I fell mad in love with Ireland and have had the good fortune to visit a couple of times. My first stop after the long flight was to a farm, where I had my first Irish scone with marmalade. The love affair with the country and its scones was set in that moment. Like biscuits or pie dough here in America, there seems to be a scone recipe for every household in Ireland. The one constant is the quality of the butter and dairy used to make them. This is such a simple recipe and the butter makes all the difference, so go with a good one. I used Kerrygold, because I met the farmers and cows while in Ireland and know its incredible. You can use any “European” style butter, because it has a higher fat content than most American brands. The other thing I associate with Irish scones is the shape, round. I like a tall scone, so I press the dough into a thick mass before cutting out the shape. The bigger the scone, the more surface there is to spread it with marmalade. Every table in Ireland served scones with a jar of marmalade, which pretty much satisfies all my needs. I LOVE marmalade! It is the perfect balance of sweet and bitter. It is bright in color and flavor and goes with scones or ice cream or just a spoon. I made this kumquat “marmalade” by just cooking down fresh kumquats with sugar, that’s it. No pectin to deal with just gentle cooking. Because I am not thickening the juices, this is a bit runnier than a traditional marmalade. Works brilliantly for me.
- 4 cups (520g) all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons sugar, plus more for the tops (this is optional, but I like the flavor and the color of the scones when used)
- 4 ounces (113g) unsalted "European" butter, cool, but not quite hard, so you can easily work it into the flour
- 2 cups buttermilk (this is approximate and will depend on your flour and time of year)
- egg wash for brushing top (this is my addition, I like the color it gives)
- 1 pound kumquats, cut in half lengthwise
- Pinch salt
- 1 1/2 (300g) cups sugar
- 3 tablespoons corn syrup (optional, but keeps the marmalade from crystalizing)
- Preheat oven to 400°F, place the oven rack in the middle of the oven. line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, soda, salt and sugar.
- Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the bowl of dry ingredients. With your fingers, rub the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles corn meal. The flour should be fully coated with the butter and it will turn creamy in color.
- Gently add enough of the buttermilk to create a moist dough that still holds its shape, you may not use all of the buttermilk. There should be a few dry patches at the bottom of the bowl as you are mixing in the buttermilk.
- Turn the scone dough out onto the work surface and fold the dough with a Bench Scraper, so you are pressing any dry flour into the dough and folding it as you go. This kneads the dough gently. Do this about 6 times.
- On a lightly floured surface, pat the dough into an inch-thick rectangle. Use a 3-inch Biscuit or Round Cutters to press the scones into shape. Very gently press the scraps together and cut out more circles.
- Place the scones at least two inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the scones with egg wash and sprinkle with a little bit of sugar.
- Bake until they are golden brown and set, about 18-20 minutes.
- To make the kumquat marmalade: Put the kumquats into a pot and cover with water and add the salt. Bring to a simmer.
- Strain the kumquats. Add the kumquats, sugar, corn syrup (if using) and enough water just to cover the fruit. Simmer on medium low until the syrup is the consistency of honey.
- Pour into a jar and allow it to cool. The kumquat marmalade will thicken as it cools. It can be refrigerated for a week.