Sometimes my urge to bake is triggered by conversations I have with people. In this case, while my good friend Kaie and I were pigging out over pizza, she happens to mention scones.
I remember the scones that French Baker used to sell, she says almost wistfully, her eyes getting that faraway look people get when reminiscing about something. They were soft and flaky.
I almost choke on my pizza. No, French Baker’s scones were hard, I complain.
Yeah, they seemed to have changed. But I tell you before they became hard, they were just heavenly. Kaie replies.
Fast forward to 1:00 am today. My conversation with Kaie echoes in my head and before I know it, I’m wide-awake. I think I see scones on the ceiling, and I’m half-expecting to be counting scones soon instead of sheep just to get to sleep.
So as soon as daylight cracks through the horizon, I’m out of bed and headed to the kitchen. The scones that I make today are simpler and fluffier than the ones I made before. I also omit the chocolate chips this time, opting instead for the hominess of buttermilk, or as close to it as I can get since buttermilk is not available in Manila. A half-consumed can of Coco Evap is staring at me from the fridge so I use a half cup of that and a half cup of low-fat milk and add it to the one tablespoon of vinegar waiting in my glass measuring cup. Instant buttermilk!
you fluffy flake
The trick to getting light and fluffy scones is to handle the dough lightly: mix the ingredients quickly but gently once the liquid has been poured in. Once the dough begins to come together, give it ten kneads or turns before patting it into a circle. The reasons most scones are tough is because they’ve been over-handled or in the case of circular scones, rolled to death. In any case, I always make my scones in large wedges; they’re pretty like that.
Halfway into the 17-minute baking time, the leaveners interact with the acidity of the buttermilk and poof! up the scones stretch into the stratosphere. The high rise as well as the creaminess of the Coco Evap contributes a flaky tenderness. Right out of the oven, the scones are very soft, but the crust crisps up as it cools, leaving an ethereally light crumb.
As I do with anything I bake, I put my nose close to the scones and inhale deeply. It’s fragrant with flour and butter, an aroma I’d imagine a person having after a cool morning of baking in the kitchen. It smells like home.
These scones are too delicately-flavored to be glossed with honey or butter. Even jam is too brash for something so demure, so I enjoy it with a cup of tea. Excuse me now while I go and pack up some scones for Kaie.
Saturday Morning Scones
Adapted from Baking with Julia, written by Dorie Greenspan
Makes 6-8 large triangular scones
3 cups AP flour
1/3 cup sugar
2½ tsps. baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
6 ozs. cold butter, cut into small pieces
½ cup Nestle Coco Evap milk + ½ cup whole milk mixed with 1 T vinegar or
1 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the cold butter pieces and using your fingers (preferred method), a pastry blender, or two knives, work the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Don't worry about large pieces of butter remaining they'll add to the scones' flakiness.
Slowly pour in 1 cup buttermilk careful, you might not need all the liquid. The resulting dough will be soft and just barely hold together. Transfer the dough onto a floured surface, a Silpat mat, or onto the prepared baking sheet. Knead the dough gently until it holds together a dozen turns should do. Use a soft hand or else the scones will be tough.
Using a rolling pin or your hands, roll out/flatten the dough into a circle of the desired thickness. With a bench scraper or long knife, cut the circle into 6-8 triangles. At this point, you can brush the scones with some melted butter and/or drizzle them with some sugar.
Bake the scones for 12-17 minutes ”“ baking time will depend on how big and thick your scones are. The scones are done when they're lightly golden on top and are firm when pressed. Let cool briefly and serve warm.