Biscuits and Scones

Two of the simplest things I’ve made yet, and certainly two of the tastiest. Here’s a little confession for you all… I have started taking a baking class. I figured I might as well learn a thing or two about this hobby I’ve come to love so dearly, so I signed up for an 11 week course where we’ll cover all the basics of baking.

Week one we made these biscuits and scones. I haven’t had a chance to re-make them at home, but I certainly intend to. The biscuits were perfectly flaky and flavorful, the scones had a hint of sweetness and a nice crumbly texture. Sigh.

I didn’t get pictures of the process, but you’ll see the final product (as photographed on my phone). Also, unfortunately for some of you who don’t have a kitchen scale, I only have the recipes in weights. I had never weighed ingredients prior to that first day, and I must say I still don’t quite have the hang of it. I understand the reasoning – a cup of flour could weigh 100g or 400g depending on the brand (so I exaggerate, I have no idea how much a cup of flour weighs, probably around 200g) and the weight will be more accurate than a volume measurement. I still find it a lot easier to dip a measuring cup in a bag of flour and leveling it off with a knife, but hopefully I’ll get more used to weighing things as the class goes on.

I even tried re-making one of our class recipes at home this week, and keeping track of how much of everything I used, but the numbers were so off (3 cups plus a little extra but not quite 1/4 cup of flour, how’s that for exact?) from a nice round number and I gave up. A scale is a pretty handy tool anyway in the kitchen, outside baking, especially if you feel the need to watch portion sizes, so if you decide to invest in one you’ll have the added bonus of these recipes waiting for you.

Both of these recipes involve cutting in butter. I just wanted to warn you in case you haven’t done it before. You can use a pastry cutter or, as we did, a bench scraper to chop the butter into little pieces. It’s a bit tedious, and you have to work fast, but it’s by no means difficult. So here we go, my first lesson just may be your first as well!

COUNTRY BISCUITS

  • All Purpose Flour – 400g
  • Salt – 8g
  • Sugar – 20g
  • Baking Powder – 20g
  • Butter – 130g
  • Milk – 8oz (1 cup)

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Otherwise you can cut the butter up after you’ve combined your dry ingredients. Sift together the dry ingredients and make sure they’re well blended. Cut your butter into cubes, or at least smaller chunks so it’s easier to incorporate into the flour. If you want you can do this step first, and then you can just put the butter back in the fridge to keep cool until you’re ready for it. Anyways the next step is to cut in the butter.

In class, for this part, we got to dump all our dry ingredients onto the table. It was easier to use a bench scraper to cut the butter because the surface is flat. At home, I have a pastry cutter which is rounded, so I can just as easily cut in a bowl. It’s up to you! You want to chop the butter up into pea-sized pieces. This part’s pretty important. If the pieces are too big they won’t melt quickly enough in the oven and they’ll sink down to the bottom of the dough. If they’re too small, they’ll melt too quickly and the dough won’t have those wonderful little air pockets that lead to the flakiness.

Once you’re done cutting with the cutter, you can use your fingertips to go through the mixture and split apart any random large clumps. You don’t want to smush them with your finger, remember you don’t want the butter to melt, but just pull them apart. You don’t have to go crazy, but you do want it all around the same size.

Next, add the milk and stir. We made a well in the flour, on the table still, and used our fingers to bring in a little of the milk to the flour mixture at a time. You want to work gently but quickly. Gently so you don’t overmix and end up with tough dough and gross biscuits, quickly so the butter doesn’t melt while you’re incorporating the milk. You want it to just come together, but don’t mix any further than that.

Next you want to roll out your dough to about 1/2″ thickness. Use a 2″ round cookie cutter to cut out biscuits. I believe I ended up with around 16 biscuits. Here’s the trick to cutting them out… Press straight down with the cookie cutter, then twist it to break the biscuit free. Do not twist while you’re pressing down, or you’ll smush together all the layers. You don’t really want to rework the dough too much, but you can gently press the scraps back together to cut out more biscuits.

Put the biscuits onto a parchment lined baking sheet. The closer together you put them, not touching but nearly, the higher they will rise and the softer they will be. Place them a little further apart and you’ll have crustier sides. I opted for the latter, and boy were they yummy. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until they’re golden brown. I’d say color is a better gauge for this step as the oven in class seemed to take a bit longer. Cool the biscuits on a wire rack, and then enjoy!

So now that you’ve made biscuits, you should have no problem making scones. They employ the same method of cutting in butter in the directions, and by now you’re a pro! You can play around with this recipe and put stuff in them, but I’ll tell you that these plain scones were fantastic on their own. I didn’t even sprinkle extra sugar on top. You can choose to do that, and even add some fillers (blueberry, chocolate chips, etc) into the mix if you want.

CREAM SCONES

  • All Purpose Flour – 160g
  • Sugar – 15g
  • Baking Powder – 4g
  • Baking Soda – 1g
  • Salt – 1g
  • Butter – 40g
  • Egg Yolk – 13g (one egg yolk is roughly 19g on average – so this calls for slightly less than one yolk. One large egg is roughly 50g.)
  • Half and Half – 3 1/3 oz
  • Extras (if you want) – chocolate chips, blueberries, raisins — 4oz or 120g

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Combine all the ingredients using the biscuit method as described above – combine all dy ingredients, cut in the butter, add wet ingredients. If using extras, add those in last.

As for shaping… I made one big ball of dough and cut it into 8 triangles. Some other people made squares and cut triangles, and others cut out rectangles. Go for whatever you want, but there should be 8 equal portions in the end.

Bake for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown. If you want to add some extra sugar to the top, brush an egg wash (egg and a bit of cream) onto the tops before baking, and sprinkle coarse sugar to your liking. Don’t use too much egg wash as the tops will become soft. (I didn’t use any.)

And there you have it. Two simple recipes that were born to please.

I hope they help you transition into the world of weighing ingredients as nicely as they did for me!

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