Today is January 27, 2012. The posting day for Daring Bakers! It is always the posting day for Daring Bakers. But just yesterday, on the 26th of January, I decided I was going to get back on the Daring Bakers wagon and start participating again after a long hiatus. I signed in to the site , read the challenge. Scones. I can do scones. Then I started checking the ingredients, added a few special things to my grocery list, and then I checked the posting date and I thought, “I’ll have a few days to crank these out.” Then I checked my calendar. It was the 26th. How did this happen? How can I be so out of touch with reality to think it was somehow earlier than this? Does this happen to anyone else? The end of the month totally sneaks up on you and you’re left feeling like life is passing you by? That’s a little dramatic, but I really did have that moment of, “WHAT?” when I figured out it was almost the end of January. Basically, I am just an absent minded mess these days. I was in pajamas until 1pm on Wednesday of this week…it’s no wonder I don’t know what day it is.
Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!
Scones, as I know them anyway, are those nice, slightly sweet triangular shaped breads, a little crunchy outside, soft and crumbly inside. Sometimes plain, sometimes full of fruit, sometimes glazed, sometimes sugared, and always wonderful. That is not a scone by English definition. What Daring Bakers were challenged to do this month was to make what the Australian and the English call scones, and that is what we North Americans call biscuits! Thanks you, Daring Bakers! I don’t make biscuits often, so having an excuse to make myself a batch or two was going to be a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.
Tender, flaky,so high they’re rising to the heavens biscuits are so very special and wonderful because they are so stinkin’ hard to achieve. I made two batches, and I wish I’d had the time to make more because I could have figured out the secret to the perfect biscuit. I’m going to have to keep making these until I get it right. I don’t think anyone in my house will have a problem being the taste testers. It is the ingredients, but it’s also very much the process. Laminating, or folding, the dough gives the tender flaky layers I most associate with a good biscuit. And be gentle with the dough. You don’t want to overwork it. At the same time, you don’t want to underwork it. I know, that’s confusing. But make a batch or two (or ten) and you’ll start to figure it out.
Here are my first and second batches together (first batch on top). This experience made me so excited about baking! I know this makes me a food nerd, but I like that just changing a few things can yield totally different results.
For my first batch I tried what is called an Australian Scone Ring, which is a nice little ring of biscuits. The recipe uses less butter than the basic dough and the fat is worked into smaller pieces. Total fail. I worked the dough too much, and rolled them out too thin. They didn’t rise much at all and they were a non attractive pale color with no semblance of biscuit texture. Some of the differences are of course due to the differences in the ingredients and process, but I still think I screwed these up.
So I looked at some of the other variations and opted for a Buttermilk Biscuit. Now these are biscuits, and good ones. Still not with the height that I would have liked them to have, but with a great flaky texture, buttery flavor and a nice golden brown hue on top and bottom. They also smell divine. They are on the counter next to me at the moment and every time I get a whiff I want to eat another one. With twice the fat of the basic recipe, buttermilk instead of plain milk and a folding process instead of a kneading one, these came out much more to my liking.
Below I am including the recipe and instructions for the buttermilk biscuits. The basic recipe can be found here.
- 1 cup flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup whole milk (+ 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar to make sour milk) or use buttermilk
- 4 tablespoons butter, chilled in the freezer
- Preheat oven to 475°F
- Triple sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. (If your room temperature is very hot refrigerate the sifted ingredients until cold.)
- Rub the frozen butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles very coarse bread crumbs with some pea-sized. (I used a pastry cutter to get it started, then used my fingers to get the right sized butter pieces.)
- Add nearly all of the liquid at once into the rubbed-in flour/fat mixture and mix until it just forms a sticky dough (add the remaining liquid if needed). The wetter the dough the lighter the scones (biscuits) will be.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, lightly flour the top of the dough. Knead very gently once (do not press too firmly) then fold and turn the kneaded dough about 3 or 4 times until the dough has formed a smooth texture. (Use a floured plastic scraper to help you knead and/or fold and turn the dough if you wish.)
- Pat or roll out the dough into a 6 inch by 4 inch rectangle by about ¾ inch thick (15¼ cm by 10 cm by 2 cm thick). Using a well-floured 2-inch (5 cm) scone cutter (biscuit cutter), stamp out without twisting six 2-inch (5 cm) rounds, gently reform the scraps into another ¾ inch (2 cm) layer and cut two more scones (these two scones will not raise as well as the others since the extra handling will slightly toughen the dough). Or use a well-floured sharp knife to form squares or wedges as you desire.
- Place the rounds just touching on a baking dish (I used a cast iron skillet) if you wish to have soft-sided scones or place the rounds spaced widely apart on the baking dish if you wish to have crisp-sided scones. Glaze the tops with milk if you want a golden colour on your scones or lightly flour if you want a more traditional look to your scones.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes (check at 8 minutes since home ovens at these high temperatures are very unreliable) until the scones are well risen and are lightly coloured on the tops. The scones are ready when the sides are set.
- Immediately place onto cooling rack to stop the cooking process, serve while still warm.