Cooking is an art requiring creativity, finesse, and a certain amount of flexibility.
I am absolutely no good at any of those things.
I prefer baking: an exact, specific science of perfectly proportioned chemistry and physics. Ahh, rules to follow! My anxious, shriveled black heart smiles. ♥
One of my particular specialties is the scone, which is not, as some would like you to believe, anything whatsoever like a muffin. A muffin is a cake without enough cream, but a scone is a biscuit with pretensions of grandeur. The reason why I love scones so much is that you can make them sweet or savory (exactly like a biscuit) and put absolutely anything in them (continuing to be like a biscuit). The difference between a biscuit and a scone is that throwing out “oh, hey, I made some scones” into random conversation makes you sound like a badass. A hoity toity badass.
Also, scones are so easy. SO, SO EASY. Observe the basic ingredients for eight well-sized, delicious scones:
Now, I’m going to be making sweet scones with dried berries, so our full ingredient list goes like this:
- Preheat your oven to 400F (205C)
- 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon (3g) salt
- 1 tablespoon (12g) baking powder
- 2 tablespoons (30g) sugar
- 5 tablespoons (71g) unsalted butter
- 1 cup (240 mL) heavy cream (plus a little more for brushing)
- 1 cup (120g) dried cherries
- some melty chocolate for drizzling
You can put anything in there — any kind of dried berry, fresh fruit, chocolate chips, whatever. You can omit the sugar and use half a cup of bacon bits and half a cup of shredded cheese, too. Experiment! It’s awesome.
Once you’ve decided how to scone your scones, mix the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder together in a bowl. Next, add the butter, and here is the secret to perfect pastry dough: make sure your butter is frozen. Not just cold, absolutely been sitting in the freezer all day frozen. This is because frozen butter will stay chunky and then melt while the dough is baking, creating the perfect delicious flakiness. Cold butter will melt with the friction of mixing and end up not as tasty, and warm butter is a total failure of gross. Thermodynamics, motherfuckers!
I use a food processor because I’m So Fancy, but you can also use a dough whisk on one of those kitchenaid-style mixers or, if you are seriously hardcore, kind of just press the butter into the flour mixture with a fork. You will have the buffest forearms in the world.
Here’s what your dough should look like after you get your frozen butter all chunked in:
Don’t be concerned if it looks about the same way it did before you add the butter, just a little more coarse; that means you did it right. Yay you! Once you add the butter, add the dried fruit and mix it up a little bit. Now for the fun part: add the cream. If you’re doing this by hand, make a little inverse volcano hole in the middle to pour the cream in and squish it up that way; if you’re using a stand mixer, make sure you keep it on the lowest setting, and keep your food processor on pulse. You want to mix this up so it’s uniformly moist, but not so much that you melt all the butter or chop up all your fruit. When you’re done, your dough should look like this:
Spread a little bit of flour on a work surface (your kitchen counter is fine, as long as it’s, you know, clean) and dump your dough on it. It’ll be crumbly and loose and you will panic, HOLY SHIT WHAT DID I FORGET TO DO, but it’s okay! It’s supposed to do that! It looks completely wrong if you’re used to things like cakes or muffins or breads, but it will end up magic, I promise.
Square up your dough into a rectangle, bending it to your will with enough force to stick it together. The dough should be about half an inch thick; press it out with your hands until the lines are straight(ish) and everything is all in one place.
Now you can cut it into shape for baking. I do the traditional triangles because you can cut eight scones with four lines, but there’s nothing stopping you from circles or cookie cutters or little dalek shapes or whatever.
Remember that little bit of heavy cream you set aside in the beginning? Now use a pastry brush (or your hands, if you don’t have a pastry brush) and paint the cream over the tops and edges of your unbaked scones. This will help keep the dough moist in the oven and give them a gorgeous golden-brown finished color.
Put them in the oven for 15 minutes or until they’re golden on the edges. Use an ungreased pan for baking, but use a thin spatula (or nonstick foil) to get them off the baking pan when they’re done.
Congratulations, you’ve made delicious scones! If you want to take them to the next level, you can glaze them (or dust them with confectioner’s sugar, which is quick and easy and LOOKS SO FANCY). For these cherry scones I melted some chocolate wafers to drizzle on top, and if you, like me, have an enthusiastic weester who REALLY REALLY REALLY wants to help, now is the perfect time.
Arolaide is only allowed in Mr. Aro’s kitchen when the time comes to bake delicious treats, and likes to bribe her tiny children to behave with promises to lick the spoon when she makes cupcakes. She blogs infrequently at Dragonsworn and is one-third of Cat Context.