Scones. They are versatile. They freeze well. And they’ve become universally popular-whether for breakfast, tea time, or cocktail hour as a sophisticated alternative to sandwiches. Serve with Devonshire cream and jam or a honey butter for tea, or split as a dessert with whipped cream and fresh berries.Most recipes for scones and soda breads are the direct descendants of the nourishing whole-grain griddle breads prepared daily in rural Celtic and SScones. They are versatile. They freeze well. And they’ve become universally popular-whether for breakfast, tea time, or cocktail hour as a sophisticated alternative to sandwiches. cottish highland country kitchens. By nature they are coarse, crumbly, and chewy flat grain cakes. These were usually home fare, since they are best when mixed, baked, and eaten within a few hours. More and more, however, I am finding these marvelous quick dough breads have found a wider audience and have become the darlings of coffee houses and cafés.
With a few tips, scones are an easily made and satisfying addition to breakfast, tea, hors d’oeuvres, and the base for unusual sandwiches. They are at once tender, rich, flaky, and versatile. They are excellent plain or can be easily embellished with nuts, herbs, or even chocolate chips for flavor variations. They can be cut into endless shapes: wedges, squares, stars, hearts, or half-moons. Even better, they are fast to make. Entire preparation time for assembling, mixing, forming, and baking is about 45 minutes.
Use fresh ingredients such as aluminum-free baking powder, sweet butter, eggs, all-purpose and pastry flours for the best flavor. All types of flours, such as barley, oats, corn, rye, and bran, make beautiful scones. Liquids commonly used for moistening the dry ingredients include buttermilk, milk, yogurt, or cream.
Use the following techniques for perfect results: Quickly mix the dry ingredients with the cold fat to make big coarse crumbs, and when stirring in the cold liquid, a quick hand is again needed, so the air is not forced out of the dough. This is especially important when the scones do not contain eggs to help with the leavening. Measure the liquids carefully to make a soft, pliable dough that is gently kneaded just until the dough holds together. Too much liquid makes a heavy scone that is hard to shape.
Knead briefly, just enough for the dough to come together, since overhandling will make a very tough and chewy scone. The kneading is not a vigorous technique as called for in yeast breadmaking to active the gluten, but a very gentle working just to form a cohesive ball..
When rolling out the scone, keep it thicker than 1/2 inch to achieve the best shape. For even browning, bake only one sheet at a time in the center of a preheated oven. They will rise double their raw size in the oven. pay close attention to baking times. Always remember that after they are out of the oven, quick breads continue to cook during the cooling process and overbaking makes them dry, a disaster for the texture of the scone.
After baking and cooling, scones and soda breads can be frozen in heavy-duty plastic freezer bags for up to a month and reheated in a warm oven for 5 to 8 minutes. The shaped raw dough may also be frozen on a parchment-lined baking sheet and placed in freezer bags when frozen. To bake, remove the frozen scones from the freezer, place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and immediately bake in a preheated oven about 5 minutes longer than specified in the recipe.
Makes 32 scones
- 10 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup candied orange peel
- Grated zest of 2 oranges
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus extra for glazing
- 4 tablespoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
- 3 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 2 cups dried cranberries
- 3 cups cold whole milk, or half milk and half heavy cream
- 1 large egg beaten with 2 tablespoons milk, for glaze
Parchment-line 3 baking sheets. Combine 1/2 cup of the flour with the candied orange peel in a food processor. Process until the orange peel is finely ground.
Combine the orange peel-flour, remaining flour, orange zest, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the work bowl of the electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on low speed. With the machine running, add the butter pieces and let it mix until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs with bits of butter throughout. Add the cranberries and cold milk. Increase the speed to medium-low and let the mixture form a sticky dough, adding a few more tablespoons milk if the dough is too stiff.
Turn out the shaggy dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently by hand just until the dough holds together and smooths out, about 10 times, about 30 seconds. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin to a thickness of no more than 1 inch. Cut out rounds with a 3-inch biscuit cutter or glass rim, dipping the cutter into flour before cutting each round and using a straight up and down motion to cut. Alternately you can cut the dough in half, then cut each section into 4 to make 8 equal portions, then pat the dough into eight 6-inch rounds and cut into quarters.
Transfer the scones to the baking sheet with some space in between. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375º for 15 minutes. Brush each scone with some egg glaze and sprinkle with sugar. Bake on the center rack of the oven, one pan of scones at a time, until crusty and golden brown, 16 to 20 minutes. Just let the unbaked scones set at room temperature until time to bake. Serve hot, warm, or room temperature.
Homemade Devonshire Cream
Makes 3 cups
- 1 cup cold heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cups cultured sour cream or créme fraiche
In a clean mixing bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Add the sour cream, and contiue to beat until just fluffy and well combined. Scrape into a covered container and refrigerate until serving.
Reduce the sugar to 1/4 cup and omit the dried cranberries. Flavor the dough with 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons dried dill weed, or 3 tablespoons poppy seeds, as desired, adding with the dry ingredients. Cool to room temperature, then split and fill with Black Forest ham and honey mustard, sliced roast turkey with herb mayonnaise, smoked turkey with Stilton and chutney, crab salad with mashed avocados, or roast beef and plain mayonnaise.
Crème Fraîche Scones
These are especially tender, unique scones with no extra added fat or eggs apart from the crème fraîche. This recipe is adapted from the Crème Fraîche Cookbook by Sadie Kendall (Ridgeview Press, Box 686, Atascadero, CA 93423; © 1989). Sadie serves them with Homemade Mascarpone (page xx) and a Seville orange marmalade or a sublime rosehip jelly. I like them coated with slivered blanched almonds before baking. They are especially good with a tablespoon of freshly grated nutmeg or pure vanilla extract added to the crème fraîche the night before mixing the dough.
Yield: 12 to 16 scones
2 cups white cake flour or whole-wheat pastry flour or cup4cupGF
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups cold crème fraîche
1. Preheat the oven to 425º. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the crème fraîche with a fork or a heavy-duty electric mixer until the mixture makes a sticky, yet cohesive dough.
2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently just until the dough holds together, about 6 times. Divide into 2 equal portions and pat each into a 1-inch-thick round about 6 inches in diameter. With a knife or straight edge, cut each round into quarters, making 4 wedges. The scones can also be formed by cutting out with a 2-inch biscuit cutter to make 12 to 20 smaller scones.
3. Place the scones about 1 inch apart on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven until crusty and golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes. Serve immediately.
Spelt Scones with Golden Raisins
These days we all know the virtues of whole-grain flour: the fiber, the carbohydrates, the vitamins and minerals – good nutrition in every bite. But beyond these virtues is the gloriously nutty flavor that is totally unique to graham flour, a special grind of whole wheat. Although fresh whole-wheat flour is perfectly acceptable, please search out coarse-textured graham flour for these scones, and savor the taste. For more information on whole-grain flours, please refer to Notes From The Kitchen (page xx).
Yield: 16 scones
2 1/4 cups graham or finely ground spelt flour
6 tablespoons light brown sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup golden raisins
1 1/2 cups cultured buttermilk
1. Preheat the oven to 400º. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in the butter with a fork or a heavy-duty electric mixer until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the pine nuts and the golden raisins. Toss to combine. In a small bowl or 1-cup measure, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk. Add to the dry mixture and stir until a sticky dough is formed.
2. Turn out the shaggy dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently just until the dough holds together, about 6 times. Divide into 3 equal portions and pat each into a 1-inch-thick round about 6 inches in diameter. With a knife or straight edge, cut each round into quarters, making 4 wedges. The scones can also be formed by cutting out with a 2-inch biscuit cutter to make 12 to 14 smaller scones.
3. Place the scones about 1 inch apart on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven until crusty and golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately.
Recipes and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2016
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