July 20, 2009
Last week, I attempted to bake scones for the first time, which I reported about on this blog. Well, my results were a big, fat failure. I guess the word "failure" is relative - the scones were edible and the flavor was actually pretty good, but they were too moist. My virgin scones were more like muffins masquerading as another breakfast treat.
So, I decided to throw the Martha Stewart recipe to the wayside and consult one of my favorite cookbooks - Baking Unplugged by Nicole Rees. I've made both cookie recipes from Nicole's book, and based on the rave reviews I received from eaters, I was confident that I'd have a better shot at achieving optimal scone results if I followed her recipe for cream scones.
I've said it before and I'll say it again - Nicole Rees is a baking genius. I was a little worried that the dough looked too dry and thought maybe that I should increase the amount of heavy whipping cream the recipe calls for, but I decided to trudge ahead and hope for the best. I knew I was on the right track when the dough actually formed into a round instead of a soggy clump as was the case with the Martha Stewart recipe. I actually got to cut the round into wedges, instead of taking handfuls of wet dough and slapping them on a baking sheet, as I did in my first attempt.
I had to increase the baking time by about 8 minutes, but that's just my crappy oven. I really need to invest in an oven thermometer. In the end, I ended up with eight golden cream scones. I tasted one just to make sure they tasted as good as they looked, and I'm proud to report that if I was grading this baking result, I'd give myself a 95%. I need to work on my presentation a little - some of the scones were a little cracked on top - but all in all, they are a complete success.
The only variations I made to Nicole's recipe concerned the vanilla and the sugar used for sprinkling. I received some wonderful homemade vanilla and bourbon extract from Katie at Salt and Chocolate, whom I follow on Twitter, and instead of regular sugar, I used demerara sugar, but only because I had bought it for use with the Martha Stewart scones from last week.
If you don't already own Nicole's book, you need to buy it. The lady is a food scientist when she's not writing fantastic cookbooks, so she really knows what she's talking about. I'm now 3 for 3 when it comes to successful baking results because of Baking Unplugged.
And for those of you that are interested, here is the recipe (but go buy the cookbook - it's full of more awesome recipes!):
Cream Scones (from Baking Unplugged by Nicole Rees)
2 baking sheets
Sheet of parchment paper
2 C. all-purpose flour
1/4 C. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 c. heavy whipping cream plus 2 Tbs. for brushing
1/3 C. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
Sugar for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Stack two baking sheets together and line the top one with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir the vanilla extract into the heavy cream. With a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour until a few pea-sized lumps remain. With a fork, gradually stir in enough of the 3/4 cup heavy cream until the mixture just starts to come together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently pat into an 8" round about 1 1/2" high. Using a chef's knife or bench scraper, cut the dough round into 8 wedges. Transfer the wedges to the baking sheet, spacing the scones at least 1" apart. Brush the tops with the remaining heavy cream and sprinkle liberally with sugar. Bake in the top third of the oven for 15 to 18 minutes or until the tops are golden. Transfer the scones to a wire rack to co0l slightly, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve warm with jam.