For the last few weeks I've been searching for my perfect scone recipe. In my mind the perfect scone is light and fluffy with just a touch of sweetness. And it has to be high. A mile high at least. I've tried countless recipes with varying degrees of success, but today I think I found "THE ONE".
How about it? Does it look right? Measuring in at 2-1/4" high these babies are sky scrapers. And do you know the secret? Well the secret is in the folds -- but more on that later.
The recipe I used (with a few modifications) is from the BBC's Good Food site. The recipe is called Classic Scones and was submitted by Jane Hornby. Here is a link to the original article and recipe.
The recipe has some interesting twists, and was a great learning experience.
My modified recipe (along with some tips and tricks) is at the bottom of this page, and here is the step-by-step process...
First combine the flour with baking powder, baking soda and salt. I always weigh my flour because it's more accurate. Depending on how sifted the flour is, the 350 g that the recipe calls for can be anywhere from 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups. This will make a big difference in the consistency of the finished dough. So weigh the flour and then sift. And sift the flour a few times. The sifting adds air into the flour and will make your scones lighter and fluffier. You can buy all kinds of fancy flour sifters but I just use a regular food strainer.
After the flour is ready, the recipe says to rub in the butter. I have hot little hands that will melt butter in seconds, so I've been experimenting with alternative methods. I've tried grating frozen butter into the flour, and while this works great, it is messy and a lot of butter lost on the grater. I tried using a food processor, but again too much mess. So now I just cut the frozen butter into teeny tiny pieces. It doesn't take long to cube it up, and the process is kinda of zen-like and soothing. After I cut up the frozen butter I put it back into the freezer until I need to mix it with the flour.
After I dump the butter cubes into the flour I use a pastry knife/blender to combine the two together. And because the butter is cut into such tiny pieces it doesn't take long to blend and consequently doesn't have time to soften.
One of the interesting twists about the BBC/Jane Hornby recipe is that it calls for warm milk and a touch of vanilla extract. Another twist is that it uses lemon juice which essentially turns the whole milk into buttermilk. The milk is warmed in the microwave for 30 seconds, and then the vanilla and lemon juice is added. And don't worry if your milk looks lumpy after adding the lemon juice. It is supposed to do that. Note: I was only making a half batch when I took the picture below, so that is why the volume of milk doesn't match the recipe, and yes, a half batch does work just fine. And how do you like my nifty milliliter measuring cup? Because I was testing so many British recipes that use metric units, I broke down a bought a measuring cup that had small milliliters divisions on it. It also has tablespoons, teaspoons and cups measuring lines which is very handy.
After the butter is cut into the flour, you form a well in the center and pour the milk mixture into the hole.
Using a fork, flick the flour up and into the milk. Turn the bowl as you flick more flour into the milk.
In a few seconds everything is combined. It is a little sticky, but not wet.
The dough gets dumped onto a floured surface, and then patted into a ball.
Flip the ball over... and here is the secret to the Sky High rise of the scones. --- Fold the dough over 3 times. And by fold I mean gently flatten the dough and fold it into thirds. Flip the dough over, flatten, and then fold. Do this three times. Honestly this is the secret to sky high scones.
After the final fold pat the dough to 1" in height, and then cut out the scones using a 2 1/2" round cutter. When you cut out the scones push the cutter straight down and don't twist. Twisting the cutter will stop the scones from rising to their full potential. Also don't try to scrimp and overlap the cut edge of one scone with the cut edge of another scone. If you cut a section of the dough twice, the double crimping will prevent that portion of the scone from rising as much as the rest of the scone.
So do you believe that simply folding of the dough will dramatically increase the height of the scones? Well I didn't believe it either so I decided to do a test.... After I made the dough I cut it in half. One half I didn't fold. I simply patted it flat and cut out my scones. With the other half of the dough I folded three times before I cut out the scones. Below are the unbaked scones. The four on the left are the folded dough and the four on the right are the unfolded. As you can see they are all about 1" thick unbaked. The lumpy, things in the front are just the scraps of dough wadded into a pile that kind of, sort-of look like a pile of dog poo. Sorry.
And here they are just out of the oven. Look at the difference!!! Same dough, same pan, same oven temperature. There was about a 4 minute difference between when the unfolded and folded dough was cut out, but I don't think just 4 minutes would make that much of a difference. Would it???
So, scones made from the folded dough ...
And unfolded ...
So if you want sky-high scones remember to fold...
Oh, here is another recently learned tip for getting sky-high scones. You need to use a general purpose flour that is a little "hard". After testing a few different flours I settled on Gold Medal Self Rising flour. The slightly higher protein content in the hard flour allows more gluten to form which in turn allows the scone to rise higher. But don't go overboard and use bread flour (which is very high in protein) because this will make the scones too tough. Conversely, "soft", cake-like flours like White Lily or Martha White will give you a tender scone, but the lack of protein will cause the scones to spread OUT rather than up. So soft flours will give you flat, wide scones, hard flours will give you tall, slender scones.
So here is my new favorite scone recipes. I call it... Sky-High Scones.
Sky-High Scones (make 8-10 depending on the size)
(Adapted from Jane Hornby's Classic Scones with Jam & Clotted Cream)
350g (~2 1/2+ cups) Gold Medal self-rising flour, plus more for dusting (see tips 1,2,& 3)
1 tsp baking powder (yes, add more baking powder to the self-rising flour)
1/4 tsp salt (yes, add more salt to the self-rising flour)
1/4 tsp baking soda (yes, add more baking soda to the self-rising flour)
6 TBLS / 85g frozen, unsalted butter, cut into tiny cubes
4 TBLS white granulated sugar (optional – if you want savory scones skip the sugar)
185ml (3/4-7/8 cup) whole milk, plus more if needed
2 tsp lemon juice (see tip 4)
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional – if you want savory scones skip the vanilla)
1 egg, beaten for glazing (optional)
Coarse sparkling sugar to garnish (optional)
Heat oven to 425 degrees F.
Warm the milk in the microwave for 30 seconds. Do not get the milk hot, you just want it warm.
Add the vanilla and lemon juice to the milk. (see tip 4) Set milk mixture aside.
Whisk the self-rising flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together, and then sift the flour mixture twice (see tip 5). I always weigh my flour because it is more accurate. Depending on how sifted the flour is, 350 g can be anywhere from 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups.
Whisk the sugar into the flour mixture.
Add the butter and using your fingers or a pastry knife/blender work the butter into the flour until the mixture looks like coarse bread crumbs.
Make a well in the flour and pour the milk mixture into the hole. Using a fork flick the flour towards the center and on top of the milk. Turn the bowl as you continue to combine the flour and liquid. Work lightly and quickly and don’t over mix the dough. Over mixing will create tough scones. The dough needs to be a little wet and sticky. If it looks too dry add a little more milk (6).
Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicon baking mat and place in the oven to warm.
Sprinkle some flour on a work surface and tip the dough out. Lightly flour your hands, and gently pat the dough down. Fold the fold into thirds. Flip the dough over and rotate 1/4 turn. Pat the dough flat again and fold into thirds. Flip over, rotate and fold a third time. (7)
After the final folding, pat the dough to 1 inch thickness.
Remove the warmed baking sheet from the oven (13).
Using a 2-1/4 to 2-1/2 inch smooth-edge circle cutter, plunge the cutter into the dough and then pull it straight out. Do not twist the cutter, push it straight in and pull straight out. (8,9) You can reform the scraps of dough and cut more scones or you can just bake the dough scraps as is.
Turn the cut scone dough upside down (10), and place on the warmed baking sheet.
Using your thumb push a small dimple or depression into the top of the scone (11).
Brush the top of the scone with milk or egg wash, being careful not to let any milk drip down the side (12).
If you want the sides of the scones to be soft, crowd the dough circles together. If you want the sides to be crispy, keep the dough circles 2 inches apart. (14)
Bake for 15 minutes until golden on the top.
Tips & Tricks for Sky-High Scones
(1) – I’ve tried this recipe with several flours (White Lily, Marth White, Gold Medal) and it seems to work best with Self-Rising Gold Medal flour. Gold Medal has a little higher percentage of protein which allows the scone to rise higher but still has a tender crumb.
(2) – Self-Rising vs All purpose. Self-rising gives more consistent rise because the raising agents are more thoroughly mixed with the flour. Self-rising gives better results.
(3) –If you don’t have self-rising you can use All Purpose and just add the appropriate amounts of baking powder and salt. To make 1 cup of self-rising flour add 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp table salt to 1 cup of AP flour.
(4) – The lemon juice sours the milk slightly and turns the whole milk into buttermilk. The slightly acidic mix also gives a boost to the raising agents in the baking powder and baking soda.
(5) – Sifting the multiple times will aerate the flour and give a lighter, fluffier scone.
(6) – Scone dough needs to be a little sticky. Wet is good. If you are having trouble cutting out the scones, dip the cutter into flour, shake off the excess, and then cut out the scone.
(7) – Fold the scone dough to give the baked scone more height. The folds will trap air and moisture inside the dough which will expand when heated in the oven.
(8) – Smooth-edge cutters cut cleaner which in turn allows the scones to rise higher. When cutting the scones push down and pull up the cutter without twisting the cutter. The cleaner the cut, the more the scones will rise.
(9) – When cutting out the scone dough, always leave a buffer of dough between each cut. Overlapping cut edges will create points where the dough is crimped twice. The points of double crimped won’t rise as much and this will create lopsided scones.
(10) – Because the bottom of the cut scone dough is smoother than the top, turning the cut scone upside down before baking will encourage the scones to rise evenly.
(11) – Pushing a dimple into the center top of the cut scone dough will encourage the scone to rise evenly.
(12) – Brushing the tops of the scones with butter or an egg wash will turn the tops of the scone a golden brown color. But be careful not to let the milk drip down the side of the scone. The drips of milk will cause the scone to rise unevenly.
(13) – Placing the dough on a warm tray will kick-start the dough rising process.
(14) – Crowding the cut scones together will encourage the touching edges to rise higher, but note that the sides that are not touch a neighbor will not rise as much.
PS: You can also freeze the unbaked scones. The frozen dough bakes up almost as high as the fresh. Here is one I baked for Valentine Day morning. Delicious.