These are featherweight scones with a light crumb. Nothing like those heavy hockey pucks one often encounters.

I was tired of being deceived by tall, lovely looking scones sitting on polished pedestals and under glass domes. Surely, someone must have taken a ruler and measured the height of every cut dough before it was allowed in the oven. With that even varnish of glossy egg wash, it was the ideal picture of a perfect scone. The problem was that was where the perfection ended. One bite and the scone felt sticky on the teeth and upon going down the throat it felt as if it could possibly get lodged in there. Determined not to waste my calorie quota on those, I scoured through my cookbooks. I finally tested a recipe that was all that I wanted a scone to be. It baked out light, tasted light, did not stick to my teeth and it went beautifully down my throat. It did not matter that they were not tall. It was my perfect scone. The extra bonus? It reheated very well the next day.

Who came up with the recipe? The editors of Cook’s Illustrated. In their test kitchen, they had tested and analysed ingredients and recipes. Thereafter, they compiled the best of them into ‘The Best Recipes’. Try their scone recipe and you might never be tempted to buy another store bought scone again.

Sweet Milk Scones

Prep: 20 minutes 
Cook: 10 – 12 minutes
Inactive:
Level: Moderately easy
Makes: 8 to 9, 2 and 1/2″ (6.5 cm) scones
Oven Temperature: 450F (225C) Gas Mark 8
Can recipe be doubled? Make 2 separate batches if you have to. Tricky to work liquids into dry ingredients without overworking it.
Make ahead? Pop the cut scones on its tray, cover with plastic wrap in the refrigerator up to half an hour before baking.

In fact, if your oven is not ready for the scones, do keep the unbaked scones in the refrigerator. You want them to be cold when they hit the oven. It does make a difference to achieving light scones.

Any uneaten scones can be covered loosely with aluminium foil and reheated in the oven at 450F (225C) for 10 to 15 minutes or until warmed through.

Ingredients

2 cups (9 oz)(250 g) all-purpose/plain flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
4 Tablespoons (2 oz)(60 g) unsalted butter*
3/4 cup (185 ml) milk**
*
Cut into 1/2″ pieces and well chilled.
** Keep chilled plus keep about 2 Tablespoons extra aside should you need it to help bring the dough together.

Method (is very detailed as it is catered to the new baker)

2 OPTIONS:

Option 1: Mixing flour, butter and milk by hand*
Option 2: Mixing flour, butter and milk using food processor*
* I recommend mixing flour and butter in a food processor and then working in milk by hand. Whenever, I use the food processor to mix milk in, I more often than not get tough scones. I am still giving you ‘Cooks Illustrated’ instructions for mixing milk in using the food processor. Perhaps, you would have better success.

Before starting, points to note and equipment to have ready:

When putting dough together:
1. Keep all ingredients chilled before using.
2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450F (225C).
3. Have the following ready:

  • Whisk
  • Pastry cutter or 2 knives  or your food processor
  • Bench/dough scraper or spatula
  • Large mixing bowl

When rolling & cutting pastry and baking:
1. Have a work surface cleaned and ready for rolling and cutting dough.
2. Have the following ready:

  • Rolling pin
  • Small knife
  • Bench/dough scraper
  • 2 and 1/2″ (6.5 cm) round cutter
  • Small dish at least 3″ (7.5 cm)in diameter with enough flour in it for you to dip your round cutter.
  • 1/4 cup of flour
  • Flour sifter or a sieve, to sift the 1/4 cup of flour as needed
  • Baking tray/sheet lined with parchment paper or silicon

Option 1:  Mixing flour, butter and milk by hand
1. Whisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl. With fingertips, pastry cutter or two knives, work butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal with a few slightly larger butter lumps.
2. Make a well in the centre and pour in the milk.
3. Using a bench/dough scraper (a flexible silicon one works best for me) or a spatula, work quickly to incorporate the dry ingredients into the milk.
4. Follow details under Working the milk in by hand (below)

Option 2:  Mixing flour, butter and milk using  food processor
1. Into a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pour in all dry ingredients. Pulse twice to mix dry ingredients.
2. Remove cover and distribute butter. Cover and pulse butter into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse meal with a few slightly larger butter lumps. It should take just 4 or 5, 3-seconds pluses. Refer to image below.

3. This is when I will remove the coarse meal looking mixture and work the milk in by hand. I have never been able to work the milk in successfully using the food processor as instructed in Cook’s Illustrated recipe. I end up with tough scones. But, I am including it here below in Step 5 should you wish to try.
4. To work in milk by hand, transfer the flour mix into a large mixing bowl, make a well and pour milk in it. Further instructions under Working the milk in by hand (below)
5. Pour milk in through feed tube and pulse until dough starts to gather into a rough ball. Do not over process. Turn dough onto a floured work surface and follow from Step 3 onwards under Working the milk in by hand (below).

Working the milk in by hand
1. I use my silicon dough scraper and flick the flour from the circumference over the pool of milk.

2. Next, I slide the scraper deep into the bottom of the bowl and then lift and drop mixture over itself until dry and wet ingredients are just incorporated. Do not stir.
3. If the mixture looks too dry and it does not seem to be coming together, distribute 1 to 2 Tablespoons of milk now. It is better to work with a slightly more moist than a dry dough. From my experience, a slightly sticky dough promises lighter scones.
4. The mixture will feel slightly sticky. As far as you can manage, flour fingers and/or your bench/dough scraper lightly instead of adding flour directly to the mixture. The mixture will look scraggly and lumpy. Take a look at the image below.

Cutting out the scones
1. Working quickly and with a light hand, roll dough into 1/2″ (1.25 cm) thickness. Dust if necessary to avoid the rolling pin sticking. More often than not, to avoid overworking the dough, I end up not rolling but using the rolling pin to lightly ‘tap’ the dough level. It’s fine if the surface is cracked like in the image below. Seeing tiny knobs of butter in the rolled dough is a good thing too.

2. Dip round cutter in flour and with one swift movement cut through dough. Try not to jiggle the cutter. Remember, you are trying not to over work the dough. Drop cut dough onto baking sheet. Minimise handling the dough with your hands. The knife is there to help you cut or loosen dough.
3. Dip cutter into flour as often as required and continue to cut out round dough. Leave as little gaps as possible when cutting dough rounds.
4. Gather scraps gently together with the bench/dough scraper. You should have enough scrap dough to cut one more 2 and 1/2″ round.
5. Gather the last remaining scraps into a rough 2″ (5 cm) ball. Enclose it with the round cutter and press and fill in the dough cutter to form one last scone.
6. Place this last piece of cut dough on the centre of baking sheet. Why? It is probably the smallest of all your punched out dough and will bake too quickly if placed along the perimeters of the baking sheet.

Bake
1. Bake straight away for 10 – 12 minutes. The tops should be golden brown and the bottoms very slightly browned.
2. If you are not ready to bake, cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Do not leave uncooked scones on your work surface.
3. Serve with good clotted cream, whipped double/thickened cream and strawberry jam. Sometimes I serve them with sliced or whole fresh strawberries as well.

Tips

  • Chill all your dry ingredients either overnight or half an hour before you need it. Keeping everything chilled helps to prevent the butter from melting as you work it into the dough. It makes for lighter scones too.
  • Work your dough as little as possible. The more you fiddle with it, the heavier your scones will turn out. You do not need a perfect looking dough ball.
  • Please do not add an egg wash. It makes the scone smell and taste eggy. The scones are pretty as they are. Leave them alone. Besides, you will have leftover eggs which you would then have to decide what to do with.
  • If you do not want to cut dough into rounds, you have the following 2 options:
    • Roll dough into a 1/2″ (1.25 cm) thick flat round. Transfer onto baking sheet. Cut into 6 or 8 wedges. Do not separate the wedges. Bake as is. You can break them apart when they come out of the oven. You must adjust baking time though. They should be done in 15 to 20 minutes.
    • Roll dough into a 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) thick rectangle. Cut into 2″ (5 cm) squares. Transfer onto baking sheet. Do not separate the squares. Bakes as is. You can break them apart when they come out of the oven. You must adjust baking time though. They should be done in 15 to 20 minutes.

WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?

In my most recent post under Devil Curry, Curry Debal, I had carried on about my love for Cornish Clotted Cream with scones and how I had carted them home from London and had been eating spoonfuls of it. That spawned my idea of posting a spread of food to serve for English Afternoon Tea.

At my own not too long ago English Afternoon Tea party, I had served:

We do not have a particularly sweet tooth (except for Checkerboard Cookies) and would much rather have more savoury items for our afternoon tea. You could always bake more sweet items or just buy macaroons which will look pretty on any plate. Which recipe should I post next? Hmm, the recipe for Checkerboard Cookies? Maybe Egg and Cress Tea Sandwiches? The Smoked Salmon with Dill Butter Tea Sandwiches are also delicious. It is so hard to decide. So, just stay tuned! 

 Top plate: Classic Victoria Sponge Cake sandwich with strawberry jam and buttercream icing, Checkerboard Cookies, Sweet Milk Scones.
Bottom layer of sandwiches from left to right: Roast Beef with Beetroot Tea SandwichesSmoked Salmon with Dill Butter Tea SandwichesHam with Honey Butter Tea Sandwiches.
Top layer of sandwiches from left to right: Egg and Cress Tea SandwichesRoast Beef with Beetroot Tea SandwichesCrisp Cucumber Tea Sandwiches.

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