The key to light scones with a crisp exterior is to work quickly, handling the dough as little as possible and baking in a hot oven. These scones are perfect warm from the oven with jam and clotted cream.
Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/425°F/Gas 7 and line a baking sheet with baking paper.
Sift the flour, salt and sugar into a mixing bowl. Add the pieces of butter to the bowl and toss them in the flour just to separate and coat them. Rub the butter into the flour using just the tips of your fingers, lifting your hands up above the rim of the bowl so the crumbs and flakes of the mixture fall through your fingers back into the bowl. Keep doing this until the mixture looks like fine crumbs – give the bowl a shake to check there are no lumps of butter visible.
Beat the egg with the buttermilk, just until combined, then stir this mixture into the crumbs using a round-bladed knife to make a fairly soft but not wet dough. If there are dry crumbs at the bottom of the bowl, or the dough feels dry and seems difficult to bring together, add a little more buttermilk (or milk) a teaspoon at a time. The dough should look a bit rough and shaggy so don’t overwork it and try to keep a light touch.
Lightly flour your fingers and the worktop and turn the dough out onto it. Knead the dough very gently for just a couple of seconds so it looks slightly smoother, then press the dough out to about 3cm thick.
Dip the cutter in some flour (this will make it easier to cut out the scones without them sticking) and stamp out rounds. Gather up the trimmings, press them together and stamp out more rounds.
Arrange the rounds on the lined baking sheet, setting them slightly apart to give them space to grow, then dust them lightly with flour. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until a rich golden brown, then transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Eat warm from the oven.
Photography: David Munns + Ritta Platts © Hodder & Stoughton