Friday, January 27, 2012

JANUARY, 2012 CHALLENGE: Back to Basics:Scones (a.k.a. Biscuits)

Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!

The basic scone.
Quite innocent looking, really. Just some flour, rising agent, butter and milk.
It should be easy, shouldn't it?
But to many it isn't. That's probably why scones are also known as "rock cakes". To many creating the perfect scone can seem elusively beyond their reach. Which is where Audax comes in and our latest Daring Bakers challenge, the first for 2012.
What a great way to start off the year. Scones are made from basic ingredients and the recipe supplied was small so that meant it was cheap and could be made many times over in the aim to achieve the perfect scone!

Scones were one of the first recipes taught to me in my Home Economics class. The "rubbing-in" technique was being learnt. That is, the rubbing in of butter into the flour. Apparently, according to my teacher, the process is to coat each flour grain is with butter. As you rub the butter in you should lift the butter and flour out of the bowl to aerate the mixture and only use fingertips which are the coolest part of the hand . I still remember my teacher examining our hands to check that our palms remained free of flour or butter lest our hot palms melt the butter.

This month Audax became our Home Economics teacher. And very experience he was too, having tested the recipe 16 times! Audax has a different method to keep everything cool - use frozen, grated butter! This certainly does help but you still need to only use you fingertips to do the rubbing in. Thanks Audax for hosting this months challenge.
 Scones are always so appreciated in our home! 

Basic Scones (a.k.a. Basic Biscuits)
Servings: about eight 2-inch (5 cm) scones or five 3-inch (7½ cm) scones
Recipe can be doubled (I doubled this recipe)
1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (10 gm) (⅓ oz) fresh baking powder
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) salt
2 tablespoons (30 gm/1 oz) frozen grated butter (or a combination of lard and butter)
approximately ½ cup (120 ml) cold milk
optional 1 tablespoon milk, for glazing the tops of the scones

Directions:1. Preheat oven to very hot 475°F/240°C/gas mark 9.
2. Triple sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. (If your room temperature is very hot refrigerate the sifted ingredients until cold.)
3. Rub the frozen grated butter (or combination of fats) into the dry ingredients until it resembles very coarse bread crumbs with some pea-sized pieces if you want flaky scones or until it resembles coarse beach sand if you want tender scones.
4. Add nearly all of the liquid at once into the rubbed-in flour/fat mixture and mix until it just forms a sticky dough (add the remaining liquid if needed). The wetter the dough the lighter the scones (biscuits) will be!

5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, lightly flour the top of the dough. To achieve an even homogeneous crumb to your scones knead very gently about 4 or 5 times (do not press too firmly) the dough until it is smooth. To achieve a layered effect in your scones knead very gently once (do not press too firmly) then fold and turn the kneaded dough about 3 or 4 times until the dough has formed a smooth texture. (Use a floured plastic scraper to help you knead and/or fold and turn the dough if you wish.)
6. Pat or roll out the dough into a 6 inch by 4 inch rectangle by about ¾ inch thick (15¼ cm by 10 cm by 2 cm thick). Using a well-floured 2-inch (5 cm) scone cutter (biscuit cutter), stamp out without twisting six 2-inch (5 cm) rounds, gently reform the scraps into another ¾ inch (2 cm) layer and cut two more scones (these two scones will not raise as well as the others since the extra handling will slightly toughen the dough). Or use a well-floured sharp knife to form squares or wedges as you desire.
7. Place the rounds just touching on a baking dish if you wish to have soft-sided scones or place the rounds spaced widely apart on the baking dish if you wish to have crisp-sided scones. Glaze the tops with milk if you want a golden colour on your scones or lightly flour if you want a more traditional look to your scones.
8. Bake in the preheated very hot oven for about 10 minutes (check at 8 minutes since home ovens at these high temperatures are very unreliable) until the scones are well risen and are lightly coloured on the tops. The scones are ready when the sides are set.
9. Immediately place onto cooling rack to stop the cooking process, serve while still warm.
The scones should be well risen with golden brown tops.
I think this is called a "tender crumb". I just call it fluffy and delicious!

I made a variation of Cheese and Parsley by following the Basic recipe above but adding ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, after Step 2, 50 gm grated cheese, 25gm parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley into the sifted ingredients, in Step 3 aim of beach sand sized pieces of fat coated in flour, in Step 5 knead the dough, form into a round and cut into wedges, spread apart slight on the baking tray, sprinkle the wedges with cracked pepper.

Cheese and Parsley Scones welcomed my hungry, teenage children home from school

On Australia Day (26th January) I converted the scone recipe to make a damper by substituting half the milk for water and only adding enough liquid to make a firm dough.
Edited 29-01-2012: Damper is a traditional Australian quick bread originally made by stockmen moving cattle who were away from home for weeks at a time with only basic provisions on hand - flour, sugar, tea and whatever meat was available. Mix quickly and bake on the campfire it accompanied the meat or was spread with golden syrup, if it was to hand. Nowdays, leavening is used along with milk and butter.   

The damper had a different crumb to that of the scone - much tighter but tender and delicious!

My son enjoy his damper with Vegemite.

Instead the rest of us enjoyed the sweet stickiness of golden syrup.


  1. I just adore the damper that is so cool and for Australia Day well done and yes I'm with your son vegemite on scones is a hit of sine for me also LOL LOL. Lovely work on this challenge, Cheers from Audax Artifex from Sydney Australia.

  2. Oh Marcellina, your scones are fantastic! all of them! I had never heard of vegemite, had to look it up, I'm curious about its taste.
    Congrats on the excellent job on the challenge, which did not surprise me, of course :o)

  3. hehe, Marcellina, I noticed we commented at exactly the same time, same happened to me! Thanks for clarifying about Vegemite, sounds a little odd, but I'm still curious. Hope I have a chance to try it someday :o)

  4. Wow, your scones look fantastic! And I love your damper, it sounds delicious :)

  5. All of your scones look fantastic! I love that this reminded you of your school days, too :) Happy Australia day! (yesterday, right?)

  6. Love the soud of your parmesan bicuits- these look delicious. I've never heard of a damper, but I know I don't like vegemite! Lol
    Great work as usual... best, sandie

  7. Nobody will accuse you of making rock cakes - the method works - they are beautifully light - you should teach the coffee shops and grocers about proper scones! I'd have them all ways - vegemite, plain, syrup,lemon curd, jam. And then I'd waddle home.

  8. You produced scones that look better than what I see in most bakeries. You're making me with I had one of them right now.

  9. No Vegemite in my house, but I do keep Marmite around for sauces! Your scones and damper look fantastic, great job!

  10. Oh how I'd love to visit Australia, who knows one day!! Thanks for inviting :o)

  11. You did a great job trying different recipes. I will definitely need to try a few of the suggestions for alternate recipes. Your first pic is definitely how I eat my scones!

  12. OK, I just about died when I saw3 the first photo with the jam and cream. What I would give to have that in front of me right now! Your scones are gorgeous, and the cheese and parsley is so gooey, I wish I had that one in front of me too! Love the boule too, or 'demper' rather. What a great idea. Pass that golden syrup, please!

  13. Your scones look great! And I had never heard of a damper before, I am intriqued... I am so glad the challenge was a happy one for you!! Thank you for sharing your efforts!

  14. The scones and damper look fantastic! That's a lot of Vegemite though! I don't mind a smear of it, but I'm crazy about golden syrup so I'll take that! Bannock is the traditional bread in Canada that reminds me of damper. I made this challenge early and completely forgot to post it, so I'll try to do that this week. Hope you had a great Australia Day!

  15. Your scones looks absolutely perfect and lovely and light too! :D And testing it 16 times? Wow!

  16. The cheese scones look delicious and the damper looks so yummy with the syrup. Great job!

  17. mouth is watering right now, these look so moist and fluffy! The cheese and parsley scones look to die for and that first picture looks amazing! These are exactly what they should be, airy, light, buttery, fluffy...perfection!

  18. Love, love your scones! I have not made one in ages!

  19. Che buoni gli scones, non li ho mai fatti, ma provvederò al più presto! Grazie della ricetta e bacioni!

  20. Hi Marcellina!

    Thanks so much for the follow and the lovely comment on my site - your blog is super! I love these scones - I'm seriously letting the British side down as I havent had one in ages! I'll have to make these soon. I also made your prawn saganaki last weekend which was fabulous! I look forward to more of your lovely posts - I havent blogged this week but will make up for it this weekend :0) Louise xx

  21. I'm so impressed with all your variations for this Month's DB challenge. I've been craving something sweet tonight and wish I could reach in and grab that biscuit.


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