Blog-checking lines: 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!
It’s time again for another delicious challenge from the Daring Bakers! This month’s challenge was deceptively simple: to make scones (the true blue Queen’s version, none of those rustic American wedges here!) that are flaky, tender and rise high. Since this was one of those things that you can make and bake in an under hour, it really allowed room to explore recipes and techniques to our heart’s content…and so, while I could have tried many more variations, I ended up with eight batches by the time the month was up.
To give you a preview of what’s to come: I used grated butter, partially grated and partially pea-sized butter, I pulsed butter in with the food processor, I cut butter in with a pastry cutter, I used half shortening and half butter, I rubbed butter in with my fingertips till crumbly. I used yeast. I used raisins. I used chocolate chips. I kneaded. Then I folded. I used buckwheat flour. I glazed the scones, and then I didn’t. I used a lower oven temperature (do not do this. Ever.) and then a higher oven temperature. I sliced them into weird rectangles when my cutters went AWOL. I cut them small with a wavy cutter (yes, they rose and flaked), and I cut them with a 2 inch smooth cutter (rise was not as good, go figure).
That sounds like a lot, huh? But it was still not as many batches as Audax had prepared before presenting us with the challenge…so, I’ve got some catching up to do yet!
I started with the basic recipe as provided by Audax, our gracious and resourceful host for this month. This is the perfect recipe to have when you’ve got flour, butter, milk, and salt, but are fresh out of eggs, cream, or sugar–or don’t want the additional richness of those ingredients. I was so paranoid about overworking the dough, that I ended up underkneading it, and also rolled it out too thin. The scones did their mighty best and rose, were lovely in texture, and gave me the incentive to branch out into other recipes.
I used a Cream Scones recipe from chow.com that called for a wetter dough. I know I underkneaded this one too, but the addition of the egg and sugar made up for that in term of flavor. Why are my scones so dark? I glazed them.
In Batch 3, a Cranberry-Orange Scones recipe from AmateurGourmet.com, the butter was pulsed in till pea-sized. Beautiful flakes resulted.
Since batch 3 was such a hit, I decided to change it up and replace half the flour with buckwheat. Since I was feeling brave, I doubled the recipe and made two trays. I also, in an attempt to get lighter-colored scones, lowered the oven temperature to 350 F. Do not do this. Ever. The top tray rose beautifully, where the oven was hotter…but the tray on the middle rack had scones that did. not. rise. Instead, they were like rolls, almost melting against one another.
After learning my lesson with oven temperature tampering, I decided to try out a recipe with a little bit of yeast in it, Angel Biscuits, this from Southern Living. I honestly thought I would not like it at all, so with my expectations being exceedingly low I halved the recipe. I expected a good rise, which I got, but the texture was star of the show–they were so tender that I wished I had not halved the recipe! This recipe called for using half-shortening, half butter, and I also added some cinnamon and raisins. These are a treat, and I made them twice, the second time (batch 8) using the folding technique rather than kneading.
Since I liked the flakiness of the scones from Batch 3 so much, I gave the recipe another whirl, this time folding the dough, puff pastry style, rather than kneading. I glazed half, and left the other half unglazed, and realized that my extra-golden scones have nothing to do with oven temperature, but everything to with an pre-baking wash. What a concept, huh? More of a no-brainer, I guess! I found the rise to be excellent, and decided to give the folded technique another try with another recipe later on.
With a few days to go before the challenge was to be posted, it was time to give the buckwheat scones another turn on the table, since I needed to verify that the reason the middle tray refused to rise was truly due to oven temperature. This time, little and large scones both rose, in the middle of the oven, but the little ones definitely rose better. These scones are tender and the buckwheat flour really adds great flavor.
I decided to end the scones challenge on a decidedly non-English note: with chocolate chips. I was kind of apprehensive about it, not sure why, but it was wasted worry. Spread this with jam and cream cheese, and they are amazing–that burst of pure chocolate is an awesome start to the day! I again re-used a previous recipe, but this time I used the folding technique as opposed to kneading. I didn’t find any major difference in rising power, but I do like the folding technique–it makes me feel like I’m getting ready for puff pastry in my near future.
At the end of the day, they’re all good recipes (just a cursory examination will reveal that the ratios of all the recipes are virtually identical–it really is all about technique). And they’re all fun, easy, and delicious!
In a few days, I’ll add the recipes with my modifications in their own posts and link to them here, as this post is ridiculously long already.