The scone is probably one of the simplest cakes you can bake and yet there seems to be no end of variation in the recipes and techniques for making them. From overly fancy to the just plain strange – who would of thought of using fizzy lemonade?
When all is said and done a scone stands or falls on its freshness. Best enjoyed warm from the oven, a batch of scones will start to go stale within a day. Which is why it’s impossible (and please correct me if I’m wrong) to buy a good scone on the high street.
Why then buy shop bought scones that are barely worth the effort of buttering, when with a bit of practice and a few ingredients you can make your own superior homemade variety.
A guide to making scones
So for those of you who would like to give it a go, here’s my guide to making the perfect scone.
Six tips that will help deliver great results whichever recipe you favour. To get you started I’ve included a link to my own recipe at the end of this post.
1. Simple is best
Flour, fat, sugar, milk and a mixing bowl that’s all you need to bake a scone. Simple? exactly and that’s what makes a good scone, simplicity. So don’t use the food processor – make your scones by hand – I promise it produces better results. Choose a straightforward recipe and steer clear of fancy twists.
2. Keep everything cold
When baking scones, it is important that your ingredients (both fats and liquids) remain cold, particularly the butter. The objective is to keep the butter solid and not let it soften and melt into the flour. The dough will then have little bits of solid butter dispersed through it. In the heat of the oven, the butter melts creating pockets and flaky layers that give the scones their light, crumbly texture.
3. Don’t overwork the dough
The secret to a good scone is to work the mixture as gently and as little as possible. We’re not making bread so don’t knead the dough. The aim is to simply pull the mixture together into a light, pliable dough without activating the gluten in the flour. Gluten firms up when it is baked and will give the scones a tough dense texture.
4. Don’t twist your cutter
The trick to well risen scones is not to flatten the dough any thinner than 2.5 cm (1″). To ensure that your scones rise evenly it’s important to cut the dough correctly: place the floured cutter on the dough and give it a sharp tap – don’t twist it, just lift it up and push the dough out. Twisting the cutter, while removing it, will cause the edges of the scone to seal which will prevent it from rising properly.
5. Finish your scones with an egg wash
When it comes to adding the finishing touch to your scones there are two choices; glossy or matt. Adding an egg wash to the top of the scones will give them a glossy golden brown finish. Alternatively a dusting of flour will give them a matt, bread-like appearance.
6. Arrange your scones close to one another
Arranging your scones on the baking tray side by side helps make the scones rise evenly, and higher. Since the heat causes the scones to rise, if they are placed side by side, the scones will be forced to rise upwards, not outwards. Thus, scones arranged closer together will rise higher than those baked apart.
Hopefully I’ve given you an incentive to get into the kitchen and knock-up a batch of your own scones. Believe me, it’s not difficult and well worth the effort. Nothing beats a warm buttered scone fresh from your own oven. As promised, here is a link to my fruit scone recipe.