Mrs Manning senior (ie Mr Manning’s mother) is a domestic goddess. There’s nothing that comes out of her kitchen that isn’t splendid (except once when she forgot to put the water in the saucepan she was cooking cauliflower for cauliflower cheese and burnt it, hence chargrilled cauli in our cheese sauce). She makes legendary roast dinners, with an array of vegetables, she can whip up curries, chillies, bakes, starters, mains and sides, and of course, she excels at puddings.
What I didn’t know, until recently, was that she does afternoon tea as well. The often unsung scone, so easily dismissed as a mere vehicle for a bucketload of jam and clotted cream, is transformed into a true delight in her kitchen.
Light and fluffy, she does some with fruit, some without, and manages to make them so delicious, that jam and cream are no longer a foregone conclusion.
In fact, us lucky recipients of said scones – which as an added bonus are far larger than their supermarket-bought rivals – have happily munched our way through several of the yummy snacks without a single addition. Now, a scone that can be eaten alone is a scone worth eating.
She tells me the secret is buttermilk. Obviously, being a lover of eating, but a fairly regular failure at actually cooking, I have had to do a bit of research to find out exactly what buttermilk is.
Turns out it’s traditionally a by-product of butter-making – the liquid that’s left over after butter is churned from cream. But nowadays it’s made commercially by adding a bacterial culture to milk.
It’s the buttermilk that gives scones a slight tang, but makes them melt-in-the-mouth, and unbelievable soft. No wonder (as my research also yielded) all the baking goddesses love it – Delia and Mary Berry appear to be fans, and that’s just for starters.
Mummy Manning hasn’t elaborated much on the secret of her scone success beyond the buttermilk. I’ve learned through my trawl of all-things-scone that cold ingredients and a high oven are musts, and guaranteed to produce the perfect one.
Then again – with the fairy godmother of baking turning out treats like this, I needn’t worry……