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baking assistance...

I'm trying to make scones replicating the texture of one I love from a restaurant... I cook a lot, but am clueless when it comes to baking.

What in the recipe makes the scone dense & crumbly instead of cakey? My first attempt didn't really rise too much and was almost more like an overgrown, thick cookie. I want them to be more 'crisp,' if possible. Does that mean butter AND eggs? Milk? Cream? All? or a particular combination? Really trying to figure out the 'science' behind what makes it a specific texture...

Thanks much for the help :-/

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  1. The all American breakfast biscuit is a clone of a scone (sorry). They need to be handled as little as possible. Combine the dry ingredients then cut the fat in with a pastry blender. The dough should look coarse and bits of fat visible. Add your liquid tossing lightly with a fork, turn out onto a floured board and only give it about 5-6 turns in kneading. No More! Pat out about 1" thick and cut into shape. Brush the tops with a bit of melted butter is you wish and bake quickly inn a hot oven. It may take a few practice tries to "get it" but once you do you won't forget it will become second nature. Quick gentle handling is needed.

    1. after I measure my dry ingredients, I whisk them vigorously to get more air space in there. Put the solid shortening (no oil) into your dough well chilled. You don't want it melting and mooshing up as you work it. If you want a really "crisp" texture, you can get that using lard. I don't recall eggs in any traditional scone recipes. I have seen several where white chocolate chips were whizzed up in a food processor and added to the dough as the shortening is cut in; adds sweetness and richness, but can make the scones a bit too heavy.

      1. I've often been disappointed with scone recipes (too dry, too sweet, too boring, too something...) but I've always had good luck with the "raisin scones" recipe on epicurious.com (Bon Appétit,, Nov 1999) Minimal handling of the dough is indeed key to keeping it from getting tough, and getting it in the oven quickly prevents baking powder from losing its effectiveness by the time you bake it... In fact, I usually skip the rolling out and cutting step, and instead shape it into a sort of round "disk" and cut it into eighths. (You don't even have to separate them completely-- for a really lazy version, put the disk right on the bake sheet and use your finger or a rubber spatula to draw deep lines and separate slightly-- they'll be connected, you can just break them apart when they bake)

        1. Cake flour may also improve the texture. I've heard that some bakers grate frozen butter into the dough and as everyone says, handle as little as possible.

          I've had this scone recipe that JudiAU posted a while ago on my to-make list but haven't gotten around to it: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/28251...

          3 Replies
          1. re: Carb Lover

            Thanks for the grating frozen butter tip. It seems like a no-brainer, but I never thought of that!

            1. re: Kagey

              No problem. I've never actually tried it myself, so if you do, let us know how it goes...

            2. re: Carb Lover

              I've tried the grating butter tip- and in my experience the result was a bit too crispy and not as flaky as after cutting the fat in- I think the pea sized 'crumbs' of butter are really essential. I do think it helps to start with frozen cubes of butter, however.

            3. The scones at my favorite bakery are different from those that are basically breakfast buscuits w/ fruit added. They are very crispy on the outside, and somewhat cookie-like, but the inside is lighter like a dense biscuit with a big crumb. So I'm not sure if that's what you're after, but anyhow, the bakers tell me they do not use any butter or other solid shortening, only cream. And they use brown sugar rather than white.

              I tried to recreate them a few times, but never got it quite right. The fact that this bakery uses a brick wood-fired oven may make trying to replicate anything they do a waste of time.

              7 Replies
              1. re: danna

                this sounds like what I am after, so maybe I will play with the recipes with cream involved...
                my 'dough' was definitely too soupy, I think -- realizing now in reading over the suggestions that maybe somewhere I got too much liquid into it.
                one last question - baking soda versus baking powder? both? or just baking powder? what would the addition of baking soda do?

                thanks everyone, will give it another go this week & report back!

                1. re: danna

                  I don't think the wood-fired oven is a problem...it's more about the flour. Get yourself a bag of self-rising White Lily flour (or other soft southern wheat flour intended for biscuits). A scone is basically a cream biscuit (in southern parlance). Measure out your flour, stir the flavoring ingredients into the dry flour (spices, raisins, whatever), then stir in enough cream to make a rather wet dough (shaggy, barely holds a mound on a spoon). Don't overstir....a few lumps are okay. Lightly drop onto a baking sheet and bake in a HOT oven (preheat oven to 500, then turn down to 450 when you put biscuits in) until browned.

                  If you want triangle-shaped scones, you can get a nifty scone pan from King Arthur's Baking Catalog.

                  1. re: Hungry Celeste

                    I've never heard of scones being formed by the spoonful, and the traditional triangle shape comes from forming a wheel of dough and then scoring wedges over the top before baking, no silly pan required.
                    And don't forget the diced and chilled butter!

                    1. re: rabaja

                      When I've bothered to make the wheel & cut into triangles, the scones have been tough, so I decided to make them free-form like drop biscuits for better texture.

                    2. re: Hungry Celeste

                      I am using White Lily self-rising, 'cause that's what I have....but they have giant bags of King Arthur laying around the bakery. Their's are triangular, but I've seen them sitting out pre-baking and they really don't look like the edges were cut. I'm not sure how they formed them. I need to stop obsessing over these scones.

                      1. re: Hungry Celeste

                        Interesting. I've always made my scone dough on the rather dry side. Then form into a circle and cut wedges.
                        I'll have to go home and check my recipe. I don't believe it has eggs, but it has a veritable plethora of butter.
                        My scones come out crumbly and yet moist with a big crumb.

                        Now, my aunt and uncle use the drop method and make palm-sized scones. I'm fascinated by all the different recipes/cooking methods.

                        1. re: QueenB

                          What does it mean, *big crumb*?

                    3. Here is my favorite recipe for scones. The buttermilk makes all the difference!

                      Buttermilk Scones
                      3 c Cake Flour
                      1/3 c Sugar
                      2 1/2 ts Baking powder
                      1/2 ts Baking soda
                      3/4 ts Salt
                      12 tb very cold Butter, cut into small pieces
                      1 c Buttermilk
                      3/4 c Currants or raisins

                      GLAZE
                      1 tb Heavy cream
                      1/4 ts Cinnamon
                      2 tb Sugar

                      PREHEAT THE OVEN TO 425F. Use an baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl.
                      Stir well with a fork to mix and aerate. Add the butter and cut into the flour mixture, using a pastry blender or two knives, or work in, using your fingertips, until the mixture looks like fresh bread crumbs. (I use my stand mixer on low speed - never had a problem with overmixing). Add the buttermilk and currants or raisins. Mix only until the dry ingredients are moistened. Gather the dough into a ball and press so it holds together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead lightly 6-7 times. Pat the dough into a circle 1-inch thick.

                      TO MAKE THE GLAZE: In a small bowl combine the cream, cinnamon and
                      sugar; stir to blend. Brush the dough with the glaze.
                      Cut the dough into rounds. Place the scones 1 inch apart on the
                      baking sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes or until the tops are
                      browned. Serve hot.

                      Note: I don't always use the glaze - most of the time I don't! The recipe will make 1 dozen, more or less, depending on the size of cutter you use.

                      1. A few more thoughts: eggs will make any baked good more cakey - softer, more delicate crumb inside, less crusty outside - which sounds like the opposite of what you're after. Since you're looking for more of a crisp, crumbly texture, I'd endorse the suggestions to cut in the butter pretty coarsely - the little pockets of butter interspersed through the dough will give the scones more layering. I'd also keep the dough on the drier side (something you can handle gently without it sticking to your hands too much), and in this case I wouldn't make the cream scone version - those can be great but they will bake into a softer, more evenly textured scone, rather than the layered one you want. As for baking soda, that's just there to interact with an acid like buttermilk, to help leaven the scone. If your recipe just calls for milk, there's no need for baking soda, just baking powder (which is an acid and a base just waiting for liquid and heat to be activated).