Perfecting Scones – The Milk Variable and Resting the Dough

It’s been some time since my last post because I’ve been away on holidays in Italy, but I’m back now and ready to bake yet more scones! This time, the milk variable – how much? I also tested the option of putting the dough in the refrigerator overnight before baking, the idea for which came from Azelia (as does the basic recipe).

I kept to my standard recipe, which is Azelia’s, but then altered the milk in the batch. One had 50ml (which would proportionately be the same as her recipe), one had 75ml and one had 100ml. I was baking while dealing with children, so no photos of the mixes. The 50ml was quite firm while the 100ml was pretty sticky (and I think using sugar affects this too).

Milk variable results

I initially felt the 50ml we best, but in the end Mark and I both opted for 75ml. 50ml felt a little dry, 100ml was getting a bit away from being a scone and was a smidge ‘bouncy’ rather than buttery.

L-R: 50ml No Fridge v 50ml Fridge

L-R: 75ml No Fridge  v 75ml Fridge

L-R: 100ml No Fridge v 100ml Fridge

You can see from the pictures that the higher liquid ones bulged out rather than puffed upwards, but they were still light and lovely, just not as melt-in-the-mouth as the less milky ones. But I’d prefer 75ml over 50ml as it just a smidge more soft and moist. That said, the difference was surprisingly small despite the big variation in quantity. 100ml was a bit tricky to handle.

I think mine needs more milk than Azelia’s because I used bread flour and she uses all-purpose flour. Bread flour can hold a bit more liquid and not be sticky (and vice versa needs a bit more liquid to make a soft dough).

Fridge variable results

Without resting in the fridge L-R: 50ml, 75ml, 100ml

With resting in the fridge L-R: 50ml, 75ml, 100ml

You can see that the ones that were rested rose a bit more and they were a little lighter. It didn’t have a huge impact, but we could just tell the difference and preferred the ones that had been rested. Azelia points out that you don’t need to leave them overnight – she tested it and 2 hours is sufficient. I’d second that, particularly if your ingredients are already cool.


On balance, I’d rest the dough before cutting scones out. 2 hours or so would be good, but a bit more or a bit less would be fine.

I’ve revised the recipe (I’m not calling it mine, because it’s still really Azelia’s with a few tweaks) to:

  • 500g bread flour
  • 4.5 tsp baking powder
  • 95g sugar
  • 125g butter
  • 150ml milk
  • 2 eggs

A few more things to test and then on to the next project. I want to tweak the amount of sugar and see what happens. I also want to compare butter incorporation – whether to rub to complete breadcrumbs, or leave some big flakes. I’ll also end this project with a bunch on other tips I’ve gleaned from my own experience and from other blogs and recipes. I’m getting a bit sick of eating scones so it’s good that the end is in sight.




Perfecting Scones – Cold or Warm Butter?

Warm ingredients versus cold ingredients

One of the interesting differences in scone recipes is whether you should keep all the ingredients, particularly the butter, cold. Those who take the cold approach then advocate rubbing in the butter as quickly as possible, some even opting for pastry cutters or knives. Examples of this approach include Felicity Cloake, Luna Café and Rachel Allen. Others, such as Azelia, suggest soft butter.

I tested this by making two batches with exactly the same ingredients, the only difference was that for the cold batch, I chilled the milk, flour and butter as well as the bowl. I also re-chilled the flour/butter mixture before adding the chilled milk. I wanted to make sure the contrast was as big as possible. You can also cut the butter in with knives to avoid warming it with your hands (or a pastry blade like this one). If you do use your hands, make sure you use your fingertips only as they’re cooler. For the other batch, everything was warm, and I mean really warm, as it was the hottest day of the year so far!

I had helpful guest tasters in the form of my brother, his wife and their two adorable children. Having their perspective proved to be invaluable as we shall see. I don’t have any decent pictures because I was also busy making a Thai curry, but the scones didn’t really look very different.

What was the difference, then? The cold batch did puff up slightly more (it’s the scone on the right in the picture above). The main difference was in the texture. The cold batch scone was much lighter and fluffier, while the warm batch scone was more close-textured. But… and here’s the interesting thing… we didn’t reach any consensus on which was nicer (and we really did do a lot of comparative research). My niece pointed out that both were nice, it just depended on what you felt like eating. A fluffy scone is a lovely thing, but a sweet, buttery, closer-textured one was great too.

Conclusion – make the scones you prefer to eat. Closer-textured? Don’t worry about warm ingredients. Want them super-fluffy? Get everything as cold as cold as cold and work fast!

Kouign Amann

Being a bit tired of profiteroles and eclairs (hard to believe but it’s possible), I’ve decided to make some Kouign Amann today. They are a bit like a croissant, and a bit like puff pastry and they are all kinds delicious. You get the soft crumb from the croissant, but the flaky, crisp, buttery layers from the puff. Best of both worlds, you might think but actually when combined they join, synergistically, to form buttery, yeasty bites of heaven.

If you saw Mel and Sue on Bake Off, you’ll recall their attempts at pronunciation. Wikipedia tells me it’s something like “kween aman” so that’s how I pronounce it. They are originally from Brittany, and apparently (by which I mean again ‘according to Wikipedia’),

The name derives from the Breton words for cake (“kouign”) and butter (“amann”). Kouign-amann is a speciality of the town of Douarnenez in Finistère, Brittany, where it originated around 1860.

That fount of all knowledge also tells me ‘The strict recipe of Douarnenez requires a ratio of 40 percent dough, 30 percent butter, and 30 percent sugar’. That may well be true, but today I’m just going with Mr Hollywood’s recipe because I know it to be delicious. Possibly I should have gone with Mr Bertinet’s seeing as he’s actually from Brittany, but I’ve only just thought of that and the dough is already partly made, so hey ho.

Traditionally, they are made as one large cake, but I like them as little cupcake-sized buns, mostly because the layers come up over the edges and become golden and crispy. They also look like little flowers, which is rather sweet. Now here’s how to make them, step-by-step.

First, flour, water, yeast, salt and 25g of butter into the bowl for kneading. Paul says 2 mins slow then 6 mins medium. While that’s happening, bash the butter into a flat square 15cm x 15cm. There are many ways to do this. You can hit the pat of butter (sandwiched between baking paper) with a rolling pin (satisfying but wakes the children), you can cut it into pieces and squish them together (Holly Bell’s rather cunning method which I’ve used with success before), or, if you’re me, your butter is so soft because it’s actually warm today, you can put it between two sheets of baking paper and press it out. It needs to be even in thickness and square square square. Take time over this part as it makes a real difference later. Lamination (for that is what we’re about to do) needs sharp edges and precision. If the dough is not even in thickness, or things aren’t square, you won’t get proper layers and this will lead to sad, doughy kouign amann with no lovely flaky bits.

Once your butter is the right shape, put it in the fridge to chill it down. You don’t want it frozen or too hard. It needs to be pliant because it has to roll with the dough, which will be quite soft. But if your butter is soft, they will smoosh together and… yes, no layers. Baking Matters says

The ideal working temperature of the fat should 16-18C (61-65F) If the fat is too cold it will rupture the dough layers, if it is too soft it will be be squeezed out so preventing the formation of layers.

If you think about it, your fridge is about 4C and your freezer is obviously less than 0C so if you chill everything too long, your butter will be very hard and will break as you roll. So chill, but don’t chiiiiiiilllllll. Being nervous and trying to hard will be your undoing. You can, of course, get out your Thermapen like me and check. But the best thing is to think about the ambient temperature in your kitchen and then consider how long it will take you to roll. If it’s really warm and you’re slow, then perhaps you want your butter a little cooler, but that will make it harder to roll. The best approach is to have it chilled enough and then work quickly once it’s out so that it doesn’t have time to warm up and soften. Therefore, have courage! Confidence! Roll with a sure, light stroke.

Right, but I’m getting ahead of myself. At this point, you’ve let the dough rise for an hour, it’s soft and slight. Gently inch it out of the bowl using a dough scraper. Don’t bash it or rip it.

Roll it out to a 20cm square. I find a tapered rolling pin helps to get a nice square as you can use it to ‘push’ thicker bits of dough to where you need them. Take time to roll evenly so the dough is the same thickness throughout.

Now take the square of butter and place it in the middle of the dough like so.

You can see that there’s a little bit of an edge but not a lot. You want it this way so that when you now fold up the corners, there is a bit of overlap to seal all the butter in. You will get a lump of dough in the middle where it all overlaps. That’s ok, it will sort itself out. What you don’t want is the dough stretched around the edges because then when you roll more later, the butter might escape, which you really don’t want.

Bash the dough a bit so that the butter reaches the edges.

If it all feels quite cool still, then roll it. If it’s starting to feel warm and too soft, chill it briefly (see above). Once done, roll the whole thing out to 15cm x 45cm. Roll firmly but not too hard. Always think about the layers. You don’t want to crush them, but you do have to actually roll it so careful but confident.

Once its rolled out, do what’s called a ‘single fold’ (compared to a ‘book fold’ which is described here). Fold the bottom third up, then the top third over. Wrap this up in baking paper and into the fridge to chill.

Repeat this twice more. Throughout the rolling, try to keep the thickness even and the edges square. I use the tapered rolling pin again and also push things back into shape if it all goes horribly wrong. Taking it slowly helps, so small strokes rather than one or two huge rolls.When that’s done, roll out one more time and sprinkle two thirds with the caster sugar. Fold up in thirds once more and gently roll the whole thing out to 30cm x 40cm.

Trim it and cut into 12 pieces. Try to keep them as square as possible.Fold two opposite corners of a piece together, then fold up the other two between them. It’s easier if you just look at the picture.

Pop each one into a well-buttered muffin tin. Make sure you butter around the edges as that’s where the sugar runs out and can stick them to the tray. Let them rise for about 20-30 minutes. They need to puff up a bit, but don’t let them get too warm as the butter in the layers will melt and spoil all your hard work.

Puffed up after rising

Into the oven for 30-40 minutes at 200C (fan) and here they are…

I photographed these ones while they were warm so you can also see a little melted bit of sugar and butter inside. The ones below were photographed once cooled. Here it is looking like the classic ‘flower’ shape.

And here is the lamination and the bubbles from the yeast.

These aren’t as tricky as they might seem, and in fact the yeast aspect makes them quite forgiving if your lamination isn’t perfect (mine certainly isn’t). Plus, there’s so much butter and sugar in them that even if you make a stodgy lump, it will still be delicious.

Pain aux Raisins

I baked these this weekend for my friends, Bennett and Genevieve, who are leaving for New York today. I will miss them, and I wanted to make them something I knew they really enjoyed to have for breakfast on their last day.

I used Richard Bertinet’s recipe for the dough (made from Lescure butter and some T55 from Shipton Mill) and my usual for the creme patissiere filling. I found  ‘pre-soaked mixed fruit‘ at Sainbury’s and used them to make the filling particularly soft.

I made a first batch but ended up having to leave it in the fridge all day after I’d added the butter.The dough came out looking pretty nice, and I’d been careful with the rolling phase, resting it for a good 30 mins each time.

The good side was that it was thoroughly chilled when I rolled it out. The bad side was that it had risen and was difficult to roll it very thin, even with repeated restings. The result was I didn’t manage to get many ‘rolls’, so the ratio of dough to raisins wasn’t good. But there’s some nice lamination that came from it staying cold (and I didn’t let it rise too much as I didn’t have time). I also made some little lumps of pastry with chocolate in them.

I tried glazing them with sugar syrup, which crystallised and looks nice, but I think I prefer apricot jam (for flavour and shine).

The second batch I made up without leaving it all day, so it was easier to roll out and I got it thinner, but I think it could have been even thinner. It was difficult because it was a warm day so I couldn’t roll it for too long. I could have given it another fridge rest and rolled one more time, though. I let it rise longer (at least an hour) as I wanted a more bready texture, rather than so laminated.

I think the jam looks nicer and it did give them a nice tart note to the flavour. Balance of filling to dough was better, but could still be improved. But now we have a house full of pain aux raisins, so it will have to wait.

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