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)