July 14, 2009
* This is not a photo of one of my scones. I didn't take any photographic evidence as I had just moved into my new apartment and misplaced my camera.
I've been a fan of scones for several years, but when I say this I mean a fan of eating them, not baking them myself. But about two months ago, I started mentally cataloging every scone recipe I came across. Martha Stewart included a blueberry scone recipe in Martha Stewart Living in the June issue, and Molly Wizenberg focused on a blueberry oat scone recipe in her Bon Appetit column this year. Nicole Rees has several scone recipes in her terrific cookbook Baking Unplugged, and obviously, The Joy of Cooking gives its opinion on the subject.
However, I've always made excuses not to try my hand at scone making. Typically, when I see a recipe that calls for some sort of fancy gadgetry, such as a food processor, I have a built in excuse - I don't have the money for that kind of new fangled kitchen technology (i.e. I'm currently unemployed and scrimp by each month on unemployment checks). Luckily, almost every scone recipe I've seen calls for a food processor, so I've been let off the hook. I conveniently ignored Nicole's recipes in Baking Unplugged, which is probably my favorite cookbook at the moment because the whole premise of the book is that you don't need expensive kitchen machinery. But Martha Stewart cornered me - her blueberry scone recipe was old-fashioned. I didn't need an electrical outlet for these scones. I was trapped. The scones were getting made.
It should be noted that I like baking because of its devotion to preciseness. The measuring of ingredients is not optional - it's essential. So, I will say right now that I followed the Martha Stewart Living recipe exactly. I double-checked the quantities of every single ingredient, so I was confident that my first go at scones was going to be successful...until I saw the dough.
Once you start baking or cooking for a while, you start to develop a sense of when something has gone wrong. I could tell the second I got to the step that called for turning the dough out onto a smooth surface to gently kneed and then form into a round to then cut into wedges. This dough was gooey. This dough wasn't going to form into a nice round. This looked almost like cookie dough, but wet.
My first inclination was to add flour. I thought this would soak up some of the moisture, but I became concerned it would dry out the final product. So, I gave up the idea of making perfect scone wedges and instead lumped wads of the dough onto a baking sheet and topped with sugar. Before putting in the oven, I took a quick taste of some leftover batter - it tasted scone-y. Maybe I was still on track.
I baked for about 10 minutes longer than instructed my Martha. The scones were definitely not finished when the original baking time expired. And even when I took the baked goods out of the oven, I was still confident that they were going to be great.
But, my perfect first try at blueberry scones was not to be. I don't like crumbly, dry scones, but my finished product was too moist. They tasted like scones - actually, the flavor was quite good, but the moist texture reminded me of a muffin. A muffin with a moist scone texture. As much as I like both scones and muffins, I do not condone an incestuous relationship of the two. A few days later, after being stored under a cake dome, the scones were still moist. I'm a big enough fan of scones to know this isn't the desired effect.
I'm not quite sure where things went wrong, but my guess is the amount of buttermilk the recipe calls for. I believe it was too much. Secondly, I don't think I let the scones cool long enough on the cooling rack before I put them in the cake dome. I think this caused moisture to sink in when it at least some of it should have evaporated. But I blame the buttermilk for the root of the problem. I will not take the fall for buttermilk, my least favorite of any milk-related products.
My next plan of attack is to try out the cream scone recipe in Nicole's cookbook. I've tried out two of Nicole's recipes so far, and they have both turned out wonderful - and that isn't just praise from me, but from the people that enjoyed the fruits of her book. I'll be sure to post a recap of Scones: Round 2 soon.