Many people think of scones and tea. But for me, scones and coffee are one of the best combinations ever. I spent some time trying various scones at local bakeries, and while once in awhile they were ok, they were very inconsistent and often as dense as brownies. Denseness in brownies is great. In scones it’s as unpleasant as a doughy dense biscuit.
I decided to take matters into my own hands and after trying various recipes. I experimented with butter scones, but found that it was a lot of extra work (cutting in the butter) and did not result in a better scone. I recommend cream scones. Once you’re done it a couple times, baking scones will take 20 minutes, beginning to end, including clean up. It will take you less time to make the dough than it does to read this!
The secret to good, light, flakey, but not dry scones is technique. There are two basic secrets:
You need to very lightly mix the dough. Over mixing which happens in an instant when using an electric mixer results in a dense wad of dough. That’s why bakeries have trouble making them. The baker has to be very skilled with the machinery not to over mix. Mix your scones by hand using a fork or a Danish whisk. For less than ten bucks, this is a tool that anyone who makes scones, biscuits, pancakes and any other pastry will love. It is easier than a fork, doesn’t clog like a balloon whisk and provides just enough mixing action to blend without going too far.
The second secret is that no matter what the recipe says, you need to be prepared to adjust your moisture (cream) at the end. You are looking for a dough, not a batter. It should be shaggy and there should be some flour in the bottom of the mixing bowl which you can kind of scoop up as you pick up the dough and gently fold the dough over the dry flour.
Baking is a science, much like coffee roasting. If you have a kitchen scale for your coffee, use it in your baking for consistent and accurate results. Instead of having to mess up a bunch of measuring cups, you weigh your ingredients. After each ingredient is added, don’t forget to “tare” your scale, bringing the weight shown to “zero”. Then add the next ingredient. This basic recipe came from Delightful Repast.
Here’s the recipe, along with some comments.
8.33 ounces (1 ⅔ cup) all purpose flour. Bread flour also works just fine.
1.5 ounces (3-4 tablespoons) sugar or to taste.
2.5 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
3 – 6 ounces dried fruit, nuts, chocolate or whatever flavor combination you fancy
8 ounces heavy cream
⅛ teaspoon vanilla
Preheat your oven to 450º F.
Measure out the above, adding each one to the mixing bowl, preferably by weight, taring the scale to zero each time you add an ingredient.
With your fork or whisk stir these ingredients as I describe above. No need to sift them, but they must be well mixed.
Now it’s time to add things like lemon or other citrus zest, cranberries, currants, chopped dates or any other dried or fresh fruit. How much and which is up to you. You can also add chocolate chips or cocoa nibs.
Add these to the dry ingredients and stir them around so they are coated with flour and not clumping together.
Put the mixing bowl, including all dry ingredients back on the scale, zero it out and add the cream and vanilla.
Using your fork or Danish whisk, lightly mix the cream into the dry ingredients. Don’t over mix. Don’t worry that the dough seems dry. If you put your hand onto it, it should be damp enough to stay together, but no a bit more. If you need to, add a tiny bit more cream (or water) to get the dough to just that right, shaggy, dry-ish consistency. Remember that how much liquid you add will vary from time to time because how dry the flour is will vary as well. That’s why at least in this recipe, technique rules over careful measurements!
While the dough is still in the bowl, pinch it into two roughly equal halves. Press a half against the side of the bowl and try to gather up any flour at the bottom. Put the halves onto a parchment lined baking sheet and first gently shape them into semi balls and then flatten into circles about 1” or 1 ¼” thick.
Take the zest of one lemon and mix it with coarse sugar. With a brush, brush a little cream or milk onto the disks of dough and then sprinkle the zest/sugar on top. Now take a pastry scraper (or a knife or pizza cutter) and cut the dough disks into wedges pizza-style. If you like little scones, make 4 cuts resulting in 8 wedge shaped scones. Or make them bigger with 3 cuts. Gently separate the wedges from each other a bit.
Set the timer for 10 minutes and check. They might need another minute or two depending on your oven, but very light brown is what you’re looking for. It’s easy to bake too long.
Pour yourself a cup of coffee and see if you can resist eating more than one.