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Homemade buttery scones
August 20, 2017, 12:52 pm

Scones, buttery baked biscuit-like treats, are descendants of unleavened Scottish oat, barley or wheat flattened and baked on a girdle. Perfect for a quick morning treat or as a side to a delicious breakfast-in-bed, once you get a hang of the technique of making the dough, you will be serving them regularly and with ease.

Techniques for better scones:

Keep it cold: Just like making pie crust or biscuits, the key to making scones flaky is to keep it cold: cold butter, cold cream, cold eggs, and cold surface if you can. Also make sure your hands are not too warm.

Mixing very little: When it comes to mixing, less is best. Lumps and bumps are the hallmark of scone dough, so leave them be. Overmixing or overworking makes tough, chewy scones, so if you mix until it is silky-smooth, you are done for. The less-is-best rule is critical every time you add a new ingredient, be it butter, cream, or currants.

Special flour makes an extra-special scone: Different flours have different protein amounts and work very differently. Generally, the more protein, the tougher the dough will bake up. For example, breads use bread flour, which has a lot of protein, while cake flour has far less and makes a delicate, fluffy cake. The recipe below showcases a combination approach using unbleached cake flour in combination with all-purpose flour to mimic the low-protein quality of pastry flour. If you have actual pastry flour, you can simply substitute it, cup for cup, for all of the flours in this recipe. If you choose to use all unbleached, all-purpose flour, you will still be good, but the flavor of the scone and size of the crumb will be distinctly different.

Making it better with simple, smart baking science: Lemon juice is not part of classic scones, but the zest definitely is. Lemon's acid tenderizes the dough just a little more, and the juice is also an opportunity to plump the dried currants so they stay moist when cooked.



Buttery scones

Makes 12 scones


1/2 cup dried currants
Juice and zest of 1/2 small lemon (about 2 tbsp juice and 2 tsp zest)
1 cup chilled heavy cream 
2 large egg yolks
2 cups unbleached cake flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cultured preferred, cut into 1/2-inch chunks, chilled
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Small glass or nonreactive bowl
Small mixing bowl
Plastic wrap
Stand mixer or food processor
Rolling pin
Pastry scraper
Rimmed baking sheet
Pizza cutter or large knife
Pie server
Pastry brush


Place the currants in a small glass or other nonreactive bowl, add the lemon juice and zest, and stir well. Let them stand for 35 to 40 minutes. The currants will rehydrate and plump a little.

Preheat the oven to 204 degrees Celsius. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick vegetable oil spray or nonstick baking spray and set aside.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the cream and egg yolks and whisk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

Sift the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.

Scatter the butter chunks over the flour. If you are using a stand mixer, mix at medium-low speed for 30 seconds. If you are using a food processor, process in eight (1-second) pulses. Either way, the mixture should resemble powdery sand in some spots and coarse sand in others. Do not overmix.

Add the egg mixture and mix at medium speed for 30 to 45 seconds, or process in 4 (1-second) pulses, just until the dough barely comes together. It should be lumpy, with raggedy edges — not smooth at all.

Heavily dust a work surface with all-purpose flour. Scoop the dough out onto it, scatter the currants and zest on top, and gently mix them in.

Divide the dough in half. Sprinkle a pinch of flour on top of one of the halves and shape into 15 to 20cm round with a thickness of about 2cm. Repeat with the other portion of dough. Use a pizza wheel or a large knife to cut each circle into six even wedges. Be sure to cut all the way through to the bottom so the wedges are separated. Using a pie server or a spatula, lift the wedges, one at a time, and arrange on the prepared baking sheet, about 2 to 3cm apart.

Brush the tops of the scones with the melted butter. Sprinkle with sugar if using.

Bake until golden-brown on the tops and bottoms (15 to 18 minutes).


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