Here’s my confession . . . I am not a baker. I do not have the patience to mess with all those fancy little embellishments on itty-bitty cookies, cupcakes or the like. Nor am I ever inclined to perfect my macaron (in fact, I’ve never even attempted to make one, let alone perfect my skill); I leave that to the many talented professionals – and there are so many out there – check here, here and here for starters. These folks eat, sleep and live for that kind of detail work. Me? Give me heft. Give me something I can scoop, roll, slice or plop. Set it and forget it. That I can do.
I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve tried to make any type of scone – oh yes, they masqueraded as a scones, but then something along the lines of a dry, hard hockey puck showed up. Honestly, I couldn’t understand why everyone was so gaga over scones; I mean really, pass me the jam so I can get these suckers down . . . oh, and make sure that you have a third party who knows the Heimlich maneuver standing by . . . ‘cuz you just never know . . .
So yes, I was a bit skeptical when I came across this recipe; at first glance I didn’t get too excited because I found all the usual cast of characters (ingredients): flour, sugar, butter, salt, baking power, baking soda, etc. And I will admit to being more than a bit annoyed with the extra steps to ensure all components were ice cold or frozen. But that last sentence? Go back and re-read that last sentence because, that is your golden key to the scone kingdom – yes, my awesome friends, scones are all about the method! Master the method and you’ve mastered the scone! In fact, I have been so successful in my scone-making abilities these days, I decided to teach my friend Audrey, who is a brand new cook, the art of scone making. And you know what? She was successful too – and she’d never made a scone in her life!! How cool is that? By the way, Audrey is a very talented writer who loves movies and has a blog called, Born for Geekdom – head over there and take a peek!
I say – scones for everyone!
Cooks Illustrated, Spring Entertaining April 2010
NOTE: It is important to work the dough as little as possible-work quickly and knead and fold the dough only the number of times called for. The butter should be frozen solid before grating. In hot or humid environments, chill the flour mixture and bowls before use. While the recipe calls for 2 whole sticks of butter, only 10 tablespoons are actually used (sec step 1). If fresh berries are unavailable, an equal amount of frozen berries (do not defrost) can be substituted. An equal amount of raspberries, blackberries, or strawberries can be used in place of the blueberries. Cut larger berries into 1/4″- to 1/2″-inch pieces before incorporating. Refrigerate or freeze leftover scones, wrapped in foil, in an airtight container. To serve, remove foil and place scones on a baking sheet in a 375-degree oven. Heat until warmed through and re-crisped, 8 to 10 minutes if refrigerated, 16 to 20 minutes frozen.
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) butter, frozen whole (see note)
1-1/2 cups (about 7.5 ounces) fresh blueberries, picked over (see note)
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional for work surface
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) sugar, plus I tablespoon for sprinkling
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
teaspoon finely grated zest from 1 lemon
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Remove half of wrapper from each stick of frozen butter; grate unwrapped ends on large holes of box grater (you should grate 8 tablespoons total). Place grated butter in freezer until needed. Melt 2 tablespoons of remaining ungrated butter and set aside. Save remaining 6 tablespoons butter for another use. Place blueberries in freezer until needed.
2. Whisk together milk and sour cream in medium bowl; refrigerate until needed. Whisk flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest in medium bowl. Add frozen butter to flour mixture and toss with fingers until thoroughly coated.
3. Add milk mixture to flour mixture; fold with spatula until just combined. With rubber spatula, transfer dough to liberally-floured work surface. Dust surface of dough with flour; with floured hands, knead dough 6 to 8 times until it just holds together in ragged ball, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking.
4. Roll dough into approximate 12-inch square. Fold dough into thirds like a business letter, using bench scraper or metal spatula to release dough if it sticks to work surface. Lift short ends of dough and fold into thirds again to form approximate 4-inch square. Transfer dough to plate lightly dusted with flour and chill in freezer 5 minutes.
5. Transfer dough to floured work surface and roll into approximate 12-inch square again. Sprinkle blueberries evenly over surface of dough, then press down so they are slightly embedded in dough. Using bench scraper or thin metal spatula, loosen dough from work surface. Roll dough, pressing to form tight log. Lay seam side down and press log into 12 by 4-inch rectangle. Using sharp, floured knife, cut rectangle crosswise into 4 equal rectangles. Cut each rectangle diagonally to form 2 triangles and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet.
6. Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon sugar. Bake until tops and bottoms are golden brown, 18 to 25 minutes. Transfer scones to wire rack and let cool 10 minutes before serving.
SMITH BITES NOTES: I keep a tub of flour and a pound of butter in my freezer specifically for making scones so when the mood strikes (which is often), I’m ready! I’ve also used both fresh and frozen fruit and I prefer frozen – again keeping the ingredients as cold as possible will produce the best product. If you’re an experienced baker and have a food processor, by all means use it to grate your butter instead of the box grater – grating the butter was my key to making light, fluffy, moist scones so don’t skip this step!! In my opinion, you can cut more than 8 scones from this recipe – 8 pieces end up being a tad big for me as I usually have some sort of egg dish too – but feel free to make them as large or small as you’d like. I also use raw sugar (turbinado) to sprinkle on top – I love the added texture it gives the scones. And finally, I make a batch, cut my triangles, bake 2 scones for us to enjoy immediately, but put the rest of the uncooked triangles on a cookie sheet and freeze; once completely frozen, I place them in a container and store in the freezer for future bakings. This allows me to always have scones on hand to bake off either on a weekend or even during the weekdays if I want a treat. Starting with a frozen scone increases your baking time by about 10-15 minutes or so depending on the size of your scones and your oven; start checking at the additional 10 minute mark and go from there. If the scones start to darken before they’re finished baking, simply lay a piece of foil loosely over the tops until your scone is baked through.