There are two things that I have had trouble making in the past. One, is pie dough. The other is scones. I think it has to do with getting the butter distributed evenly to provide that flaky texture that both of those possess. Or maybe because they are two recipes that you really need to follow the instructions and have less give. (I am much more a cook then a baker!) I think I have solved my problem though.
First, if you are doing it by hand, grating the frozen butter into the flour is a great way to get those pea size pieces without fighting with the dough and over-kneading it. When you have pieces of butter left in the dough they will melt and that is what will produce the flaky texture. Another important thing seems to the unsalted butter. I almost never buy unsalted and for most things it really doesn’t make a difference, but for scones, it seems to make a world of difference.
Scones are a current favourite in our home at the moment. Not only can I make them now with amazing results but they are so easy and quick to do.
I do use my food processor, because it makes it easy without any mess and by the time my oven is preheated, they are ready to put in.
The following is the base of the scone, and to that you can add anything you want. The trick however, is that whatever you add should not be adding moisture or dryness to not upset the balance between the flour/milk/butter ratio. You also don’t want to add anything warm that would melt the butter. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, a quick google search will give you the amounts in cups, but using the scale, is in my opinion, the best way to get the right measurement in these types of recipes.
Simple Scone Base (make 6 scones but I usually double it)
- 200g flour, plus more for handling the dough
- 1.5 tsp baking powder
- 2.5 tbsp sugar (for sweet scones)
- 0.5 tsp salt
- 60g cold or frozen butter
- 140-150g milk (I use almond or soy)
now to this you can add you choice of ingredients to make the flavours of your choice.
For a simple cheese scone that is great for lunch, supper or with a savoury breakfast simply:
- omit the sugar in the base recipe or add only a small amount to add a bit of sweetness
- add 1/2 cup of grated sharp cheddar
savoury cheesy scones…
One of our favourites has a taste that closely resembles pannetone:
To the base I add:
- two drops of lemon zest extract (or zest of 1 lemon)
- the zest of one orange
- 50g chopped raisins (or cranberries… or any other dried fruit)
zesty lemon-orange scones with raisins
Once you have decided what you will put in them, here is how to make them…
- Preheat oven to 425° F and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
With a food processor:
- First pulse the flour, baking powder, sugar (if using) and the salt a few times until well mixed.
- Cut the cold butter into small cubes and add them to the dry ingredients and pulse four or five times until the butter is mixed in and the largest pieces you can see resemble small peas.
- Add the other dry ingredients such as the zest, chopped dried fruit, cheddar etc… and pulse once or twice.
- Add the cold milk and pulse again just until the dough comes together. There should be no longer spots of flour and the dough should not be too wet.
- In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, sugar (if using) and the salt.
- Get your cheese grater out and grate the butter into the flour and just mix. You could also go the longer way and cut the cold butter into small cubes use a pastry cutter or two forks as you would with pie dough. The important thing is to not handle the dough too much and to not smoosh the butter into the flour too much.
- Mix in the chopped dried fruits, cheese or whatever other dry ingredients.
- Add the milk and stir in quickly just until the dough comes together and doesn’t show big spots of dry flour anymore.
Dump onto a well floured surface, sprinkle with flour and knead just 2-3 times if needed. If the dough looks good already, just pat it out on the floured surface. Overkneading the dough will make the texture tough and they will not rise right, so you want to be very gentle with the dough!
When you pat the dough out you want it to be about 3cm thick (about an inch) and then using a round cookie/biscuit cutter, or a glass or any other round object, cut out the scones. Make sure you don’t twist your cutter but use a simple up/down motion. Twisting the cutter will fuse the sides a bit and they may not rise.
Place the scones on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 13-15 min until the are golden in colour. Let them cool a bit before serving (we can never wait though!)
Savoury ones can accompany any dish and since they only take a few minutes to make they are great for a last minute meal. (Egg sandwich, next to a roast, with a curry… so many possibilities…)
Sweet ones a best (in my opinion) served with butter and homemade jam or honey…
zesty lemon-orange scones served with butter and homemade ground cherry jam…
Enjoy! and I would love to know what flavour combos you come up with!