Perfecting Scones – The Flour Variable

We went through a lot of jam...

We went through a lot of jam…

The recipes use a range from SR flour, Plain flour and Bread flour. Dan Lepard also recommends using Italian Type 00 (pasta flour). I wanted to get a full range to see the differences, so I used Cake flour, but left out SR Flour for now (as that’s essentially Plain flour with raising agent in it, but the protein content is more variable, so Cake flour is more precise).

Protein content of the four flours was:

  • Cake flour: 9%
  • Pasta flour: 14%
  • Plain flour: 11.8%
  • Bread flour: 12%

I used the recipe from Azelia’s Kitchen to start with because, frankly, it makes excellent scones. It is:

  • 500g flour
  • 4.5 tsp baking powder
  • 95g sugar
  • 125g butter
  • 100ml milk
  • 2 eggs

Here are the mixes before mixing

And after mixing.

The Cake flour mix was very wet and soft, hard to handle and sticky. Pasta flour felt wet, but not as wet as Cake. It was a bit grainy. Plain flour and Bread flour were pretty similar. Bread felt driest of the lot and was the most difficult to bring together without kneading. In keeping with my no knead position, I merely gathered the mixes, folded them once and then patted (no rolling with scones) and tried to get them to the same height before cutting.

L-R top: Cake flour, Pasta flour L-R bottom: Plain flour, Bread flour

L-R top: Cake flour, Pasta flour
L-R bottom: Plain flour, Bread flour

I cut four of each with the same cutter, no twisting.

Scones - Flour variable - 8 of 18

L-R: Cake flour, Pasta flour, Plain flour, Bread flour

Then egg wash and baked at 200C fan. And the results…

L-R: Cake flour, Pasta flour, Plain flour, Bread flour

L-R: Cake flour, Pasta flour, Plain flour, Bread flour

Then the tasting began. Mr Dormouse (Mark) and little Ollie Dormouse helped. Ollie’s verdict – Pasta flour was ‘stiffer’ and Plain flour ‘way stiffer’. He liked the Cake flour one best because it was ‘very VERY fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside’.

hmm, should have cleaned those finger nails...

hmm, should have cleaned those finger nails…

Mark and I then embarked on quite an intense tasting session. He takes these things very seriously, especially if it means he gets to eat more scones, jam and cream. We didn’t completely agree, so we had to taste things quite a few times…

Scones - Flour variable - 13 of 18Cake flour

Lovely when it first came out of the oven. Crust was crisp and golden and delightful, inside fluffy. But as it cooled, its star began to fade. We both found it claggy in the mouth. But it was definitely the most crumbly. They virtually disintegrate in your mouth. If you loaded it up with cream, it would be lovely if you like a crumbly scone, but eat it fast.

Scones - Flour variable - 15 of 18Pasta flour

My favourite initially, Mark less convinced. The texture was slightly grainy almost, and very moist feeling when warm. Light, soft and buttery with a lovely flavour. More buttery and less claggy than the Cake flour. It was lovely warm and cold.

Scones - Flour variable - 12 of 18Plain flour

Texture was closer than the previous two. I found it gluey, Mark didn’t. Its flavour was, for both of us, a bit bland really. Mark felt it was a good carrier for jam. If you wanted something bland and not too buttery feeling so that you could load it with cream, then this is the one. It was the water cracker of the bunch.

Scones - Flour variable - 11 of 18

Bread flour

This one was a bit glue-y when warm, but was a delight when it cooled a little. Then it came into its own. The most buttery in the mouth (very similar to the Pasta flour) and moist. Less crumbly, but that was fine. You could eat this on its own. Definitely Mark’s favourite although he worried it might be a bit much when loaded with cream et al.

Scones - Flour variable - 16 of 18Verdict

It seems that even when the butter and liquid are the same, the type of flour can make a huge difference. I’d avoid Cake flour – it was fine but did get a bit claggy. Plain flour was … fine… Type 00 and Bread flour were pretty similar and surprisingly, the best in terms of texture and flavour. Type 00 was a smidge more crumbly and grainy, which I liked.

I will ponder why this all turned out as it did in Scone Theory later in the week.

Scones - Flour variable - 17 of 18