Mastering the Humble Scone

It’s time again to share another successful Daring Bakers challenge!  This time around Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host.  Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!

That’s right.  Scones in the rest of the world (as in not the U.S.) are the same thing as our biscuits.   Who would have known? (unless you’ve traveled to England, Ireland, or Australia of course.)  Well, let’s just say that during my time over in Europe, scones made a showing for quick breakfasts to-go while we were catching the morning bus to far-off places.  Usually I’d take the wholemeal versions and W would opt for the creamy white fluffs, like these.

Back in America, I’d mastered the perfect biscuit recipe yielding light and fluffy (and somewhat healthy) results.  But then gluten happened.  Or, shall I say, a reaction to gluten happened, and here I am with a challenge on hand that was more than enough challenge for the first month of the year and baking gluten-free!

I tried several recipes for scones–none of which began as gluten-free because I believe that everyone should have access to this recipe, not just those with special diets.  I did end up deciding that all of Audax’s wonderful work proved correct and she had developed (or discovered) the best basic recipe for the English scone or American biscuit that could be easily adaptable for me.  So I only tweaked my flours a bit, but left the remaining recipe the same for you to try.

Yep, I had a snack mid-shoot!

In the future, I will be creating a wholegrain version of these to satisfy my desire for texture and heft, but for now these do perfectly with a bit of rhubarb jam and a good strong cuppa.  And they will become my go-to for all those friends and fam that don’t share my desire for wholegrain!

And it was quite delicious.

Basic Scones (a.k.a. Basic Biscuits)

Serves about four.  Recipe can be doubled.

Ingredients:

1 cup (140 gm) all-purpose flour or 140 grams all-purpose gluten-free mix plus 3/4 tsp. xanthan gum

2 teaspoons (10 gm) fresh baking powder

¼ teaspoon (1½ gm) salt

2 tablespoons (30 gm) frozen grated butter

approximately ½ cup (120 ml) cold milk

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to very hot 475°F

2. Triple sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. (If your room temperature is very hot refrigerate the sifted ingredients until cold.)

3. Rub the frozen grated 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/fat mixture and mix until it just forms a sticky dough (add the remaining liquid if needed). The wetter the dough the lighter the scones (biscuits) will be!

5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, lightly flour the top of the dough. To achieve an even homogeneous crumb to your scones knead very gently about 4 or 5 times (do not press too firmly) the dough until it is smooth. To achieve a layered effect in your scones knead very gently once (do not press too firmly) then fold and turn the kneaded dough about 3 or 4 times until the dough has formed a smooth texture. (Use a floured plastic scraper to help you knead and/or fold and turn the dough if you wish.)

6. Pat or roll out the dough into a 6 inch by 4 inch rectangle by about ¾ inch thick. Separate into four equal portions and gently form into rounds.

7. Place the rounds just touching on a baking dish if you wish to have soft-sided scones or place the rounds spaced widely apart on the baking dish if you wish to have crisp-sided scones. Lightly flour the tops.

8. Bake in the preheated very hot oven for about 10 minutes (check at 8 minutes since home ovens at these high temperatures are very unreliable) until the scones are well risen and are lightly coloured on the tops. The scones are ready when the sides are set.

9. Immediately place onto cooling rack to stop the cooking process, serve while still warm.

Cheesy Italian Charcuterie Sandwich

There’s this little Italian shop in Corvallis that W and I love so much.  Most people go there for the lovely Italian sandwiches.  We mostly go there for the meats, cheese, and wine.  The gentleman-owner seems to slice his cuts thinner and nicer than any other place in town.  And he knows his stuff too.  And the place just makes me want to step on over to Italy. Right now.

Now that I only get to Corvallis a couple times a month, it seems important somehow to try to stop by when I’m in town.  Though we’ve tried a variety of meats, we tend to always go back for the same ones.  A recent jaunt led us to this amazing creation.  One that though completely unplanned until the instant those ingredients were smacked on the bread, will go down as one of the best.

Though something about the bread may have added to the intrigue.  I was supposed to post about the December Daring Bakers Challenge last month.  But a month of traveling and work and planning for other life changes led me to be a bit behind on the sourdough challenge.  So when I finally did get around to it, I made a Rice, Flax, and Brazil Nut recipe that just didn’t have enough activity for me.  (Wild yeasty sourdough activity, that is).  And while I’d like to say it was the obscure ingredients, this time I think it might be that that particular cookbook just doesn’t work for me.  I own a copy and have tried multiple recipes with and without various sourdough starters.  I’ve never met with success.  And so when I saw the challenge recipe source, I really did groan as I just knew I was doomed for failure.  As such, the bread never did rise, really.  But it sure tasted good.  Not like the brick it looked like.  But real flavor that was a real match for the lovely ingredients that topped it off.  So while I won’t recommend you try this particular bread recipe, do have a go at the ingredients on top, with or without a sourdough bread.

Our Daring Bakers Host for December 2011 was Jessica of My Recipe Project and she showed us how fun it is to create sourdough bread in our own kitchens! She provided us with sourdough recipes from Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley as well as delicious recipes to use our Sourdough bread in, from Tonia George’s Things on Toast and Canteen’s Great British Food!

Cheesy Italian Charcuterie Sandwich
good quality bread
3-4 thin slices good quality salami
3-4 thin slices good quality pepperone
1-2 thin slices medium or sharp cheddar cheese
1-2 thin slices good quality mozzarella cheese
4-5 kalamata olives, sliced
1-2 brown muchrooms, sliced
Sliced yellow bell pepper
handful fresh spinach leaves
 
  • Turn oven to broil.
  • Toast bread until slightly dry.
  • Layer on meats, mushrooms, pepper, olives and cheeses.  Pile spinach on top.
  • Place in the oven on broil for 2-3 minutes.  You want the cheese to sizzle and pop and the spinach leaves to start to charcoal.
  • Take out of the oven and enjoy!

October Daring Bakers–Apple Cinnamon Povitica

The Daring Baker’s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni of
The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert 
Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat!

Back in the day I worked at a bakery. Much to my disappointment, I 
didn't actually get to bake anything.  During the holiday season, 
however, when the bakery got especially busy, I'd duck out of 
serving customers, opting instead to put the final touches on the 
holiday bread in the back.  This daring bakers challenge reminds 
me of our signature apple bread. It's the one that all the parents 
had to purchase to make their families happy. While this apple 
cinnamon povitica looks nothing like the bakery's signature delight,
it has a similar sweet crave-worthy taste that makes you never want
to stop eating--just like the holidays. You are warned!  And while
it looks particularly challenging, don't be turned away by it's
fancy good looks.  If you're in any way a baker, you will find it
won't be too much trouble.  One of these days soon, I aim to make
it again with a pumpkin butter filling--I can't wait for even
more autumnal goodness!

Ingredients (Makes one loaf)

To activate the Yeast:
1/2 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. all-purpose flour
2 Tbs. warm water
1 1/2  tsp. yeast

Dough:
1/2 cup milk
3 Tbs. sugar
3/4  tsp. salt
1 large egg
1 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
2 cups all-purpose flour, measure first then sift, divided

Apple Cinnamon Filling:
2-3 small apples, cored and chopped (I used green apples)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cinnamon honey
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 Tbs. flour
1 Tbs. cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of allspice

Topping:
Egg White
Melted Butter

Directions:
To Activate Yeast:
1. In a small bowl, stir sugar, flour, and the yeast into warm water and 
cover with plastic wrap.
2. Allow to stand for 5 minutes

To Make the Dough:
3. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk to just below boiling (about 180°F), 
stirring constantly so that a film does not form on the top of the milk. 
You want it hot enough to scald you, but not boiling. Allow to cool 
slightly, until it is about 110°F.
4. In a large bowl, mix the scalded milk, sugar, and the salt until 
combined.
5. Add the beaten egg, yeast mixture, melted butter, and 1/2 cup of flour.
6. Blend thoroughly and slowly add remaining flour, mixing well until the 
dough starts to clean the bowl.
7. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead, gradually adding flour a 
little at a time, until smooth and does not stick. Note: I did not use all 
2 cups of flour.  You want the dough to be fairly wet for best results.
8. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl; cover loosely with a clean towel 
and let rise an hour and a half in a warm place, until doubled in size.

To Make the Filling
9. In a small saucepan, combine chopped apples, brown sugar, butter, and 
honey.
10. Heat the milk to boiling and cook for about three minutes, stirring 
constantly.
11. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes.
12. Stir in cinnamon and spices to taste (the cinnamon honey should already
make it spiced; if using plain honey, double the amount of spices).
13. Allow to stand at room temperature until slightly cooled.
14. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth.
15. Set aside until ready to use.

To Roll and Assemble the Dough:
16. Spread a clean sheet or cloth over your entire table so that it is 
covered.
17. Sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons to a handful of flour (use flour 
sparingly).
18. Place the dough on the sheet and roll the dough out with a rolling pin, 
starting in the middle and working your way out, until it measures roughly 
10-12 inches (25½ cm by 30½ cm) in diameter.
19. Using the tops of your hands, stretch dough out from the center until 
the dough is thin and uniformly opaque. You can also use your rolling pin, 
if you prefer.
21. As you work, continually pick up the dough from the table, not only to 
help in stretching it out, but also to make sure that it isn’t sticking.
22. When you think it the dough is thin enough, try to get it a little 
thinner. It should be so thin that you can see the color and perhaps the 
pattern of the sheet underneath.
Hint:  if dough is springy and difficult to roll, cover and let it rest for 
about 15 minutes.  This will make it easier to work with.
23. Spoon apple cinnamon filling evenly over dough until covered.
24. Lift the edge of the cloth and gently roll the dough like a jelly roll 
from both long sides toward the middle. Roll it tighter than you think is 
necessary.
25. Once the dough is rolled up into a rope, gently lift it up and place it 
into a greased loaf pan in the shape of a “U”, with the ends meeting in the 
middle. 
You want to coil the dough arounditself, as this will give the dough its 
characteristic look when sliced.
27. Brush the top of the loaf with egg whites.
28. Cover pan lightly with a clean cloth and allow to rest for about an 
hour.
29. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F.
30. Remove cloth from dough and place into the preheated oven and bake for 
approximately 15 minutes.
31. Turn down the oven temperature to 300°F and bake for an additional 45 
minutes, or until done.
32. Remove bread from oven and brush with melted butter.
Hint: Check the bread every 30 minutes to ensure that the bread is not 
getting too brown. You may cover the loaves with a sheet of aluminum foil 
if you need to.
33. Allow to cool on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes.
34. It is recommended that the best way to cut Povitica loaves into slices 
is by turning the loaf upside down and slicing with a serrated knife.