing about the word "scone" for generations. Does it rhyme with "cone," or does it rhyme with "gone"? Why is English such a weird language where "cone" and "gone" are pronounced so differently, anyway? Can we get the Queen to weigh in on this issue?

Well when it comes to scones, Nigella Lawson is no less an authority than the Queen. It was no trouble to find a clip of Nigella talking about scones on her cooking show, Nigella Kitchen, and it was immediately clear that she pronounces "scone" to rhyme with "gone." I'm a little shaken up about it, but I will bow to Nigella's authority on all things relating to scones, because she is very, very good at making scones.

Nigella's Scones vs. Other Scones

Nigella's scones are a lot different from the sweet, triangle-shaped scones one sees in cafes and coffee shops around the United States (many of which are awful). Good American-style scones exist, of course, but the road to finding them is paved with a lot of hard, heavy, drier-than-dirt, cranberry-studded nightmares.

In contrast, Nigella's classic British scones are light, flaky, buttery clouds. They might not do for a commuter's breakfast — eaten plain out of a brown paper bag on the way to the subway — but if you have an hour to spend with a pot of tea, her warm scones with clotted cream and sticky syrup are dreamy.

Nigella has several scone recipes in her repertoire, but she says the best scones she's ever tasted are "Lily's Scones" from her book How to Be a Domestic Goddess. That's high praise coming from her, but one look at the recipe reveals why Nigella's scones will save us all from a world of terrible scones.

3 Reasons Why Nigella's Scones Are the Best

1. They're faster than a batch of chocolate chip cookies.

A lot of people think of scones as something to buy from a shop, not something to make at home. But that's a shame, because scones are at their best when fresh out of the oven. They're not difficult, either. Nigella says her scones "satisfy both greed and impatience," and that the recipe comes from "one of those old-fashioned cooks who starts a batch the minute the doorbell rings at teatime."

The recipe takes 20 minutes from start to finish, including the baking time.

2. They're lighter than down pillows, and just as fluffy.

Nigella's scones look and feel solid in your hand, but they have a lofty, pillowy lightness. They can be made entirely with butter, but using her recommended combination of butter and vegetable shortening will make them lighter and flakier. Using a gentle hand while rubbing the cold fat into the dry ingredients keeps the dough from getting overmixed, which in turn helps prevent the scones from becoming too dense and heavy.

Nigella's secret scone ingredient is a very generous four-and-a-half teaspoons of cream of tartar, which she says makes the scones look "as if they've got cellulite," but also gives them that dreamy lightness that puts all rock-hard, flavorless scones to shame.

3. They're able to be submerged in cream and syrup.

Nigella never met a recipe she couldn't make rich and decadent, and her scones are no exception. A classic cream tea consists of tea and scones with clotted cream and jam, but Nigella also advocates a Cornwall tradition called "Thunder and Lightning," where the scones are topped with clotted cream "lightning" and black treacle (molasses, for those of us in the U.S.) "thunder."

Now that we have the perfect scone recipe, tea time is sure to be lovely — as long as we can all agree on how to pronounce "scone."

Do you have a favorite scone recipe? Have you tried this one?

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