Scones across the United Kingdom are a very different pastry than their American counterparts, primarily because of sugar content. A typical American recipe might have ½ to 1 cup sugar per dozen; compare that to a typical British recipe with ¼ cup or less for a batch of the same size. They're still rich and tender from butter and milk (some recipes add an egg), and rise as tall and fluffy as your favorite biscuit. If you're looking for a way to reduce the amount of sugar you use when baking (and are OK with a fair amount of fat), British scones are a great place to start.
Where an American scone typically is loaded with fresh or dried fruit and drizzled with glaze, their British ancestors are generally much simpler — raisins or currants are about the only mix-ins you'll find in traditional recipes. Once baked, they're commonly split and filled with butter or jam and fresh fruit. Clotted cream is another wonderful traditional accompaniment. It's a sort of magical mashup of butter, heavy cream and cultured cream cheese, and can be hard to find and somewhat expensive. Mock homemade clotted cream, while not quite identical to the UK spread, is nonetheless tasty.
These amazing scones are all ready in 30 minutes or less, and all but the potato-based recipe can be frozen beautifully in a big freezer bag once they've cooled to room temperature. To reheat, take out of the freezer, wrap loosely in foil and warm them in a 300°F oven or toaster oven for about 12 minutes. They'll be just as they were freshly baked.
With just ⅛ cup sugar for a batch of one dozen, this is a simple — admittedly a bit plain — recipe, easy to customize but a great starting point to get the feel for what the English have in mind when they bake up a batch for tea. Because there's almost no sugar to help their tops brown, the milk glaze is a big help in making a pretty finish.
Serve with: Unsalted butter and your favorite jam.
2) Cream Scones
This recipe has the least sugar of all, a mere 1 tablespoon for a half dozen. The combination of heavy cream, butter and milk makes this a very rich, very tender, quick bun that takes well to sweet mix-ins like dried cherries or fresh berries. Because the butter is melted, these come together amazingly quickly; there's no extra step to blend cold butter in before adding the liquids. They're perfect for a dainty tea service.
Serve with: Clotted cream or whipped cream and fresh fruit.
Oats are a great tenderizer, adding their light sweetness and chew for an overall hearty, sturdy treat that's great for munching on the go. This dough doesn't get kneaded as some do, just patted lightly into thick disks that are scored into wedges. This method isn't any more difficult than drop biscuits, but the finished product has an appealing wedge shape with crunchy corners.
Serve with: Dried currants add enough additional sweetness that jam isn't necessary, but butter or clotted cream is delicious if you want to dress them up.
The spice blend of cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg and clove is reminiscent of pumpkin spice, but that's where the similarity to that fall classic combo ends. The spices are added with a light touch, and the only sweetener is a minimal two tablespoons of molasses (known as treacle to the Brits). This is an old-fashioned recipe that doesn't use baking powder; instead, the lift is provided from a blend of baking soda and cream of tartar.
Serve with: Cherry or apricot preserves are especially good with the mild spices, as is a cup of cinnamon tea.
These flat, griddled breads are also known as farls. They're pretty similar to a flat bread or potato pancake, and are most commonly served alongside egg breakfasts or as a homey side dish for brunch. There's no sweetener at all in the recipe, which calls for self-rising flour. Chopped green onions, minced garlic, or hot sauce stirred into the batter can be a nice flavor boost.
Serve with: Rather than topping with jam, stick with savory flavors, like a dollop of plain Greek yogurt.