The Perfect Scone
I make all sorts of desserts, from multi-layered birthday and wedding cakes to the tarts, cheesecakes and crumbles that are regular features on the restaurant dessert list - but itâs actually my scones that prompt most folks to exclaim, âMmmmm! How did you make these?â That satisfying exterior crunch and tender, layered interior are due in part to the ingredients (real butter - not margarine, and milk - not water), but mostly itâs the way the dough is handled that has a crucial impact on the texture of scones. And I am happy to share my scone-making secrets with you. Iâve included several variations, so you can pick the one that best suits your taste.Scones2 cups flour3 tsp baking powderPinch salt2-3 tbsp white sugar (plus a little extra for the tops)1/3 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2" cubes2/3 - 3/4 cup milk (plus a little more for brushing the tops)1 tsp pure vanilla extractPreheat oven to 400Â°F. Whiz flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor a minute to combine (or use a pastry blender or a couple of forks to blend ingredients in a mixing bowl). Add butter and pulse (or blend with forks) until the mixture is the size of large peas, then transfer to a mixing bowl. With your fingertips, flatten the bits of flour-coated butter between your fingers and thumbs using a motion like snapping your fingers. (This ensures a flaky, light scone). Stir the vanilla into the milk, and stir into the dry mixture gradually, until it comes together in a ball. You may not need all the milk; the mixture should neither be too dry (stiff or crumbly) nor too wet (sticky). Err on the side of softer rather than firmer dough, as it will produce a lighter, fluffier scone. (You can always gently pat in a little more flour as you shape the dough if itâs a touch sticky.) Do not knead. Lightly flatten the dough into a rough rectangle about 2" thick. Fold the right third into the middle, then the left. (This makes loads of flaky layers.) Then, with lightly floured hands, shape and pat the dough into a circle about 1 1/2" thick. Place it in the centre of a parchment-lined pan. With a sharp knife, cut the dough, as you would a pie, into 8 wedges. Brush the top of each wedge with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 12-15 minutes until risen and golden brown. (Check after 12 minutes to be sure they donât burn.) Cool on a rack.Try these delicious variations: Cinnamon Raisin Scones: Add 1/2 cup raisins and a pinch of cinnamon to the dough.Cheddar Scones: Reduce the sugar to 1 tbsp, omit vanilla and add 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar. Sprinkle the tops with a pinch of salt and a little more cheddar.Lemon Blueberry Scones: Grate the zest of one lemon into the flour and add 1/2 cup of blueberries before you stir in the milk. If using thawed berries, drain very well and toss them in a few tbsp of flour before adding. Brush the tops with lemon juice before sprinkling with sugar.Orange Cranberry Scones: Grate the zest of one orange into the flour, add 1/2 cup of dried cranberries before you stir in the milk. Brush the tops with orange juice instead of milk before sprinkling with sugar.Herb Scones: Add 2 tbsp of your favourite chopped, fresh herbs to the flour. After brushing the tops with milk, sprinkle with a little salt, pepper and more herbs. - By Andrea MaunderAndrea Maunder, locovore, wine expert and pastry chef, is the owner and creative force behind Bacalao, a St. John's restaurant specializing in "nouvelle Newfoundland" cuisine. She writes a monthly column, "Everyday Gourmet," for Downhome.