Preheat oven to 230°C(445*F). Sift the flour, sugar and salt into a large bowl. Add the butter and use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture. Pour in the buttermilk and use a butter knife in a cutting action to stir until a soft but sticky dough forms (add more milk if necessary to make the dough soft).
Turn dough out on to a lightly floured surface and gently knead until dough just comes together (it is important to knead very lightly, as heavy, long kneading develops the gluten in the flour and creates denser scones). Use your fingertips to gently pat the dough into a 2cm-thick disc(3/4 inch). (Do not use a rolling pin, as it can be too heavy-handed.)
Lightly flour a 23cm-square cake pan(9x9). Use a 5cm-diameter(2 in.) round pastry cutter dipped in flour to cut out scones. Arrange scones side by side in the prepared pan. Gently brush the top of each scone with a little extra buttermilk to glaze (alternatively, dust the scones with flour for a softer finish, if desired.)
Bake scones on the top shelf of preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown and scones sound hollow when gently tapped. Turn scones out on to a clean tea towel and cover lightly with another tea towel. Serve scones warm or at room temperature, with jam and cream, or butter, if desired.
TIPS: For date scones, add 1/2 cup (85g) chopped pitted dates to the flour mixture before adding the buttermilk. Buttermilk can be replaced with regular milk, but first add 1 tsp lemon juice or white vinegar to the milk. A high oven heat is important to get the raising agent in the fl our working straight away. Use the top shelf of the oven for an instant blast of heat. To keep scones light, ensure flour is sifted. Have cold hands when rubbing in the butter, and lift hands during this process to aerate the mixture.
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