This month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge was a pretty easy one and I was able to try the recipe the first day of the challenge! This month we are going “Back to Basics” and learning to make “Scones” or what we think of here in the United States as “Biscuits”. In some countries these breads are called Scones, but are not to be confused with the sweeter baked good that I think of as a breakfast or tea item. To keep things from being confusing for me, I will be referring to them as “Biscuits” in this posting since that’s the name I’m used to.
Our mandatory task was to make one batch of basic biscuits using the recipe and techniques provided. I don’t make biscuits often, but when I do they are usually drop biscuits because they are easy. These flaky and tall biscuits are really not much harder to make than the dropped variety and the rise they get is really satisfying. They are also delicious! The recipe is very easy, but there are some techniques in this recipe that were different that what I normally do. The dry ingredients are sifted together three times to help with loft. Next, grated butter that has been frozen is gently cut into the dry ingredients before barely mixing in the wet ingredients. A couple of kneads of the dough on a floured board is done to smooth out the dough. Then, the dough is patted out and folded over 3-4 times before cutting into squares with a knife or cutting out with a 2″ biscuit cutter. Optionally, the cut dough is also chilled before baking in a super-hot 475°F oven. These specific techniques resulted in a biscuit with great rise and visual appeal. I’m hooked!
- 1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (10 gm) (1/3 oz) fresh baking powder (non-aluminum variety)
- 1⁄4 teaspoon (11⁄4 ml) (11⁄2 gm) salt
- 2 tablespoons (30 gm/1 oz) frozen grated butter (or a combination of lard and butter) Approximately 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) cold milk
- Optional 1 tablespoon milk, for glazing the tops of the scones
- Preheat oven to very hot 475°F/240°C/gas mark 9.
- Triple sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. (If your room temperature is very hot, refrigerate the sifted ingredients until cold.)
- Rub the frozen grated butter (or combination of fats) into the dry ingredients until it resembles very coarse bread crumbs with some pea-sized pieces if you want flaky scones or until it resembles coarse beach sand if you want tender scones.
- Add nearly all of the liquid at once into the rubbed-in flour/fat mixture and mix until it just forms a sticky dough (add the remaining liquid if needed). The wetter the dough the lighter the scones (biscuits) will be!
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, lightly flour the top of the dough. To achieve an even homogeneous crumb to your scones knead very gently about 4 or 5 times (do not press too firmly) the dough until it is smooth. To achieve a layered effect in your scones knead very gently once (do not press too firmly) then fold and turn the kneaded dough about 3 or 4 times until the dough has formed a smooth texture. (Use a floured plastic scraper to help you knead and/or fold and turn the dough if you wish.)
- Pat or roll out the dough into a 6 inch by 4 inch rectangle by about 3⁄4 inch thick (151⁄4 cm by 10 cm by 2 cm thick). Using a well-floured 2-inch (5 cm) scone cutter (biscuit cutter), stamp out without twisting six 2-inch (5 cm) rounds, gently reform the scraps into another 3⁄4 inch (2 cm) layer and cut two more scones (these two scones will not raise as well as the others since the extra handling will slightly toughen the dough). Or use a well-floured sharp knife to form squares or wedges as you desire.
- Place the rounds just touching on a baking dish if you wish to have soft-sided scones or place the rounds spaced widely apart on the baking dish if you wish to have crisp-sided scones. Glaze the tops with milk if you want a golden colour on your scones or lightly flour if you want a more traditional look to your scones.
- Bake in the preheated very hot oven for about 10 minutes (check at 8 minutes since home ovens at these high temperatures are very unreliable) until the scones are well risen and are lightly coloured on the tops. The scones are ready when the sides are set.
- Immediately place onto cooling rack to stop the cooking process, serve while still warm.