Monday, 1 October 2012

Baking: Scones Attempt #1

This first post was inspired by a recent trip to the Mount Dandenongs last weekend for the annual Tesselaar Tulip Festival and Hanami Japanese Festival.

Hanami Day @ Rhododendron Gardens

In full bloom :) *ahchoo*

Mount Dandenong is home to a few tea houses which offer Devonshire tea. We revisited the popular Miss Marples Tea Rooms and ordered their "scones" (2 pieces for $9). We were lucky to be seated straight away upon arrival just after 11am. We think the rain gods kept the queues away that morning. We would have happily ventured down the road to another cafe if there was a wait time imposed. We weren't that crazy about dining at Miss Marples specifically but anyway I digress. The word scones is highlighted because it arrives at the table in a sliced cake-like manner rather than the usual circular form you can pull apart.  Nonetheless, that is their interpretation of scones and it does pass the taste test with ease. Their signature house tea was a disappointment - you could not differentiate it between sipping a normal English Breakfast (it had a great marketing name though!)

The day before we had a stopover at Olinda and ordered scones from Olinda Cafe. Their scones were crumbly when you cut through the centre to reveal the middle. It seemed like the dough wasn't mixed together properly in the first place. The only way to minimise the crumbling process was to quickly dollop the double cream/jam on (no special technique required!). Once it resembled a bonding agent for a few seconds then you would have to quickly aim the falling pieces into your mouth. Hopefully you are not wearing white clothing while this quick vanishing act of scones to the floor occurs. Not worth the hassle to order it again. Avoid.

Miss Marple's Tearoom on Urbanspoon Olinda Cafe on Urbanspoon 

The following weekend I thought to give baking scones a go. The recipes seem simple enough, right? Are the scones you order outside worth the price you pay? I thought to try two recipes - one using buttermilk/butter and the other plain version with flour and milk mainly.

(1) The plain recipe is a country version (Gloria Hyatt) from an SMH article

Beat the egg, oil and milk until combined. Sift the flour, sugar and salt into a bowl. Add the egg mixture to the flour. Knead until just combined and then turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Pat into a flat shape of the thickness you'd like your scones. Hyatt prefers ¾ inch. Cut with a floured scone cutter and then place on a greased tray. Cook at 220 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.

Makes 12-18 (depending in the size of your scone cutter)

1 egg
4 tablespoons of oil (she uses vegetable oil)
2 cups of milk (or 1½ cups milk and half a cup of sour cream or thickened cream)
4 cups of self raising flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar

The writer claimed that the dough did not stick to everything. Although I halved the recipe, I did not find that to be the case. I even had excess milk mixture leftover and the dough appeared too runny to receive more! 

Tips provided by Gloria Hyatt:
  • Use a light touch when mixing the ingredients together – don’t over knead. Just mix until the ingredients are combined. Gloria uses a knife to cut in the ingredients but a spoon (or your hands) will work just as well. 
  • Make sure the dough is sticky and not too dry. 
  • Rest the dough for 10 minutes before cutting it into scone shapes. Cover this with a tea towel or a sprinkling of flour to stop it from drying out as it rests. 
  • Place the scones close together on the baking tray so they rise upwards, not outwards. Cook them in the hottest part of the oven. 
  • If you want to make fruit scones, add some chopped up dates or sultanas with a tablespoon of sugar.
The great thing about scones is that you should already have most of the ingredients in your pantry/fridge. I misread the recipe and rested the dough after cutting it into shapes. Bad idea. Hence the result is lopsided and...ugly looking lol. I prefer a crispy exterior so did not cover it with a teatowel. 

Ugly but edible!
But will the taste save the day? I baked the scones one minute too long in the oven. Upon transferring the scones to a cooling rack, the exterior appeared rock hard and it made a solid noise when you tapped it with a spoon or with your fingers. I was starting to get worried on whether it was edible at this point or the fact that the person devouring their first bite might chip their tooth! Slightly disheartened, I proceeded to pull it in half. *Sigh of relief* the internals were soft, cooked through and not too dense. The addition of a slightly crispy skin was a great texture combination in the end.  

What I would do differently next time:
Finish with fresh double cream and strawberry jam *drools*
  • Use actual self-raising flour instead of mixing plain flour with baking powder (I realised too late that my sister had used up all the SF flour T_T). Unless you can ensure that both are evenly mixed together than that is ok. 
  • Rest the dough for 10 minutes before cutting it into shapes
  • I was careful not to over-knead the dough - felt this recipe was somewhat fail proof?
  • Do not overbake and keep an eye out for the golden change in colour
  • Try the teatowel cover next time to achieve a soft top

Warning: does more damage to your waistline :P

What's the best scone recipe that you have attempted?

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