A perfectly ordinary cheese scone recipe

Nothing (except possibly moaning or rain; or curry) is more British than scones, so let’s take a break from moaning about the coronavirus for a scone recipe. Recipes aren’t  what I do here at Notes, but what the hell, who’s watching?

You will need: 

An oven

A rolling pin

A kitchen, which will, now that I think about it, probably come with an oven, so skip the first item on the list.

A bunch of other stuff that we’ll get to in time.

I only mention all that because I’ve read enough recipe blogs to know that you can’t just give readers the recipe and shut up. You have to fill space. You have to build some kind of excitement. If you don’t do that, readers won’t think they’ve gotten their money’s worth, even though it’s free. And of course, you have to insert photos showing the ingredients gathered lovingly in a spotless kitchen, the process broken into seventeen simple steps, and the resulting whatever-it-is looking so beautiful that cagey readers will suspect you shellacked it. 

A wonderfully appealing and ever so slightly out of focus illustration: Every baking project ends in dirty dishes.

You also have to claim that your recipe makes the world’s best-ever whatevers.

How many bests can this crowded planet hold? How many best-evers does eternity have space for? Look, I think the recipe’s good or I wouldn’t bother you with it, but it’s just a recipe. I’m sure someone else’s is just as good, or better. The world’s full of recipes. Let’s not kid ourselves that this one (or anyone else’s) going to make our lives perfect or our kitchens immaculate. It’s food. Food is lovely stuff, but once you eat it, it’s gone. 

Okay. I’ve filled the requisite amount of space. Here’s the recipe.

Cheese Scones: makes 6 to 8


Flour (that’s plain flour if you bake in British), 1 ½ cups 

Baking soda (bicarbonate of soda if you’re British), ½ teaspoon

Cream of tartar, 1 teaspoon

Salt, ½ teaspoon

Butter (cold), 1 – 2 tablespoons. / ½ – 1 ounce

Sharp cheddar, about 4 ounces, grated

Milk, just enough to bring the dry ingredients together


Heat the oven to 200 centigrade or 400 Fahrenheit. They’re not exact equivalents but try not to think about it. While we’re at it, I used an American-size cup measure, which is a bit different than a British one. The recipe’s forgiving enough that it won’t matter. I don’t bake stuff that isn’t forgiving.

Put the dry ingredients in a bowl. I mention the bowl to keep you from gathering them neatly on the floor, which is the other obvious choice. Take a whisk if you have one and whisk it through the bowl (and yes, its contents) a couple of times. This is the lazy cook’s way of not having to sift anything ever again. If you don’t have a whisk, just mix everything together. I doubt anyone will know. Or sift the dry ingredients if it makes you happy. For all I know, it really does make a difference. 

Cut the butter into the dry ingredients. I was taught to do this with two butter knives, one in each hand, which is about as useless a way to break the butter into small chunks as anyone ever invented. These days, I use a pastry blender. Pastry blenders are wonderful. Or you can do it the British way and rub the butter and flour between your fingers until they blend. 

Grate the cheese and stir it in, then stir in the milk, a little at a time, just until you have a dough instead of a bunch of stuff that doesn’t cling together. Don’t add more milk than you have to or unspecified bad things will happen to you, the most likely of which is that your scones will be tough as an old shoe.

Roll the scones out on a floured surface until they’re, um, yeah, just about thick enough. Maybe ¾ inch. Then cut them into rounds. If you don’t have a reasonable size scone / biscuit / cookie cutter, use a glass. Or cut them into any old ragged shape that suits your fancy. They’ll taste the same. Smoosh the leftover bits together, roll them out again, and cut a few more. Repeat until you get to the last one, which never does look as neat as its brethren and sisteren because you have to shape it with your fingers.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes on a greased cookie sheet (I think that’s a baking tray if you’re British), or line one with baking paper. 

They’re best with butter. They’re plenty good without it.

There. You haven’t thought about the virus since we started, have you? 

Sorry–I ate mine before I got the camera out.

Okay, I’ll play fair, briefly. This photo’s supposed to sit in the empty space just above it, but I couldn’t convince it there.

My thanks to April Munday, who mentioned cheese scones in a comment, convincing me that I had to bake some, and to Arlingwoman, who wrote enough about grits to convince me that posting a recipe would be a good idea. If you want to blame someone for me going semi-off topic this way, blame them. If you don’t want to blame them, go visit their blogs. They’re both worth your time. 

148 thoughts on “A perfectly ordinary cheese scone recipe

  1. I leave the butter out of the recipe…the cheese, although I hesitate to bring politics into this, may be a bit more liberal.
    That way I can be guilt free about how much butter I spred on the things when they are cold ;)

    Liked by 5 people

    • Oh, grocery deliveries! They’re awful. They’re also a lifeline, but talk about being out of control of your life–not to mention your kitchen.

      When I first started blogging, I thought about focusing on cooking, since the novel I’d just published and was trying to promote was heavily kitchen focused and had recipes at the back. Then I realized how much work it was and thought better of it.

      I wish you flour.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I am bereft as I have run out of Alinsons wholemeal self raising flour which I use for all my cakes and scones. I put an egg in with the milk and call them farmouse scones because I make two rounds, mark with a cross and break into triangles when they are baked – this is because I can’t be bothered to cut round ones!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. It certainly took my mind of the dreaded C word…Oh… for a scone or three with jam and cream I have a hankering for one or three of those and the fact the cheese here even my dog won’t eat it…Bring back imports soon I have cheese withdrawal…

    Liked by 4 people

  4. At the beginning of lockdown, I made scones… they were terrible which is a shame because I spent ages grating butter… grating butter is hard work!
    Sadly I used SR flour that was 2 years out of date, you might think it makes no difference, but it does. This was not my finest baking hour!

    Also, when I went to San Francisco a while a go (11 years) I bought some american cup measures and brilliant cake and cheesecake books that use them. Now I get very grumpy when I have to weigh stuff!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I was terrified of weighing stuff when I baked, but now I actually prefer it, at least with flour. When I learned to bake (home ec, back when all the girls had to take that so we’d turn out to be nice little home-makers, gak), I learned to be obsessed with no packing the flour down when you measure it. Measure, sift, remeasure, sift against because remeasuring it packed it down in spite of all your care. So weighing it? Perfect. You can jump up and down on the stuff and it still weighs the same. As long as you clean your shoes before you step out.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I did home economics but dropped it as soon as I could, they kept trying to get me to cook ratatouille which no one liked.

        I think weighing is probably more accurate, but I like the scoop and go approach… although I do have post-it notes stuck in the book to tell me what a stick of butter is!

        Liked by 3 people

      • Sam would like my recipes; I give both measures and weights. But. Ellen, I can’t believe self-raising flour is so popular. Glad to see you used plain flour. Different baked goods require different amounts of raising agents, and it only takes an extra half a minute to measure it out, so why put it (and salt) in the flour? My Classic Scones Tutorial https://www.delightfulrepast.com/2018/08/classic-scones-traditional-scones.html post has 9 photos. Most of my posts have three photos, but I put extra ones in a tutorial post to help out the people who have never made whatever it is. But I hate blogs that just cram in photos–and words!–for SEO. Loved this post, especially the dirty dishes photo! Now I’m in the mood for cheese scones.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks for the link, Jean. I’m always surprised at how often recipes use self-raising flour. I’m too intimidated by numbers to switch it to plain (you wouldn’t believe what I can do with any given set of numbers), but it always feels to me a bit like using Bisquick.

          Remember Bisquick?

          The range of scone recipes here is amazing, including some that use eggs. I’ve never tried that. It strikes me as mildly heretical. But I did have some very good cheese and parsley scones that someone brought to our village produce stall on Sunday. They were wonderful, and the parsley made them look beautiful. Now that no one has much produce growing, it’s full of home-baked goodies. You’d love it.


    • Thanks. I take my inspiration from the I Hate to Cook Book, which–okay I only tried one recipe and it was terrible, but it included the line, “Light a cigarette and stare sullenly at the sink.” She expanded my sense of what a recipe could do.

      Liked by 4 people

      • I’m beginning to see cookery in a new light now … If I ever write a recipe, (which admittedlty is highly unlikely), I will include extra activities like reading a book or phoning a friend or a bit of staring sullenly.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. I love your write up. I’ve been toying with the idea of writing up what actually happens to my kitchen when I cook a recipe … which is not too much cooking gets done (the interruptions are a bit like Alan Ahlberg’s Headmaster’s Hymn) 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I’m afraid I have to take issue with one statement you made: Food is lovely stuff, but once you eat it, it’s gone.

    On the contrary, once I eat food, it shows up on my hips, my thighs, by butt (bum for your British readers ;) ) and elsewhere. More and more, in fact, especially during coronavirus.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ah. You’ll notice the woman second from the right is dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. This is a remake in which Dorothy has to whip up a batch of scones using only the contents of her basket, which was packed by Toto (not in picture) and contains only dog treats.

      And as you so correctly pointed out, it all takes place in a tent.

      Hope I’ve been able to help.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. A lovely take on those blasted recipes on the internet.
    As part of whatever circle of isolation hell we are experiencing, my husband watches foreign soap operas…and gets enthused about what the characters are eating. This is followed by a search for recipes for same on the internet where some daft cow thinks I am going to be excited because her kid/husband/significent other/mother in law or combination of all these will eat the muck that she is proposing to show me – eventually.
    By the time we get to the ingredients and method I have lost interest.

    I follow the advice of a chap who had had a career as an embassy chef, working all over the globe.
    ‘Open the fridge in the morning, see what is in there, cook it.’
    Otherwise, my old Farmers’ Weekly recipe compilation from the 60s…those ladies wasted no words.

    Cheese scones on the menu this afternoon, then!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I love a good scone. A dear friend of long ago used to make them on a regular basis, all sorts.
    I’m visiting from the traffic jam weekend link up.
    Dawn aka Spatulas On Parade

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Mrs B is the baker, so I’ll give this to her for her portfolio (the banana mountain ended up as dehydrated snacks, not a loaf by the way but filed for another day!) She does the stuff where there’s some sort of science involved in the ratios etc, of ingredients and instructions that have more than two stages. I tend to do the more impressionistic interpretations of recipes based on intuition and luck and can be served in a bowl. So numerous international variations on a stew basically.

    Liked by 3 people

    • That doesn’t make them sound like a great idea. Tell you what. Skip the cheese. Cut the milk–it’s just cheese in a different form. Cut the flour and the baking powder and all that white, scattery stuff. It only makes a mess. Take the butter and spread it on toast.

      It’s delicious, and your kitchen will smell of toast for a good five or ten minutes.

      Liked by 2 people

      • How did Dorothy get there? That was some tornado! Okay, I wrote this down, and I will be making them in the morning. I loved the picture of the dirty dishes–pretty much what my sink looks like most weekend mornings. I’ll have to use buttermilk as I don’t have any of the other stuff, but that may enhance things…Thanks for the shout out. I still haven’t made grits after waxing eloquent on them last week, but I will…

        Liked by 2 people

  10. My Nana wouldn’t stop to visit us if I didn’t reassure her that Les [hubby] would bake a batch of scones to go with her cuppa. She came and we all enjoyed Les’s scones and her company. Cheese or date scones are still a favourite in cafes down here in NZ.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s sweet.

      A kiwi runs a cafe in our village (or she does when it’s not locked down), and every so often she’ll make date scones. Sadly, I’m not a big fan of dates. I prefer her plain ones.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Dammit. I have people coming over tomorrow- a friend’s little girl couldn’t have a party because of covid, but they’re coming here instead and she’ll ride my old horse and play with chickens, and of course there will be cake and ice cream … And I THOUGHT cheese scones would be a perfect addition. And then I saw cream.of tartar. Wtf? I’m not risking my life on a shopping expedition to find some mysterious ingredient I’ll never use again. Well, unless they’re bloody good scones. But I guess we’ll never know, will we?

    Liked by 2 people

    • That sent me to Lord Google, who tells me it’s “a white crystalline acidic compound obtained as a by-product of wine fermentation and used chiefly in baking powder.” Or, to be completely accurate, the Oxford Dictionary tells me that, but it speaks through Lord G’s mouth. And, since the question I asked the oracle was, “What is cream of tartar,” he also offered to let shop for what is cream of tartar. It’s available in many brands and shapes, with and without the what is.

      So basically, it’s a raising agent (or is that a rising agent? I have no idea). It is, apparently, used more often in the US than in Britain, but it’s in British supermarkets and sold online, both as a question and as a statement.

      About the relevant photo: I do apologize. I know I have a reputation to maintain, but I couldn’t help myself. I thought that if I was going to make fun of recipe blogs, I’d better go all out.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I was always confused by the expression that someone was a “bit of a tartar” (in old fashioned books) which meant they were a bit fierce.

        Because I looked up what to used instead on tartar I found out that cream of tartar is actually an acid—specifically, tartaric acid.! And you can you can use lemon juice or white vinegar instead.

        Liked by 3 people

        • Aha! Baking soda–oh, hell, what’s that in British? Bicarbonate of soda (unlike baking power) needs acid to get it working. I don’t know why the recipe uses both, but that explain the cream of tartar.

          The Tartars in old fashioned books are actually the Tatars–one R–the Mongolian invaders who swept through Russian and assorted parts of Europe.

          Liked by 3 people

  12. Ellen, let me introduce you to Annabel Crabb, who is not only a fine and acerbic political commentator here in Aus, but also a co-author of some equally fine cookbooks. Her salted caramel crack (the recipe for which she acknowledges came from an anonymous fan) has become a family favorite and is as equally as addictive as it’s drug equivalent. (‘Salada’ is a brand name for a salted cracker that is square and can be broken in half or quarters; I’m sure there is a rough US or British equivalent.) https://www.thebigissue.org.au/blog/2018/12/03/annabel-crabb-s-salted-caramel-crack/

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Enjoyed the post. Even makes me want to try baking and experimenting with recipes. .

    I was also surprised by the creme of tartar. Had to look it up. Never seen it used. Read a number of different recipes and definition of what scones and biscuits should be and look light.

    I was eating lunch once with a Jewish friend from Birmingham, Alabama. During the meal he suddenly got serious and asked Ernie, , what are those stones British people eat? I had never tried to explain scones before. Good friend. He died at age 78 a few weeks ago. Obituary did not give the cause. Miss s lot of old friend.

    My short breads are from Scotland. Called butter short breads. Very good. Maybe I will try to make some myself.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Pingback: The Constant Gardener? | arlingwords

  15. I love to treat myself to a cheese scone, yours have made my mouth water. I long to sit in the sunshine with my best friend, talking about anything other than covid. We would find a caf’e with a garden, a plate of cheese scones, a pot of tea and have not a care in the world.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Vegan cheese! I wouldn’t argue with anyone who goes vegan, but I haven’t been able to do that myself. Not just because of cheese but because of milk in my tea. And yogurt. A friend has oat milk at her house. I’ve learned to bring a small container of my own milk.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the link, Mahima, and the curry looks delicious, but–somebody should say it, so it might as well be me–just leaving a link on someone else’s blog without even a comment to make it seem like they have something to do with each other makes it look like it’s just spam.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Ellen, love the post and the scones. But I have a tip for you about cutting in the butter: A pastry blender might be better than two knives, but (drum roll, please) a grater/shredder is even better. I use a coarse grater, big shreds. You’ve got it out anyway to grate the cheese, so one less gadget to wash, right? This tip will change your life (in a perfectly ordinary way, of course).

    Liked by 1 person

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