August 31, 2011

A Myriad of Scones

Sometimes I get carried away. Really carried away. So in a staff meeting last week when the office manager asked who would pick up bagels for a breakfast meeting we were planning, I raised my hand and volunteered to make scones. For thirty. I went home and dug out my favorite scone recipe from cookbook of the Metropolitan Bakery in Philadelphia. My chief complaintabout most scones, is that they are too dry,but the scones from this recipe never are. I got started on recipe multiplying. The recipe said it made 14 scones, which Ivaguely remembered as being an underestimation from the last time I had made them, but I didn't want to take any chances. I wantedeveryone to be able to eat two scones (I knew I planned to eat at least three), so I multiplied by five, and proceeded to buy the requisite 20 cups of flour, 10 eggs, 10 sticks of butter, etc. I planned to do two batches of chocolate chip, two of cranberry, and one plain.

When I got to baking, I realized the first downfall of the plan. The quantities in a single batch were large enough that only one would fit in my cuisinart at a time. So rather than mix the dough all in one go, it took five.

Once the dough had chilled for a while, I realized the second downfall of the plan. Scones are best when fresh baked, so I had originally planned to chill the dough over night (which only improves scone quality, according to the book) and get up early to bake them before going to work. Once I had the dough flattened out and ready to chill, however, I realized that only I could only bake a fraction of the dough at once in my average sized oven, so to bake them all I would need to get up early enough to bake several batches (at 20-25 minutes per batch, this was a daunting prospect). I compromised by making one late in the evening, and three in the morning.

As I started cutting the dough into triangle shapes, I realized the final shortfall of my planning. The recipe makes closer to twenty scones per bath. More if you cut the relatively small. In the end, I only baked four of the batches

(the fifth, a cranberry batch, is safely wrapped in freeze-tite in my freezer waiting for a scone craving to hit--it might be a while) and had over eighty scones. Needless to say, there were many left over after the breakfast meeting, and we've been eating scones in office for three days now. They were, however, delicious. Moist and just a little bit flaky. With a delicate orange flavor. The chocolate chips went the fastest. Plain were the next most popular. I guess next time the cranberry might not make the cut. Or I might try a different kind of zest, perhaps lemon. In any case, I'll certainly have a better sense of how many batches to make! The recipe below is for a single batch and makes about twenty scones.

- Franklin

Orange Scones (Plain, Cranberry, and Chocolate Chip)

Adapted from the Metropolitan Bakery Cookbook Total time: 13 hours (assuming 12 hours of chilling time, 2 will suffice in a pinch) Sweetness Factor: 3 (in plain and cranberry) or 5 (in chocolate chip); Richness Factor 5 (in plain and cranberry) or 7 (in chocolate chip); Difficulty Factor: 4; Chance I'll Make Them Again: 10.

4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
zest of two oranges
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
a few tablespoons of heavy cream
1 cup dried cranberries or chocolate chips

Combine the first six ingredients in a cuisinart. If you don't have a cuisinart, whisk together in a large bowl. Cut up the butter into small pieces and add. If using a cuisinart, pulse until the mixture looks like a rough corn meal. If working by hand, use two butter knives or a pastry blender to cut in the butter. Stir in chocolate chips or cranberries.

In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk and eggs and whisk until well-blended. Add this mixture to the butter and dry ingredients and stir with a spatula until the dough start to come together. If you're making multiple batches, save yourself a hassle by dumping the butter mix into another bowl before adding the buttermilk mixture. That way, you avoid have to clean out the cuisinart between batches. Using your hands, clump the dough together trying to evenly distribute the moisture provided the buttermilk and eggs. Don't overmix. It doesn't have to be perfectly blended, and the more you mix the less flaky your scones will be.

Dump the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and press the dough out into a large rectangle just under an inch thick. My rectangles were about ten by twelve inches. Cover in plastic wrap and chill a minimum of 2-24 hours. The longer the better.

Preheat the oven to 375. Unwrap the dough. Using a pastry brush, spread on a sparse coating of heavy cream. Cut the dough into triangles. A pizza cutter is a good tool for this, but any knife will work too. Lay the triangles onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Space about an inch apart. Bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown. If your scones are smaller, check on them around 18 minutes. Serve as fresh from the oven as possible.

1 comment:

  1. It's terrifying to see the quantities of butter used when baking in bulk. I will have a look at this book you mention; hadn't heard of it. I tend to like the egg-free types of scones as I don't like how cakey they can get otherwise, though I bet it also prevents them from getting too dry. (I've never worried about dry because I just add jam ;-))