VISITORS TO IRELAND need to experiment with scones made by different Irish bakers because as the Bread Bakers Guild in the Bay Area discovered, all is not the same with the almighty scone. But as in all "camps" dotted on the knowledge-sharing map, Camp Bread involved learning from generous bakers. An all-day seminar on "Irish Ethnic Baking" let some of the secrets of the High Street Baker leak into mainstream American media. I've noted some of those secrets below and we have started experimenting with scone-baking sessions at home. We like messy scones so every session is a lovely opportunity to enjoy freshly baked sensations.
Irish brown flour is much weaker (lower in gluten) than American whole-wheat flour and that works wonders for the delicate texture of Irish brown bread and for pastry but is not so good for yeast breads.
Odlums soda bread mix helps bread chefs get the texture right more consistently than mixes up flours in magic proportions.
The trick to making a good scone is to work the fat into the flour with your fingers until it forms cornmeal-like crumbs. Then you knead the dough. Scones that taste lighter normally were made with shortening and very wet dough. If you use olive oil and add an egg to the mix, you make your job easier.
Nothing is better for baking than true buttermilk.
You need an oven heated up to 500F (the top of the Centigrade range of Irish ovens) and then bring it down to 425F when baking.
Some of the best scones I've tasted in Ireland use a ratio of 1 1/4 cups of white flour to 1 cup of pastry flour but not all supermarkets have pastry flour. To get a light texture, you need to sift the flour mixture five times.
I have several scone recipes but few books take the time to explain the little tips shared at Camp Bread.
Corby Kummer -- "The Secret of the Irish Scone" in The Atlantic, September 2007.