I had my first scone about 4 years ago and was not impressed. Since then, I’ve started baking them and you could maybe call me obsessed. Like, anytime someone has a brunch I’m invited to I offer to bring scones. Like, I read various recipes and scoff at their inclusion of ingredients such as evaporated milk or techniques like ‘blend.’
And then I realized I faced a terrible quandary: I have too many scone recipes with conflicting ingredients, proportions, instructions. When I make a batch of scones, they taste good. Then I make a different recipe and they taste good. But which one’s better?
So a friend was having a birthday brunch. And before the brunch we’d been talking about my afternoon tea experience in London this summer. So, of course, I offered to bring scones. And then I decided I should do this right and have a bake-off. Me versus me in my own kitchen, pitting the recipe from Bouchon Bakery (so far every recipe has been great) against Fortnum and Mason (the source of melt-in-your-mouth, never-ending supply of scones). And of course you can’t just make scones, you have to also provide something to eat with/on them. So I decided to do a double taste test: scones and lemon curd.
To make a long story short, Bouchon Bakery won. Hands down. Clearly. On all categories except quickness of recipe completion. But the extra time and effort (you have to start at least the day before you want to serve them) is so worth it for the taste, texture, and over-all deliciousness of their scones and lemon curd.
So I’ll only provide you with the winning recipes.
(Note: according to the gluten free notes in the cookbook, this recipe can be made by using Williams and Sonoma Cup4Cup gluten free flour. I’ll be trying that in two weeks, so keep posted for an update on texture and taste in gf!)
From Bouchon Bakery
Makes 12 scones (note: for my taste test I cut them into 24 smaller triangles so people could taste both. I just baked them for the shorter amount of time.)
152 grams all-purpose flour
304 grams cake flour
12.5 grams (2 1/2 teaspoons) baking powder
2.5 grams (1/2 teaspoon) baking soda
91 grams granulated sugar
227 grams cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
135 grams heavy cream, plus additional for brushing
135 grams creme fraiche (since this is so ambiguous an ingredient here, I used Campina brand demi-ecreme fromage frais)
6 grams large-crystal sparkling sugar
This is a great basic scone. It uses both butter and creme fraiche for a rich dough that also has some acidity and, therefore, some complexity. As with any dough, the more you work this, the tougher it will become, so mix only until all the ingredients are incorporated. We use cake flour in addition to all-purpose flour for a more tender crumb. We finish the scones by brushing them with cream and sprinkling them with coarse sugar.
This dough also makes a good shortcake.
Scones baked in a convection oven will have a slightly higher rise and more even color.
Place the all-purpose flour in the bowl of a stand mixer and sift in the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and granulated sugar. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and mix on the lowest setting for about 15 seconds to combine. Stop the mixer, add the butter, and, on the lowest setting (to keep the flour from flying out of the bowl), pulse to begin incorporating the butter. Increase the speed to low and mix for about 3 minutes to break up the butter and incorporate it into the dry mixture. If any large pieces of butter remain, stop the mixer, break them up by hand, and mix just until incorporated.
With the mixer running, slowly pour in the cream. Add the creme fraiche and mix for about 30 seconds, until all of the dry ingredients are moistened and the dough comes together around the paddle. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and the paddle and pulse again to combine.
Mound the dough on the work surface and, using the heel of your hand or a pastry scraper, push it together. Place the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap and, using your hands, press it into a 6-by-9-inch block, smoothing the top. Press the sides of your hands against the sides of the dough to straighten them. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 2 hours, until firm.
Line a sheet pan with a Silpat or parchment paper. Using a chef’s knife, cut the block of dough lengthwise into thirds and then crosswise in half. Cut each rectangle in half on the diagonal to make a total of 12 triangles. Arrange them on the prepared sheet pan, leaving space between them. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until solid, at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight. (The scones can remain in the freezer for up to 1 month.)
Preheat the oven to 325F (convection) or 350F (standard). Line a sheet pan with a Silpat or parchment paper.
Arrange the frozen scones 1 inch apart on the sheet pan and brush the tops with cream. Sprinkle the top of each scone with a generous pinch of sparkling sugar. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes in a convection oven, 25 to 28 minutes in a standard oven, until golden brown. Set the sheet on a cooling rack and cool completely.
The scones are best the day they are baked, but they can be stored in a covered container for 1 day.
And then we get to lemon curd. This one was beautiful and delicious. Is there anything better than a fresh scone served with clotted cream and lemon curd? I dare you to find something that compares!
Lemon or Lime Curd
Creme au Citron ou Citron Vert
From Bouchon Bakery
Small batch (makes 400 grams/generous 1 3/4 cups)
1.8 grams (3/4 sheet) silver leaf gelatin
108 grams eggs
108 grams granulated sugar
108 grams strained fresh lemon or lime juice
140 grams unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, at room temperature
grated zest of 1/2 small lemon or 1/2 lime (optional)
Large batch (makes 800 grams/3 1/2 cups)
3.6 grams (1 1/2 sheets) silver leaf gelatin
216 grams eggs
216 grams granulated sugar
216 grams strained fresh lemon or lime juice
280 grams unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, at room temperature
grated zest of 1/2 lemon or 1 lime (optional)
Place the gelatin in a bowl of ice water to soften.
Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and sugar together in a medium saucepan. Slowly whisk in the lemon or lime juice. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk slowly, until the mixture begins to simmer. Simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, whisking constantly, until thickened. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk gently for 1 to 2 minutes to release steam and cool the curd slightly.
Remove the gelatin from the water, squeezing out the excess water, and whisk it into the hot curd. Strain the curd through a fine-mesh strainer set over the container of a Vitamix (I just put it over my regular, non-fancy blender) and blend on low speed for a few seconds, then add the butter 2 or 3 pieces at a time, blending until incorporated. Add the zest, if using, and blend to incorporate. Let the curd cool to room temperature.
The curd can be used at this point or transferred to a covered container. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
If the curd has been refrigerated and has stiffened, transfer it to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix slowly until it reaches a creamy consistency.
(I preserved my first batch in a standard water bath.)