For the past few years I have eaten sourdough in pastry and in bread form more or less daily and have found my enjoyment of quick breads has diminished as I miss the depth and complexity that sourdough brings. This is true of most bread I eat in restaurants now too, even excellent bread can disappoint. I regret this sometimes, because perfectly delicious food no longer satisfies. We train our tastes with our choices and win and lose at times.
Sourdough scones aren’t more or less virtuous than any other kind of scone. They lack structure comparatively but gain flavour. I enjoy reinventing recipes and understanding their components; it’s the process that is interesting and if the end result is delicious it is worth keeping alongside more traditional recipes.
Makes: 10-12 scones
Prep time: 10 minutes, plus at least 4-6 hours refreshment, plus 1 hour chilling
Cook time: 20-25 minutes
Photography: Patricia Niven
Season: Year Round
Stage 1: Refreshment
131g strong white bread flour
131g whole milk
65g wheat starter at 60% hydration (12–24 hours after last refreshment)
33g caster sugar
Stage 2: Dough mix
263g plain white flour
223g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 2 cm (¾ in cubes)
61g caster sugar
225g mature Cheddar, grated
1 tsp sea salt
10g baking powder
½ tsp ground black pepper, English mustard powder or ground cayenne (optional)
60g double cream, plus 1–2 tbsp for glazing
Place all the stage 1 ingredients in a 1.5 litre jar or jug, mix, cover and leave in the fridge for 12–16 hours. Remove from the fridge and set aside for 2–4 hours at room temperature, before mixing the dough. Alternatively just leave at room temperature for 4–6 hours and don’t chill.
Place the flour and butter for stage 2 in a freestanding mixer with paddle attachment or in a medium bowl. Mix on low speed or rub between your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the sugar, 150g of the grated cheese, salt, baking powder and your chosen spice, if using. Stir with a spoon to distribute evenly. Add 354g of the starter and the cream and mix with a spoon until the dough comes together, then turn out onto the work surface and knead briefly and gently, until the dough is smooth and uniform in texture. Shape the dough into a 4–5cm thick and even round, wrap in cling film and leave on the work surface for 1–2 hours then refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 200ºC/180ºC fan/gas mark 6. Line a baking tray with baking parchment.
Use a round cutter to cut circles out of the dough, placing them as close together as possible and using sharp, firm cuts – this helps the scones rise to their full height. You should get 10–12 scones from the dough. You can gently reroll the trimmings but they won’t be quite so nice as those cut first.
Arrange the scones in rows about 1cm apart, on the baking tray. Brush with cream and sprinkle with the remaining Cheddar. Bake until golden, top and bottom, and the cheese is bubbling – approximately 20–25 minutes. Leave the scones to cool on the tray or transfer to a wire rack if you prefer.
Michelle Eshkeri’s cookbook Modern Sourdough explores so many innovative ways of incorporating sourdough into both sweet and savoury bakes, featuring recipes from her home kitchen and her much-loved North London-based Margot Bakery. £22, White Lion Publishing. Photography Patricia Niven.