I made a quadruple batch of scones yesterday. I took pictures of all the steps along the way. I imagined all of the tips I would to give as I was completing each step. I thought of how all of these amazing blogs on the internet are truly a labor of love. When I bake, I get lost in it. When your hands are deep in flour and are covered with butter and sugar and you need to stop the whirl to photograph the perfect mess- well it interrupted my flow a bit. The pockets of time are precious to me and I don't know if I can share them with a camera. It made me appreciate the passionate bloggers that fill their sites with beautiful, well staged photos. It also made me wonder if I have the ability to stop the whirl long enough to take pictures amidst the time crunch that I am usually baking under. This leaves me conflicted but longing to write, to have a voice, to share the inside scoop behind buttery baked perfection. So this is my first attempt. Welcome to my imperfectly, perfect world.
The scone recipe that I use is from America's Test Kitchen. For those of you that know my baking, this is where I get a lot of my techniques, ingredient ratios, and basic fundamentals from. These folks spend months and months of scientific research on each recipe to figure out what makes the recipe and technique absolutely perfect. I don't have the time for that and I don't have the money. So I use their classic recipes as my blank canvas and then add super fun, modern flavor combinations to them. Yesterday, I made bacon and date scones with a cardamom orange marmalade and blackberry mojito with lime curd. A basic recipe was turned into extraordinary!
The key tips to perfect scones- keep everything super cold so your butter doesn't melt. Freeze your butter, grate it and then refreeze it. Toss all your dry ingredients together when you walk into the kitchen and put that into the freezer too. Whisk together the wet ingredients- put that into the fridge. Make sure any add ins have been chilled before adding to the mix. Keep everything COLD! The result is an incredibly fluffy, really tender scone that has has lots of crunch on the outside and is packed full of flavor and butter bliss on the inside.
Another important tip that helps a lot is to not overwork everything. You add your frozen, grated butter to your cold dry ingredients and then pour in your wet. Gather it together and then dump the whole thing onto a floured surface and knead with floured hands until it JUST comes together. Pat out into a 12 inch square. Fold the top third down, the bottom third up (like a letter) and then fold your letter in half into a four inch square. Put this back in the fridge for 5 minutes to keep it cold. I forgot this step on one batch, it made for a much flatter, not nearly as impressive scone. Pat out again into a 12 inch square and fill.
Fold up like a letter again and pinch the ends real good so your fillings stay put.
Your batch of scones will now be about 12 inches long and 4 inches deep. Hopefully they are also still really cold. If your kitchen is warm you can always put them back into the fridge at any time.
Cut your scones in half and then half each section again to get 4 quarters. Each of these will cut into triangles.
I use a bench scraper to do all of this cutting and chopping with. I love it! I have always wanted one since my previous bakery days and made this purchase a few months ago. It is so much fun. There is something empowering about cutting scone dough with my bench scraper. It also gets all of the tiny bits of dough off of my table once I get the scones in the oven. This would normally take me longer than making the scones themselves. The curved edge bench scraper does wonders for getting my bowl clean too. This is hands-down my favorite tool of the moment.
Lastly, be sure to butter the tops and sprinkle with sugar. I use the fat demura sugar and it gives a great crunch to the tops and contrasts the soft interior crumb quite nicely.
If you decide to add these scones to your repertoire I do suggest you have a fun jam to slather on top. It adds another layer of flavor that can't be beat. I am all about making lemon curd at the moment but subbing different citrus juices and their zest. I've tried lime and next up is orange. Maybe I will have to post about that next :) This blogging thing might be worth slowing down for after all....
The recipe: (makes 16)
20 ounces of flour
4 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
7 ounces of sugar
1/2 t. baking soda
20 T. butter (freeze 4 sticks)
1 c. whole milk
1 c. sour cream.
Put all dry ingredients into a bowl and chill.
Grate 4 tablespoons of butter from 4 frozen sticks for a total of 16 T. I put a slash at the half way point on the stick, take off the wrapper and grate up to the slash. Put your grated butter back into the freezer. Melt 4 T. of the remaining butter to slather on top at the end. Save the rest of the butter for that cake you have been meaning to make.
Whisk together 1 cup of sour cream and 1 cup of whole milk and put in the fridge.
Once your flour mix is good and cold, toss all your butter into it and get it coated real good. If you are adding in any zest, dried fruits, and other flavorings, toss it in now. The batch of scones in these pictures has mint from my garden in them. :) Pour the wet over the top and bring together with a wooden spoon. I have tried with my hands but it gets real goopy and warms the dough too much. Bring it together first and then dump out onto a floured surface. Get your hands good and covered with flour and give a quick knead until all the dry is incorporated. Cut dough in half and put one half into the fridge and the other onto your floured work surface.
Take the other half and flatten the dough into a 12 inch square. Fold the top third down and the bottom third up, like a letter. Fold this in half. It will be a 4 inch square. Put into the fridge to rest for 5 minutes and get good and cold again. Prepare any fillings.
I like to use frozen fruit. If the berries are larger (think cherries or blackberries), cut in half. 2-3 cups of berries should fill both sections of dough.
Once dough has rested, press into a 12 inch square again and fill. Press fillings down into the dough and fold into thirds again. Press the ends closed and divide into quarters and then cut diagonally into triangles. Brush with butter, sprinkle with sugar and bake. Repeat with the other half of the dough. Bake at 325 for 20-22 minutes, depending on your oven. I put both trays in at once and set the timer for 11 minutes and then switch the sheets from top to bottom and then bottom to top to prevent scorching on the bottom. These freeze beautifully and can be reheated at 325 degrees for 18 minutes or so.