I don't know why, but I thought this would be an easy one. I swear I must have made them before. I make American biscuits on the regular, and I've made plenty of pie crusts and shortbread dough. I definitely eat a lot of scones -- beautiful tender triangles of floury goodness. They can't be that difficult, can they?
Enter, Paul Hollywood, and the GBBO. In baking these technical challenges, I've vowed to use the same exact recipes they use on the show, meaning they come either from Paul or Mary, depending on who is identified in the show as the genesis of the recipe. Granted, I get the benefit of the full instructions, whereas the contestants in the show are usually just given an ingredient list, and forced to make it up from there.
This recipe comes from Paul, and it is a weird one indeed. In biscuits and pie dough, and most anything that yields a tender flaky crumb, you generally use cold butter and cut it into the flour, so every crumb of fat (butter) is coated in flour. This creates pockets of butter in the finished dough, which evaporates in the oven, creating pockets for flakiness to prevail.
When I looked at Paul's recipe though, I saw "softened" butter, which you rub into the flour, like you would with the chilled butter preparation, until the flour resembles breadcrumbs. I was skeptical, but then I trusted the recipe. I mean, if I think about it more, the butter crumbs would still be covered in flour to create those layers, but the butter would be softer, meaning less flake in the layers and more tight of a crumb in the baked good. Regardless: breadcrumb stage.
The other weird part of the recipe is how the milk is added: a little at a time. It was easy enough to add the first bit of milk, working it in with my fingers (as instructed to do on the bake off), but by the time I got toward the end of the milk (and I didn't end up adding the whole amount), I felt like I was working the dough like bread to incorporate the milk I felt it needed. I'm sure I ended up working it too much, since my scones seemed a little tough compared to what I was expecting, so, in fairness, I probably would not get star baker based on this bake (especially up against genuine Britons), but I definitely would not go home from it.
Once it became a sticky, wet mess -- that's where the fun begins. I'm a big fan of working with my hands, so dumping it all out, getting my hands floury, and getting this into formation is what I live for. On the show, nearly all the bakers used rolling pins, but I'm more comfortable pressing it out gently with my fingers, especially considering how I'd roughed up the dough trying to incorporate my milk. I left mine 1-inch thick, which seemed super thick, especially considering these puppies are going to double in height thanks to nearly 2 tablespoons of baking powder. But, trust the recipe--week 2 and I've already learned that lesson.
I chose a 2-inch round cutter, which gave me a baker's dozen scones, after I gathered and re-rolled the scraps a couple of times. I knew already mine would rise at funny angles because when I cut them, a bit of dough stuck to my biscuit cutters, since I didn't flour them liberally enough. Paul Hollywood would not be impressed.
However, I think he would be impressed with the taste. These guys were so dense, but so tender. They flaked apart in a crumbly rain of fatty, carby goodness, and left a good cake in your mouth that forced you to savor the simple flavor of pure butter and flour. Being a pure technical challenge, these had no flavorings, no currants, no berries, and no sugar on top. But they are far from bland. I paired mine with some raspberry preserves (leftover from the Victoria Sandwich), and some clotted cream. The simplicity of the scone made those accessories shine, and paired with a cup of tea, I could have been in Yorkshire for all I knew. I mean, San Francisco is quite foggy.
Paul Hollywood's Scones
makes 13 scones (2" diameter)
500 grams (1 pound, 1 ounce) (4 cups) ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR
80 grams (3 ounces) (1/3 cup, or 6 tablespoons) SOFTENED BUTTER
80 grams (3 ounces) (1/3 cup) GRANULATED SUGAR
2 LARGE EGGS
5 teaspoons BAKING POWDER
1 cup (250 milliliters, 8 fluid ounces) MILK
1 LARGE EGG + SALT + splash of WATER (for glazing)
1. Preheat oven to 425F, and prepare baking pan with parchment paper, silicon mat, or grease lightly with butter
2. Put 450 grams of the FLOUR in a bowl with the BUTTER and rub with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs
3. Add the SUGAR, EGGS, and BAKING POWDER and turn the mixture gently to incorporate all the ingredients
4. Add 1/2 cup of the MILK and keep turning the mixture until combined, then add the remaining milk a little at a time to bring everything together (you may not need all the milk)
5. Sprinkle most of the remaining flour onto a work surface, tip the dough out, and sprinkle the rest of the flour on top -- the mixture will be wet and sticky
6. Fold the dough in half, turn, and repeat until you've formed a smooth dough.
7. Roll out the dough until it is 1-inch thick, lift up the edges slightly and let them drop back down
8. Using a pastry cutter, stamp out rounds and place them onto the baking tray - leftover dough can be re-rolled
9. Let rest for a few minutes, then use a pastry brush to glaze them with the EGG + SALT mixture, making sure to keep the glaze on the top of the scones, with none on the sides
10. Bake for 15 minutes, until scones are risen and golden-brown
A personal challenge to conquer every technical challenge, and select signature bakes, from The Great British Bake Off
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