More humble than a croissant, more tender than a muffin, yin to my tea's yang, scones can be awkward to get just right. Overcook them and they are more stone than scone; undercook them and they fall to pieces and taste yucky.
My first attempt at making scones left much to be desired.
I really don't know what happened or why. All I remember is that when the recipe called for me to turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface, I looked into the bowl of not-so-pea-sized lumps of flour and butter swimming in a sea of wet cream and thought, “How the heck am I supposed to knead this soupy mess?"
My well-floured surface was a fright, and so were my hands, arms and sleeves. In a moment of panic and frustration, I tossed the goopy dough in the trash can.
Since that fiasco, I've shied away from making scones.
But recently I was asked to make scones for an afternoon tea and had to take matters into my own hands, along with flour, sugar, cream and baking powder. My mission was to bake the perfect scone and repair my "battered" ego.
I immediately turned to my cookbooks for guidance, grabbing the Culinary Institute of America's "Baking Boot Camp: Five Days of Basic Training" off the shelf.
I knew that if anyone had a recipe for a hapless scone baker like me, it was the institute. Sure enough, I found a cream scone recipe that relied on few ingredients, was easy-to-prepare and turns out was genius. The trick was leaving the dough in the freezer overnight. The technique makes a more tender scone.
The folks from the institute also shared a few other pieces of advice:
Don’t overmix. If you work the dough too much, your scones will be tough and chewy.
Roll or pat the dough so that it’s at least 1/2 inch thick. Thicker dough will result in a better shape and lighter texture.
Watch the clock when you’re baking. Like most baked goods, scones continue to bake as they cool.
Truth be told, I might have been a little late to the tea party when it comes to baking scones, but this delicious scone recipe was as ideal as the scone lover in me could ever wish for.
3 3/4 cups bread flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups heavy cream, cold
2 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons coarse sugar for topping
Cut two 10-inch circles of parchment paper. Use one to line a 10-inch round cake pan. Reserve the second piece.
Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture.
Add the cream to the mixture and stir by hand, just until the batter is evenly moistened.
Place the dough in the lined cake pan and press into an even layer. Cover the dough with the second parchment paper circle. Freeze the dough until very firm, at least 12 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by spraying it lightly with cooking spray or lining with parchment.
Thaw the dough for 5 minutes at room temperature, then turn it out of the cake pan onto a cutting board. Cut the dough into 10 equal wedges and place the individual wedges on the baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Brush the scones with milk and sprinkle with the sugar.
Bake the scones until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes, and then transfer to cooling racks. Serve them warm or at room temperature.
Makes 12 to 15 scones.