I missed the last two Daring Bakers challenges so this month’s challenge was a pleasure. Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Audax worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!
What we call biscuits in other countries are called scones and many are mixed with other ingredients to become sweet breads. So many folks are terrified at trying to make biscuits from scratch after trying once or twice and failing and never trying again.
My mom and grandmothers were excellent biscuits makers, throwing flour in a bowl, dash of this and that never measuring anything as they knew the amount of ingredients by heart just by sight and light fluffy biscuits always came out of the oven which was because of years of practice and of course their love.
I am still working on my biscuit making skills, sometimes they come out nice and fluffy other times, not so much but I keep on working at it. Making biscuits (a.k.a. scones) is easy in that the ingredients are typically in most kitchens and are very inexpensive to make at about 50 cents a batch for this particular recipe. This recipe makes a small batch so if the first one does not come out, you can try again. This is also a great recipe being small batches for one or two people. So let’s get started:
Basic Scones (a.k.a Basic Biscuits) from Audax Artifex
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons FRESH baking powder. (See my homemade ingredient post for fresh homemade baking powder and you will never go back to store bought!)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons frozen grated butter( or a combination of lard and butter)
Approximately 1/2 cold milk )
Optional 1 Tablespoon milk for glazing the tops of the scones, before baking
1. Preheat oven to very hot 475 degrees. Each oven has variables so you may have to adjust. I had to decrease the temperature to 450 degrees for my gas oven or the biscuits burned before they cooked all the way, so be sure to watch them.
2.Triple sift the dry ingredients…flour,baking powder and salt into a large bowl. If your room temperature is very hot, refrigerate your sifted ingredients until cold.
3. Rub the grated butter ( or combination of lard and butter) into the dry ingredients until it resembles very coarse bread crumbs with some pea-sized pieces if you want flaky scones or until it resembles coarse beach sand if you want tender scones.
4. Add nearly all of the liquid at once into the rubbed-in flour and mix until it forms sticky dough. Add the remaining liquid if needed. The wetter the dough the lighter the biscuits (scones) will be!
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, lightly flour top of dough. Knead gently about 4 or 5 times (do not press to firmly) until the dough is smooth to get tender scones. To get a more layered type biscuit , knead very gently once again, do not press too firmly then fold and turn kneaded dough three or four times folding each time.
6. Pat or roll out the dough to 3/4 inch thickness. Using a 2-inch biscuit cutter stamp out the biscuits without twisting the biscuit cutter, just press down and then lift up. Gently roll up the scraps and you should be able to get two more biscuits. If you do not want biscuits shapes you can press the dough into a round pan to the 3/4 inch thickness and use a well-floured sharp knife to form squares or wedges as you desire. I made wedges and I love them, so easy and no re-rolling!
7. Place the rounds just touching on a baking dish if you want soft sided biscuits ( a.k.a. scones) or spaced widely apart if you want crispy sided biscuits.
8. Glaze the tops with milk if you want a golden colour to your biscuits or lightly flour is you want a more traditional look.
9. Bake in preheated oven for about 10 minutes, check at 8 minutes since each oven varies. Bake until the biscuits are well risen and are lightly coloured tops. The biscuits are ready when the sides are set.
10. Immediately place onto a cooling rack to stop the cooking process, serve while still warm.
Verdict: I really liked this recipe and the biscuits came out nice and layer and flaky. I made scone type wedges instead of round biscuits so this batch made 4 wedges which was just right for our dinner. I will continue working this recipe because of the small batches and try out Audax’s variations.
Variations on the Basic Recipe:
Buttermilk – follow the Basic recipe above but replace the milk with buttermilk, add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda, increase the fat to 4 tablespoons. Aim at pea-sized pieces of fat coated in the flour. Glaze with buttermilk.
Cream – follow the Basic recipe above but replace the milk with cream, add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. Aim of beach side pieces of fat coated in flour. Glaze with cream.
Cheese and Chive – follow the Basic recipe but add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda, after Step 2 add 1/2 teaspoon sifted mustard powder, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional), 1/2 cup grated cheese and 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives into the sifted ingredients. Aim at beach sand sized pieces of fat coated in flour. Bake rounds in widely spaced in the baking dish and sprinkle the rounds with black pepper before baking.
Fresh Herb – follow the Basic recipe above after incorporating the fat into the flour add 3 tablespoons finely chopped herbs such as parsley, dill, chives,etc.
Sweet Fruit – follow the Basic recipe above but after adding the fat aiming at beach sand sized pieces of fat and 1/4 cup dried fruit..raisins, currants,cranberries,cherries,etc and 1 Tablespoon sugar. Cut into biscuits or shape into scones.
I hope you will have fun trying out the different flavors as you get more practice making these small batches.