Gregoire’s Light Scones
I’m grateful for bumping into Gregoire through twitter because not only do I have great banter with him, he’s an incredibly generous person with his advice and to top it all he has wonderful recipes like this one, beautifully light scones. It’s not too sweet, the perfect receptor for cream and jam or the luxurious clotted cream or simply butter.
Everywhere serving afternoon tea will serve scones including department stores but often they’re just a lump of flour, heavy and dry.
I went through a phase of trying afternoon teas in different hotels in London a few years back such as the Ritz, Savoy, Browns, Claridges, Langham, Landmark and a couple of others and I came to the decision that I like the scones at the Ritz best. The Ritz scones as they were 7 years ago became a benchmark to which judge all other scones by. Well now I have a new measuring stick for fabulous scones, these ones.
I made 4 batches of sweet scones and one batch of the cheese version, recipe here. That’s 2.5 kilos (5.5 lbs) of flour, using four different varieties of butter and using different resting times. The results were pretty much the same; a light scone.
In order for Gregoire to get his scones straight as in the photo here he takes them out of the oven halfway through baking and straights them out as they start to bulge in the middle. That’s dedication.
I rested the dough for different times to see if one way was better than another to produce a straighter scone.
The appearance of the scone has no bearing on the taste of it. See the crumb and how it’s full of lovely little holes, lots of holes means lightness. I would eat one while still warm from the oven without anything on it.
Gregoire Goes Against the Norm
Gregoire does something with his scone dough which I’ve never read in any domestic recipe and that’s to rest the dough overnight in the fridge. This is quite unusual because normally we’re taught that once the liquid comes into contact with baking powder it starts to work its magic and you should hurry to bake before it runs out of umph…leaving you with a flat disaster.
As you can see from the photos my scones are not flat and from the bulges you can tell the dough had plenty of ‘umph’ to rise.
Important to Rest the Dough
It’s a rich dough with eggs and once you’ve mix the ingredients you have to rest it because it becomes too soft and in cutting out the scone you’ll squash the remainder of the dough. Below shows my first cut scone is fine but the rest of the dough has been pushed down and by the time you’ve stamped out more scones they’ll be flat. Rest the dough.
The photo below right (paler dough) you can see the difference in chilling the dough first before cutting. Stamping out the scone has not left the surrounding dough squashed.
The different colour in my doughs are down to how yellow my butter was and whether I used corn-fed chicken eggs or not. But even the paler dough will still bake into nice brown scones.
How Long to Rest the Dough For?
Once Gregoire has mixed his dough he rests it overnight. When I say he mixes his dough, we’re talking big quantities in kilos of flour mixed in commercial mixers, not the 500g flour in this domestic recipe. My point is, chilling a dough in those quantities takes far longer than in the quantity in this recipe.
I rested two batches overnight and the others I rested for 2 hrs and 5 hrs to see if it made a difference on how straight my scones came out. It did not.
The cheese dough was rested for 2 hrs, cut and chilled again. I think resting again after cutting and baking straight from the fridge produced slightly straighter scones.
The scones that really came out all distorted were ones cut out the second time from having the dough re-shaped. I didn’t want to over-work the dough when re-shaping, that meant I never got it quite a homogenous mass again.
Rolling Out the Dough
If it’s too cold from the fridge leave for 20-30 minutes to soften slightly.
Below left, dough after mixing. Below right, dough after 2 hrs in the fridge, slightly puffed up, cool enough to stamp out scones.
What Stops a Scone Becoming Bread?
This is the same with pastry. The aim is not to develop the gluten in the flour. Gluten; gliadins and glutenins which are present in flour but only become active when they come into contact with water, and your job when making these, since you don’t want stretchiness, is to prevent that contact happening as much as possible.
A perfect way of doing this is to rub fat into the flour. As fat is a good barrier to water, by rubbing as much of the flour with it you’re preventing the water coming into contact with the gluten.
Also means the opposite is true, fat it’s not good for making rich breads. For rich buttery doughs bakers have developed methods of letting the gluten develop first before adding the fat.
I’m saying all of this to show how important it is in the scone recipe to rub the butter (at room temperature) into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs before adding the wet ingredients. I use the tip of my fingers.
Gregoire uses a good quality French butter, for that reason I picked a French butter as one of mine. The rest are very good butters made here. One of the things I consider myself lucky about living in the UK is the quality of our dairy produce, it is simply superb from the standard supermarket brand butter to cream.
A scones is just flour with butter and very little else and for that reason it’s important to choose good quality butter. These are expensive ones bought in my supermarket that I wanted to experiment with but I often buy the standard supermarket English butter, either organic or non-organic for most of my baking still good and less expensive.
As a side note what a cow eats will determine the quality of the butter, like corn-fed hen eggs.
Below is the dough cut shortly after mixing..you can see the baking powder taking effect by the little holes it’s creating.
Best Way to Serve Scones?
Warm is the answer. They are at their best and at their lightest when warm. What’s great about this recipe is that it can be ready for the oven in advance, baked just before you are ready to serve them.
How to make scones
Mix the flour, baking powder and sugar.
Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.
I like to beat my eggs first with a fork before adding it to the flour mixture.
Add the eggs and milk. Mix the dough until if forms a ball. Chill it.
Decide how long you want to chill it for. Pat out the dough to the right height. Gregoire has his recipe at 4 cm high but I had mine at 2.5 cm (1 inch) and was happy with the height.
Note on cutting them: Make sure you measure the height of pastry properly and go and get a ruler, I did. I’ve made the mistake in the past of rolling out pastry too thin and ending up with scones cookies! Press the cutter straight down without twisting. Twist the cutter only at the end of cutting to make sure it’s cut all the way through.
Stamp out your scones, and you can either bake them now or chill them again until ready.
Beat the egg and milk and glaze the top before baking them.
Bake in a pre-heated oven for 12-15mins. Cool on a rack.
- 500g / 3¼ cups of plain all purpose flour
- 25g / 4¼ teaspoons of baking powder
- 95g / ½ cup of caster sugar (superfine sugar)
- 125g / 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon of butter, left at room temperature til soft
- 100ml / ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of full fat milk
- 2 eggs lightly beaten to break up
- egg & milk to glaze
- Mix the flour, baking powder and sugar.
- Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.
- Add the eggs and milk. Mix the dough until if forms a ball. Chill it.
- Pat out the dough to the right height, 2.5 cm (1 inch).
- Stamp out your scones, and you can either bake them now or chill them again until ready. Beat the egg and milk and glaze the top before baking them.
- Bake in a pre-heated oven for 12-15mins. Cool on a rack.