Every baker has their secrets….well, no….that is not necessarily true, but we do have techniques developed and learned which we rely on without even thinking. We know what dough or pastry should look like, and how it should feel, smell and taste, and sometimes even how it should sound. Since you can’t just pop into my kitchen, we’re going to rely on some text and LOTS of photos. Bear with me, because it will be worth it.
First a few rules.
1) Prep your cold liquids and well-chilled butter first and put them back in the frig to stay cold until needed.
2) Blend dry ingredients together, fluff them up a bit, before adding butter. You want a lot of air in there, and you want to keep it there.
3) Handle your dough gently and no more than necessary, to keep the dough light and airy. (Did I already say you want a lot of air in there? Yes, I did, and I’ll keep reminding you, too!)
Cut your butter into small cubes, no bigger than 1/2″ square. Put in frig until needed.
Blend half & half (or whatever you’ve chosen to use) with vanilla and eggs and whisk or whip with fork until a bit bubbly. (Oh, that’s right, we want air in there!) Put in frig until needed.
Measure dry ingredients into large mixing bowl or bowl of your mixer. I do use my Kitchen Aid mixer with the blade attachment and it works just fine. Whisk or stir, on slowest speed, for a moment to distribute all the ingredients and to…..? Add air! Oh, you are catching on!
Add butter cubes to mixing bowl and with pastry blender, or two sharp knives held together, or with mixer on slowest speed, cut butter into flour mix.
If you are using a stand mixer, watch carefully. Do not over blend. You want a crumbly looking mix of flour, crumb sized bits, and little chunks of flour covered butter. As I said in Tutorial 1, if you can’t see butter bits, you have gone too far.
Think of a croissant for a moment…..the layers of buttery pastry….. The butter in between the layers of dough is why a croissant is so flaky. While a scone is certainly not a croissant, we are going to gently fold some layers into our dough, and the butter will melt in between those layers and help the scones puff up.
Add the cold cream/egg/vanilla mixture (reserve about 1 tablespoon for later) and stir or blend slowly just until everything is incorporated and the dough nearly cleans the sides of the bowl. It should look somewhat spongy and messy. If really gloppy, go ahead and mix in a little more flour. If it is a humid day, you will almost certainly need a little extra flour. Now scrape out onto a well floured surface.
Flour your hands, sprinkle a little flour on the dough, and gently gather and pat the dough into a loose ball.
Gently flatten dough by pressing with hands to about 1″ thick and fold toward you. Flour hands and board as needed to prevent sticking.
Give dough a quarter turn, again gently flatten and fold toward you. (Layers!) Turn, flatten, fold again if necessary to smooth dough, and then gently pat and press into a fairly smooth dome. (You should still be able to see butter bits, by the way.)
With a very sharp knife, cut dough ball in half, and then into quarters. If you haven’t overworked the dough, the texture should be somewhat spongy (air!) and you should indeed be able to see those butter bits I fret about. : )
Now we’ll start shaping.
Flatten the inner corner slightly with the palm of your hand and tuck it under.
Turn over and pinch the other two corners together. Pinch up, pat back and forth in your hands, until a nice little ball. Place pinched side down on floured board, press down into a circle, about 4″ in diameter, leaving center a little higher than the edges. Should be about 3/4″ high in the middle.
With your sharp knife cut into quarters. Place on ungreased baking sheet, about 1″ apart. Brush with reserved cream/egg/vanilla mixture and sprinkle with sugar if desired. Bake as directed.
If you’d prefer to use biscuit cutters, you certainly may. However, remember the more you handle the dough, the heavier your scones will be. Every time, you shape and cut you are smooshing air out and glueing the dough together. (Oh, there’s that thing about the air again.) And by the way, the reason you want to use a very sharp knife or cutter of any sort is this, a dull knife is going to smash the edges of your scone and glue things together. A sharp knife cuts down neatly through the dough and doesn’t smash as many….AIR bubbles…and your scones will raise to lofty heights!
Okay, my friends. If you have made it this far, I am so proud of you! Friday the scone recipe goes up with just a few photos of baking off the scones and the finished goodies. I’ll also give you a few more tips including freezing the formed scones for baking as needed, and ideas for serving.
Thank you for reading! You are the best!