‘Ello gov’nah! Chip Chip Cheerio! Merry Poppins!
What’s that you say? You’ve just been magically transported to merry old England? For sure. Good thing, because today we are getting down on some scones, that most British of British tea time treats.
Having opened the Langham, Chicago as the Executive Pastry Chef, you better believe I went through my paces with scone recipes. The first luxury hotel in the world was the Langham London, opened in 1867. The Langham has held that British heritage with pride ever since so they take teatime, and scones, pretty seriously. My first days at the hotel were spent testing and perfecting a scone recipe that would win the approval of our very British General Manager, and I have to give great thanks to Cherish Finden, pastry chef at the Langham, London, for helping me find my way.
The beauty of this recipe is how versatile it is. It’s what I’d consider a “mother recipe”; a base recipe that can be added to and easily tweaked to create unlimited variations. If you take the first eight ingredients (everything except the apricots) of this scone recipe you have a great base that works in as many ways as you want. I’ve made dozens of varieties of scones over the past few years at the hotel, and every one of those began with this basic recipe.
There seems to be some debate amongst very small, almost non-existent circles of people as to whether scones are a breakfast item or a tea item. I say why not both? Either way keep in mind that a proper scone is somewhat dry, because the intention is for it to be eaten with some type of condiment like jam or butter.
In the recipe I call for pastry flour, but if you only have all purpose flour, that’s fine to use too. Whatever flour you choose, don’t over mix the dough or you’ll be serving apricot hockey pucks for tea.
Keep your butter cold! Like its distant cousins the biscuit and pie dough, scone dough works best when cold butter is “cut” into the dry ingredients creating lots of very small, but intact, pieces of butter. This will help in creating a fluffier texture when the scone is baked.
If you decide to add fresh fruit to your scone you’ll probably need to increase the quantity of flour (the exact amount will depend on the type of fruit being added). The best way to do this is by adding the extra flour at the very end of the method until it reaches the consistency of the standard plain scone. Measure the amount of flour you add so you can make a note of it for future scone making.
Like all things with baking powder, allowing the dough to rest will give time for the baking powder to start reacting and provide more rise when baked.
I use a higher fat version of egg wash for scones, that I cleverly call scone wash. The extra fat and yolks will give a more golden finish to the scone.
Lastly, some adjustment will likely be needed on baking temperature and time. At work, my scones bake at 390F for 11min like clockwork. But my oven at work holds temperature and has fan forced air. My oven at home…not so much. Generally I turn the temperature up a little more at home and extend the time too. Again, it will be different for everyone so the most important thing is to use the temp. and time as a guide and trust your instincts when you’re making them in your own domain!
yield: 2 dozen scones @3″ triangles
250g butter unsalted
970g pastry flour
50g baking powder
180g heavy cream
200g whole eggs approx. 4 eggs
340g dried apricot
100g egg yolks
75g heavy cream
Cut the butter into ½” cubes and reserve in the cooler. This doesn’t have to be exact, the important thing is that the size of the cut butter is consistent.
Roughly chop the apricots and reserve at room temp.
Combine and sift the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder and add them to your mixing bowl. I save the parchment paper I sifted onto for my baking sheet. Waste not, want not….or something.
Add the cold, cubed butter to the dry ingredients while mixing with a paddle attachment. Mix until the butter has fully incorporated into the flour and no large pieces of butter are visible.
Combine the buttermilk, heavy cream and whole eggs.
Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Some of the dry ingredients should still be visible.
Add the chopped apricots and give a quick mix in the mixer. The apricots will have spread through the dough but there will still be a fair amount of unmixed dry ingredients in the bottom of the bowl.
Finish mixing the dough by hand and then shape into a rectangle about 2″ thick. Wrap the scone dough and let it rest in the cooler for a minimum of 1hr and up to 24 hrs.
Roll the scones out to 1” thickness.
Cut the scones in 3” squares, and then cut each square diagonally across.
Brush the scones with egg wash (to make the egg wash simply combine the three ingredients listed above) and cover with turbinado sugar before baking.
Bake: convection; 198C/390F; approx. 11min