I have made enough mistakes (at least 3 failed attempts) before my oven could churn out a decent batch of scones.
The main mistake I made was...kneading the dough for too long ('long' as in a couple of minutes). We are not making bread here, we do not need gluten to form, so, the less fiddling with the dough, the softer scones you are going to get.
Mistake number 2: using ingredients that were left to room temperature. To make soft, fluffy scones, you need COLD ingredients. Cold eggs, cold milk, cold butter and a cold, well chilled mixing bowl will also help in our hot and warm weather here. You would also need cold fingertips to work the butter into the flour mixture. Since I don't have a pastry cutter or a food processor, I use a fork. The main aim is to prevent the butter from melting as you cut it into the dry ingredients. The dough has to be kept cold so that it will have little bits of dispersed butter in it. During baking, the heat will cause these tiny bits of butter to melt into the dough and leaves pockets and layers in the scones for them to rise nicely.
*In order for the scones to rise evenly, the pressure you applied while cutting out the scones actually matters. To avoid lopsided scones, press the cutter directly down and lift it straight up without twisting to release the dough.
* Arrange scones side by side on the baking tray, so that they are just touching each other. This will help keep the sides straight and even as the scones cook. They will also rise higher than scones that are baked spaced apart.
* Do not smooth out the edges/sides of a cut-out scone. Leave it alone. Otherwise it will be impossible to get those crackly 'smiles' on the sides.
* Use a sharp cutter. This is something I have yet to overcome. I am still using a drinking glass to cut out the dough (^^'). The problem with this improvised tool is, even though I rolled out the dough to an inch thick, after pressing the glass into the dough, because of the extra pressure required to cut through it, the cut out scones became much thinner :(
Wholemeal Breakfast Scones
Ingredients:(makes 7 ~ 8 scones)
150g cake flour
50g wholemeal flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons caster sugar
a pinch of salt
50g unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
1 egg (about 50g without shell), cold, lightly beaten
80g plain yoghurt
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract (optional)
- In a large mixing bowl, sift together cake flour and baking powder. Mix in wholemeal flour, sugar and salt. With finger tips rub the cold butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (It is important that the butter be cold so when it is cut into the flour mixture it becomes small, flour-coated crumbs. I use a fork to work the butter into the dry ingredients. If the butter starts to melt away during this process, stop and place the mixture in the freezer for 10-15 mins to prevent the butter from melting further. Continue the process when the mixture is well chilled.
- Make a well in the centre and add in egg and yoghurt and vanilla extract if using. Stir with a spatula until just combined. The mixture will be sticky, moist and lumpy. Gather up the mixture and place it on a lightly floured surface and give it a few light kneading (not more than 10 seconds) so that it comes together to form a dough. Do Not over work the dough. (Only mix the dough until it comes together. Too much kneading will cause gluten to develop, and the resulting scones will turn hard and chewy. Knead only until the ingredients come together into a combined mass.)
- Pat the dough into a round disc, place in a plastic bag or cover with cling wrap and leave it to chill in the fridge for about 30mins. (The objective here is to let the dough rest and keep it cold to prevent the butter from melting so that there will be little bits of dispersed butter in the dough. During baking, the heat will cause these tiny bits of butter to melt into the dough and leaves pockets and layers in the scones for them to rise nicely. If the butter melts or softens before baking, the resulting scone will be hard and flat.)
- On a lightly floured surface, dust your hands and the dough with some flour and roll out into 1 inch thick (avoid using too much flour). Cut out the dough with a lightly floured 2.5-inch biscuit cutter. Press the cutter directly down and lift it straight up without twisting. Dip the cutter into some flour after each cut. Gather scraps together and repeat until all the dough is used. (For easy cleaning, I roll out the dough between two plastic sheets, and it is easier to lift up the scones after cutting.)
- Place scones on baking tray (lined with parchment paper). For soft-sided scones, arrange them close together on the baking sheet so that the sides are touching, this will also keep the sides straight and even as the scones cook. For crisp-sided ones, place them 1 inch apart, these will not rise as high as scones that are baked close together. Brush the tops with some milk.
- Bake at preheated oven at 200 degC for about 12~15 mins or until they are well risen and the tops are golden brown. Do not over bake. The texture of the interior should be light and soft. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Serve warm. (These scones are best served freshly baked, any leftovers can be kept in airtight container. Brush or spray some water over the scones and warm them in the oven before serving.)