Over the summer we had you help us scour the BOP and Waiakto for the best date scones. Then it was our job (tough I know!) to taste test your picks and discover just who makes the best date scone in each region.
A staple on any cafe counter, the classic date scone is a wonderful test for any baker. In the Waikato we found many variations; a highlight being Red Kitchens scroll style scone. Some were packed full of dates (like EAT in Matamata), others came with a gorgeous view (like Matte Black at Hamilton Golf Course).
And in the Bay there were vegan versions (from Grindz in Tauranga), which the judges noted was rustic in look with a great texture, plenty of dates and not too sweet. Also highly recommended was Waihi’s Secret Garden with their folded scone. Our judges said this very generous, folded style scone had the addition of sultanas, which was an unexpected surprise plus a few sliced almonds and cinnamon on top for interest.
So the winners are…..
In the end the judges believed Cucina’s date and orange scone came out on top, noting it was generous in size, had a good distribution of dates, a lovely hint of orange and overall was a delicious example of a classic date scone.
Sandi Miller is the kitchen manager at Cucina and has been baking their scones from day one. She starts each morning at 6am, baking over 45 scones, all of which will have disappeared by 9am! While Sandi prefers cheese, the date and orange are the most popular in the cafe.
Sandi’s secret: soaking the dates in the milk and yoghurt to soften them.
The dates are also key, says Sandi, who says she adds very little sugar, preferring to allow the dates to sweeten the scones. “Less is more” is Sandi’s final tip, warning any would-be scone baker not to play around with the dough to ensure soft, fluffy scones.
Attempt to recreate Sandi’s scones with the recipe below or taste test the originals at Cucina, 7 Thackeray Street, Hamilton
200g Greek yoghurt
3 cups dates
1 cup self raising flour
2 cups plain flour
⅓ cup caster sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
zest and juice of 2 oranges
50g butter melted
Combine cream, milk and yoghurt, add dates and let soak for 30 minutes to soften.
Mix all the dry ingredients together, add the date mixture along with zest and juice of the oranges.
Fold together until just combined, add the melted butter, fold again then cut into 12 pieces.
Bake at 180°C for 20‒25 minutes.
The judges believed Cafe 88’s generous scone was the winner. The judges loved the wonderful texture and even distribution of dates. “Great flavour, not too sweet with the nice addition of whole dates on top made this a stand out.”
Arna Buckley has been the main baker at Cafe 88 for two years and starts the day at 4.30am to ensure all the fresh muffins and scones are ready for when the doors open at 7am. A trained chef, this is Arna’s first gig as a baker, but she is loving it! Tucked down in her own little world at the back of Cafe 88 you will find Arna baking all their cakes and slices as well as turning out their growing range of raw treats.
Arna says she inherited the well-guarded scone recipe when she started the job, figuring why change a good thing. A few things make Cafe 88’s recipe unique, most notably the date and orange glaze on top, which Arna describes as the icing on top. Unlike a traditional scone recipe, theirs has no butter.
Arna’s top two tips are to one, soak the dates. “This is the first job I do in the morning,” says Arna, who soaks the dates in boiling water for 30 minutes before draining and adding to the mix.
Two, light fingers are key to a soft, fluffy scone. Finally, Arna says everything she makes is done with love and this makes all the difference!
Taste test Cafe 88’s scones for yourself at 88 Maunganui Road, Mount Maunganui.