Cookies are nice but when it comes to an afternoon tea break scones are my favourite. They are a necessity at high tea, like the one at Shangri-La Hotel or the Omni King Edward, both in Toronto, but I like the idea of having them at home for my own teatime. In January I challenged myself to try meditation, something that’s been floating around in the back of my head, so it seemed fitting to try making scones at home as my February challenge.
I have heard they can be difficult to make and since I am very particular about what scones should taste like I’ve put off trying to make them at home. But like so many things, nothing can be achieved unless you try. Making scones may not sound challenging but the purpose of these monthly challenges is to try something I personally want to learn, something I’ve put off or jotted down on one of those “some day” lists we all keep.
There are so many varieties of scones out there when it comes to flavours and all very tasty I’m sure, but I’m a believer in starting with the basics when you don’t know what you’re doing. (That’s me).
I tried Delicious Days British scone recipe first. Thing to note, when trying a recipe make sure you pick one that uses measurements you’re familiar with. I did spend time online searching the equivalent to 60g of butter. Perhaps my measuring was off but I found this mixture really dry, as in there wasn’t enough liquid to hold it together. I know you’re not suppose to over knead the dough for fear of dense scones and perhaps that was one of my issues trying to overcompensate the need to have all the ingredients come together
I found this batch didn’t rise well but they weren’t dry tasting. I ventured into flavour territory, trying a Milk Chocolate Scone recipe in Canadian Living’s new cookbook, Sweet & Simple. This batch yielded a larger quantity of scones and the chocolate (I used dark chocolate versus milk chocolate) was a nice touch. I still ran into the issue of over kneading to ensure all the dry ingredients were incorporated.
Overall I was pleased with my final scones though I think I need more practice to get the layers I’m looking for. By trying to make them I did prove to myself that scones aren’t as difficult to make as I had been led to believe and I’ll keep practicing. I’ve started to add some scone recipes to our Sweets and Treats pinterest board should you have any great recipes I should add for future baking practice.
For my own assistance or anyone thinking of making scones themselves I did find a few helpful tips online:
Use Cold Ingredients. I had read a few places and About British Food confirmed that “Butter should be very cold, but not frozen. Warm hands, ingredients, and equipment if too warm will melt the butter rather than it be rubbed in resulting in heavy scones.” What I never considered was the temperature of my hands especially as I tend to crumble the butter with my fingers (make sure it’s your finger tips and not your whole hands).
Avoid Twisting. When using a circle cutter I instinctively twist the cutter to help form the shape without pressing down on the dough too much. It seems according to About British Food that’s not quiet right, “…avoid twisting the cutter, then gently shake the scone onto the prepared tray.’ Twisting it seems can alter the layers and cause the scones to not cook up as flakey.
Cook Near the Top. Another tips from About British Food is to adjust your cooking rack, “Cook near the top of the oven, even when using a fan. Scones like it best near the top.”
Use Self-Rising Flour. For all my scone baking I used unbleached all purpose flour. I did notice a few recipes indicated self-rising flour though others just said flour. According to an interview with baker Phillippa Grogan “Self-raising gives more consistency because the raising agents are well mixed throughout the flour. It gives a better result.”
Cook Scones Close Together. Another baking assumption, I ensured my scones had ample room around them to cook just like making cookies but according to baker Phillippa Grogan they work much better when they have each other to lean on, “Place the cut scones close together on a floured (not greased) baking tray, so that as they rise they push against each other, resulting in nice tall scones. Brush the tops with milk (or buttermilk) to achieve a nice golden crust.”
Let The Dough Rest. Not an instruction in any of the scone recipes I tried but according to TheKitchn the scones should rest before going in the oven “…like many baked goods, scones contain gluten and if you let the dough rest before working with it, the gluten has a chance to relax completely, which will lead to flakier scones …”
Don’t Overwork the Dough. My gut is to cut the scones and then gather the leftover dough to reshape into new scones and keep going until all or most of the dough is used up. According to this bakers’ secrets article, “try to leave as few trimmings as possible. Re-roll the trimmings once and cut additional scones. If you re-roll more than once, you risk overworking the dough. Any trimmings after the second rolling can be baked to enjoy as tidbits with your afternoon tea or coffee.” Perhaps another reason my scones may not have been as light as I wanted.
Some of these tips I incorporated in my test scones while others I discovered after the fact. I can see from these tips how many, including myself, may view scones as a challenge to bake but I’m hoping these tips will help to elevate my next batch of scones. Of course I’ll still enjoy heading out to high tea in the city. Nothing beats having scones and tea done right and served in style.
Have you ever thought of trying to cook something but felt it was to challenging?
Next Month’s Challenge
Maybe cooking isn’t your thing and there’s something else you would like to try or learn. That being said, my March challenge is to learn how to play chess. My son participated in a chess club at school last year and enjoyed it but without a partner at home it is difficult to play. I figured this is something we can both learn together and maybe play over tea?