Scones Rule! Strawberries And Cream Scones & Carrot And Herb Scones : Daring Bakers Challenge January, 2012
I almost thought I would see January out with just one blog post for the month! I had actually started out with intentions to blog regularly starting this year but that didn’t happen. So, in case you were wondering, you now know why I never make New Year resolutions. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you thought I had decided to give up blogging altogether seeing that not only have I not been very regular here, but I’ve post only once so far this month!
With the year starting on a busy but fun note, and a break from blogging that seemed to be going on for ever for no valid reason (other than some laziness) it was a bit of a surprise when I realised that I had been neglecting my virtual kitchen without meaning to. A Facebook message from a fellow blogger and baker asking if I had seen this month’s Daring Baker challenge brought it home to me that I had a day to meet the post deadline if I wanted to do the challenge.
I knew I was doing this month’s challenge for 2 reasons. The first was because the daughter of the house really likes scones. The second was that having made scones many times before, I knew I wasn’t going to be all nervous and sweating it out in the kitchen with this challenge.
Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!
Scones for a DB challenge? Isn’t that too simple? Aren’t DB challenges supposed to be very complicated and challenge your skills in the kitchen? Well, DB challenges are not only about pushing oneself out one’s comfort zone in the kitchen, they’re also about discovering and mastering techniques involved in baking.
So I wasn’t surprised when Audax, this month’s DB host and our resident DB baking science expert because making a “perfect” scone involves a lot of technique. It is also a challenge that gives you a lot of scope for creativity.
One thing is the pronunciation of the word “scone”. Being Indian (the Asian kind) and not a native scone eater, my knowledge of scones came from my books where cream scones with jam and clotted cream always featured at “la-di-dah” British high teas alongside wafer thin cucumber sandwiches. So I always read scones to rhyme with “Joan” which though accepted is really not THE way apparently, but should rhyme with “John”instead!
This rhyme explains this matter perfectly:
"I asked the maid in dulcet tone,
To order me a buttered scone.
The silly girl has been and gone,
And ordered me a buttered scone."
No one seems to be clear about the origin of the name “scone”. Some attribute it to the Gaelic "sgonn" meaning a shapeless mass or large mouthful, while others to the Dutch “Schoonbrood” (fine white bread), the German word Schönbrot" meaning fine bread and even to a town in Scotland called Scone!
Scones are slightly sweet quick breads popular in Scotland, England and Ireland though they’re supposed to have originated in Scotland where they’re apparently also referred to as “Rock Cakes", "Fat Rascals", and "Singing Hinnies"! And the Americans call them “Biscuits” when they’re savoury and “Scones” when they’re sweet.
The precursors of today’s scones were unleavened round oat cakes (bannocks) which were cooked on a griddle and then cut into triangles. With the discovery of baking powder, they became the lighter scones of today.
The plain scone, sweet or savoury, can be re-invented in many ways depending on what goes into them like chocolate chips, raisins, fruit, vegetable, herbs, etc. Scones can also be round, square, triangular in shape. They can be crumbly or flaky depending on the recipe. Scones are usually eaten for afternoon tea or breakfast, traditionally with fruit preserves/ jam and clotted cream.
So the possibilities are endless when it comes to making scones, but what is important is getting the technique right when making scones so that they are light rather than hard and lumpy. The most important things to keep in mind to keep the ingredients, especially the butter and the liquid (milk/ buttermilk/ cream) very, very cold and to be careful not overwork the dough. It is also important to use the cutters the right way to stamp out the scones.
There are tips (courtesy of Audax) at the end of this post which should help to produce the best scones you’ve ever made.
My husband and daughter prefer scones sweet while I like them savoury. Given that the challenge recipe makes a small batch and that scones don’t take much time to make, I made a batch each of sweet Cream Scones and savoury Carrot and Herb Scones.
In India, winter is the season for strawberries so I made the sweet Cream Scones so that we could have them for dessert with strawberries and cream. The Carrot and Herb Scones were made with moist winter carrots but any carrot will do. I used black pepper, dried rosemary and thyme but feel free to use whatever herbs you would like.
Since we were to use the recipe given in the challenge, I adapted that recipe with additions of my own and that is what is given below. My savoury scones were very light and flaky while I made my sweet scones more “crumby” in texture by rubbing in the butter some more into the flour. Though both the scones turned out really good, I have always personally preferred buttermilk scones. I find that scones made with buttermilk need less baking powder and the baking soda and the buttermilk results in a lighter scone. You can find the detailed recipe for this challenge here, and I would suggest looking it up just for the detailed information that Audax has provided.
Strawberries And Cream Scones Carrot And Herb Scones.
(Adapted from Daring Baker challenge recipe, January 2012)
For Strawberries And Cream Scones
For Carrot And Herb Scones :
- Triple sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. (If your room temperature is very hot refrigerate the sifted ingredients until cold.)
- Add the frozen grated butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles very coarse bread crumbs with some pea-sized pieces if you want flaky scones or until it resembles coarse beach sand if you want tender scones.
- Add nearly all of the liquid at once (for the strawberries and cream scones, add all the cream and then half of the milk first) into the rubbed-in flour/fat mixture and mix until it just forms a sticky dough (add the remaining liquid if needed). The wetter the dough the lighter the scones (biscuits) will be!
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, lightly flour the top of the dough. To achieve an even homogeneous crumb to your scones knead very gently about 4 or 5 times (do not press too firmly) the dough until it is smooth.
- Pat or very lightly roll out the dough into a 6” by 4” rectangle that is about 3/4” thick. Using a well-floured 2 1/4“ (58mm) round cutter stamp out, without twisting, 4 or 5 rounds. Gently reform the scraps (do not knead) into another 3/4“ layer and cut two or three more scones (these two scones will not raise as well as the others since the extra handling will slightly toughen the dough). Otherwise use a well-floured sharp knife to form squares or wedges.
- Place the rounds just touching on a parchment lined baking tray. If you wish to have soft-sided scones place them close to one another or spaced widely apart on the baking tray if you wish to have crisp-sided scones. Glaze the tops with milk if you want a golden colour on your scones or lightly flour if you want a more traditional look.
- Bake the scones at 240C (475F) for about 10 minutes until the scones are well risen and are lightly coloured on the tops. The scones are ready when the sides are set. Place onto cooling rack to stop the cooking process.
- Each of these two recipes makes 6 or 7 scones about 2 1/4" diameter.
If you’re making the Strawberries And Cream Scones, let the scones cool to room temperature. Split them into two each. Spread some strawberry preserves/ jam on the bottom half and them place a layer of fresh strawberry slices and top with whipped cream. Cover with the other scone half and garnish with some cream, fresh strawberry slices and mint.
Serve the Carrot And Herb Scones warm, with soup or cheese spread or a spread of your choice.
All the scone making trouble shooting tips given below are courtesy Audax’s Daring Bakerchallenge for this month.
If your scones usually have metallic/ bitter after-taste, try these tips:
Use freshly opened raising agents, many people claim old baking powder has a stronger taste
Look for a single action baking powder (that only uses baking soda and cream of tar tar with a little cornflour) or make your own, since some double action baking powders can have metallic salts in them which some people can taste even in small quantities. Also keep in mind that homemade baking powder works faster and at a lower temperature, so put your recipe together quickly.
Look for a double action baking powder that uses non-metallic ingredients in it, check the ingredients listing on the packet.
Use less baking powder.
If you used an acidic liquid (buttermilk etc) and did not use some baking soda with the normal baking powder then some of the acid in the liquid wouldn't have been neutralised so leaving some salts behind causing the salty aftertase, that is make sure you are using the correct combination of agents for the liquids that you use, see the link below for full details about this.
Use only baking soda and an acidic liquid (buttermilk) like in the famous Irish Soda bread which very few people complain about having an aftertaste.
Use bakers' ammonium (available from King Arthur's flour) it was one of the most common chemical raising agents in the old days before modern baking powder, it smells like ammonia when baking but the ammonia smell totally dissipates and this chemical leaves nothing behind. I use it a lot in my baking it really gives baked goods that old-fashioned taste that people really can pick up on also it gives cookies extra crispness when baked.
If your scones usually have a dry or chalky mouth feel try these tips:
Try smaller sized scones and bake them quickly in a very hot oven and make the dough wetter since large sized scones using a drier dough baked in a moderate oven will give you a dryer crumb and therefore a dry chalky mouth feel.
Over-handled dough will lead to a dry mouth feel.
Eat them immediately fresh out of the oven, scones do really suffer (they become dry and tough) when stored for any length of time.
Try using more fat (about 1/4 cup of fat or so per cup of flour), more fat gives moister crumb. Also try using all shortening, since shortening contains no water or milk solids it gives a very tender crumb.
Try this great recipe for "a touch of grace" biscuits they are the most tender and moist biscuits (scones) that I have had.
Some people claim that a very hot oven is best to start the baking process then lower the temperature to moderate to finish baking the scones.
And if your scones are lopsided:
Lop-sided scones are usually caused by uneven cutting out of the scone.
Clean and flour the scone cutter (by rubbing off any wet dough and then dipping the cutter into fresh flour the entire height of the cutter) every time you stamp out each round. Remember not to twist when you are stamping out the scones. If you are using a knife remember to clean and flour it for each cut.
Try to pat out or roll out the dough as evenly as possible.
Sift the dry ingredients three times as uneven distribution of ingredients can lead to uneven scones.
Try to get the scone out of the cutter by applying gentle even pressure on the entire scone circumference that way you do not compress just one place so making that area less tender so raising less when cooked.
Turn the cut scone upside down onto the baking dish, since this side will be flatter than the patted out top surface.
Only glaze the tops of the scone, a small amount of liquid on the sides will inhibit raise in that area.
Some people like to use a fork and prick some holes in the top of the unbaked scones supposedly this helps the scone raise evenly.
Also some people like to use their thumb and press a small hollow into the top of the scone supposedly this helps the scone raise evenly.