Ah, there's nothing like a tender, steaming scone in the morning. (Pronounced "skawn" like "fawn" or "scone" like "tone" ?Webster says either is okay.) They're quick, they're easy, and with a few tips, they are absolutely delectable.
Scones are probably the easiest and quickest of breads. Once you get the ingredients assembled, most recipes only require fifteen minutes of prep time and another fifteen minutes or so of baking time. A mix is even quicker.
But there are some keys to making those flakey, tender scones that you've been dreaming about.
Key #1: Use the right flour. Use a soft, low protein flour-we use a quality pastry flour. You want soft, tender scones and too much protein leads to too much gluten which makes your scones chewy.
Key #2: Keep your ingredients cold. Temperature is critical to buttery, flakey scones. Start with very cold butter-it should chip when you cut it into chunks and your liquids should be ice cold. Before you start, measure your milk or water and put it in the freezer for ten minutes. Consider chilling your mixing bowl before mixing.
Why do your ingredients need to be cold? The objective is to keep the butter a solid and not let it melt into a liquid. If your dough is kept cold, it will have little bits of dispersed butter. In the heat of the oven, that butter melts into the dough but leaves pockets and layers in the scones.
Work with the dough quickly to keep it cool.
Key #3: Don't work your dough too much. Kneading converts the protein to gluten. Mix only until the ingredients come together into a combined mass.
Key #4: Use a folding technique. For flakey, layered scones, use a folding technique. Roll the dough out to about 3/8-inch thick. Fold the dough in half and in half again and again. Roll the dough out to about 3/4-inch thick before cutting the scones.
Key #5: Use a ruler. If you would like nice, neat scones, use a ruler both as a straightedge to cut against and to measure equally-sized scones.
Key #6: Leave the cut edges of the scones alone. Patting the edges with your fingers melds the edges so that the scone will not rise as nicely or have a flakey, layered structure.
Key #7: Don't over-bake your scones. Over-baking for even a minute or two will dry your scones out. As soon as the edges begin to turn brown, remove them from the oven. Immediately, place the scones on a wire rack-the hot pan will continue to dry the scones.
1. Scones can be frozen for up to three months. Reheat them at 300 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. Probe the inside of the scone to make sure that it is warm.
2. You can bake your dough in a single flattened loaf. That's called a bannock.
3. Scones are best fresh out of the oven. Recipes with more butter keep fresh longer.
4. For the best shape, don't roll your dough thinner than 1/2-inch.
5. Scones will rise to double their unbaked height in the oven. If they are properly cut, they will spread very little so you can place them close together on the baking sheet.
6. You don't need to cut your scones to triangles. You can use a cookie cutter or free-hand other shapes. Heart-shaped scones for Mothers Day or Valentines Day are perfect.
Dennis Weaver is the general manager at The Prepared Pantry (http://www.preparedpantry.com) with recipes, ideas, and the best selection of mixes and ingredients. Visit the free Bakers' Library for more articles like this, free baking guides, and tested recipes.