All about scones

Scones are one of those inherently plain staples that you can add as much or as less little topping to, and which can be made sweet or savoury. That makes them ideal for those with food sensitivities as the whole family can enjoy the scones, customised to each individual. I’ve also turned to plain scones and muffins as bread alternatives when candidiasis has forced me to stay off yeasted breads.

I love scones when there’s nice thick cream available (Carrefour is a good source, in the form of the house brand crème frâiche), topped with a little bit of jam (my vote goes to Meridian brand organic fruit spreads, which have no added sugar and are particularly low in total sugars – as much as half of standard jams or even other organic brands) and enjoyed with a cup of strong English tea (my secret: Marks and Spencer tea bags, especially Red Label or Gold Label, and works out cheaper than standard supermarket brands). Recently, I tried out a few different scone recipes, including a new method I’ve never used before.

The first batch of scones I made were based on this recipe from my grandmother’s notebooks. omitting the sugar and salt. Comparing with Delia’s Smith’s recipe, the amount of butter looked too little to me, so I used a total of 50g butter. I’ve already written a fair bit about the method of making scones here, so please have a look.

N.B. I always make my scones with wholemeal flour. Sometimes I use all wholemeal, the scones here have been made with half wholemeal-half plain flour. The appropriate amount of baking powder to add is 4g (approx. 1tsp) per 100g of flour. Be careful: the same volume of wholemeal and plain flours weigh in differently.

You’ll notice in the photo that my scones were hexagonal in shape. That’s because I used a honeycomb scone cutter (which I’ve described here) that saves you having to roll out the leftover edges again and again. Each time you roll out the dough, it gets more tough too.

The scones came out OK. Even internal texture, dense in the way that scones should be but maybe a little too heavy. The bread-like consistency of this batch could also have been due to the fact that I used high-protein wholemeal bread flour because my packet was expiring and had to be used up quickly.

When I made scones again the following week, I decided to try out an interesting alternative method, which I saw on an America’s Test Kitchen free online video. In this method, the block of butter is frozen, then grated, and the grated bits then quickly mixed into the flour, without rubbing in. After adding the milk to make a dough and rolling it out, more grated butter is sprinkled evenly over the rolled out dough. Make sure that all your ingredients, not just the butter, are very cold.

Similar to making puff pastry, the dough is then folded in half and rolled out again, then put in the freezer to chill. After a short while, repeat the process by sprinkling more grated frozen butter, folding over and rolling out again, then put it back into the freezer.

Reading the buttermilk biscuits recipe in Baking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America, I’ve just learnt more about this method:

This dough is rolled and folded repeatedly before it is cut into biscuits, a technique referred to as lamination. Laminating a dough in this manner creates layers that add extra flakiness and height to the finished biscuit. Try to make as few scraps as possible. After cutting, you can reroll the dough scraps and cut out more biscuits, but the biscuits made from the trimmings are usually a little less tender than the first ones.

As I didn’t have the exact quantities of butter from the video, I adapted this cheese & garlic scones recipe I have used with great success many times. Instead of the 1/2 cup grated cheese, I measured out the same amount of grated butter. The main problem is that in the hot Singapore weather, grated butter bits melt faster than you can say ‘frozen butter’, which a big problem as you need to prevent the butter from melting in order to get the desired flaky texture.

When you take the dough out from the freezer after it’s chilled, roll out and shape the dough into a rectangular piece about 1/2-inch thick, this time, you can add dried fruit (raisins, blueberries, cranberries etc), distributing them evenly over the dough surface.

Fold the rectangle into thirds, so that it resembles a sort of loaf shape. Slice the loaf into pieces to shape the scones. I much prefer this method of shaping scones to using a cutter. It’s messy to keep having to roll out the dough and be left with odd bits, not to mention the problem of overworking the dough through repeated rolling out. Another method of shaping I use is to pat the dough into a round and cut into wedges.

Bake as normal. Recommended hot oven of 220°C for about 10 minutes or until golden and fragrant.

As you can see from the photo, the results here were distinctive in the lighter, flaky texture produced by the butter and puff pastry method. I loved it! According to the video, the trick is in really, really cold butter and dough, and quick, light handling.

The original recipe included plenty of sugar as well so that this scone is more like eating a piece of cake, without any extra cream, butter, jam that needs to be added when serving.

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2 Responses

  1. For me, scones are one of those things that use simple ingredients but are so hard to master. I can never get the texture right! The frozen-butter technique here sounds interesting. Actually, I have another recipe for biscuits that asks you to use very cold (and hard) butter and make the dough by chopping it on a cutting board, while blending in other ingredients. A similar idea, I guess.

  2. Hi Joyce,

    Maybe I was less fussy or more ignorant in the past and I was always happy with my own scones but now feel dissatisfied more often!

    I hate scones that taste like cakes or muffins, for me, they have to have a certain density.

    One of my Hong Kong cookbooks has a scone recipe that uses the muffin method?!? YUCK! I’ve had other bad experiences with baking recipes in Chinese cookbooks too…

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