I love a good scone, the problem is most scones aren’t good. Scones often turn out dense and dry, which is incredibly unappetizing. If your first encounter with a scone was at a hotel continental breakfast, you probably aren’t a fan. But when scones are the right texture and don’t leave your mouth akin to the Sahara, they’re a delectable pastry. When I found a recipe for blueberry scones in the America’s Test Kitchen cookbook that purportedly solves the aforementioned problems, I knew I had to try it.
Whenever I read a baking recipe, I compare its difficulty level to other goods I’ve made. The last pastry I baked was a croissant (read about it here), and upon my first read of the scones recipe, it was apparent that they’d be much easier and much less time consuming to bake – and I was correct. Only a couple steps were tedious; most were quick and painless.
When baking scones (according to this recipe), everything must be cold or frozen, including the kitchen. Seriously. The recipe calls for a cold kitchen and includes a contingency plan should your kitchen be hot and humid, so I turned my thermostat way down and froze most of the day. The sacrifices I make for scones! I was also sure freeze butter well in advance. 24 hours in advance, to be specific. Like I said, everything must be cold.
In a parka and snow pants to endure the arctic temperatures of my apartment, I began. I sifted through the blueberries to find the smallest fruits of the batch. I did a thorough job choosing as the alternative is to cut larger berries into small pieces, and for some reason that sounds very unappealing. Once I had enough berries, I began grating the butter.
The butter-grating process would’ve gone much faster had I used the correct grater – a box grater. I used the only grater I have – a hand grater, which yields much smaller shavings than the box grater when using the side called for in the recipe. I was a bit worried about the size of the butter shavings, but guessed (also hoped and prayed) it wouldn’t make a difference in the end, so I continued.
Butter grated, I put it back in the freezer (everything must be cold, mind you) while I sifted the wet and dry ingredients in separate bowls. The dry ingredients include lemon zest, and while zesting said lemon, I hoped and prayed once again, this time that the scones would be worth the copious amounts of grating required. I now know I do not like to grate.
Finally the grating portion was complete! Hooray! The next steps were to coat the butter in the dry ingredient mixture, then fold in the wet ingredients until just combined. I then turned the dough out onto my floured surface to begin kneading. The recipe noted not to over-knead, so I was sure to only knead the recommended amount. I then folded the dough and chilled it in the freezer for 5 minutes.
Typically when baking a more advanced recipe, if available, I watch a video of someone baking whatever I’m about to bake to be certain I’m doing it correctly. However, hard copy cookbooks don’t have videos, so that was not an option. This one, though, has corresponding step-by-step pictures, which helped tremendously as I worked the dough.
After resting in the freezer, I rolled the dough into a square and topped it with my carefully chosen blueberries. Next I rolled it into a little log, formed the log into a rectangle, and cut the rectangle into 8 triangles to bake. Like the croissants, this recipe doesn’t yield much, which is a bit of a downside considering the work required. But if you enjoy the work like I do, it really doesn’t matter.
I topped the unbaked triangles with melted butter and sugar, and 22 minutes later had 8 picture-perfect scones. I waited until they had cooled to try them, and they were well worth the wait. In direct contrast with most scones, these were moist and light, not at all dense or dry. The lemon zest added wonderful depth of flavor (making the grating indubitably worthwhile), and the fresh blueberries added a lovely burst of tartness and texture whenever bitten into. Heaven on earth.
These scones might be the best I’ve ever eaten, all thanks to the epicureans at America’s Test Kitchen. Their recipe is stellar and worthy of all praise. To elevate it slightly, I’d use a more crystalized sugar atop before baking rather than regular granulated, but that’s a very, very minor tweak. Aside from that, this recipe is perfect. These scones aren’t a continental breakfast; they’re a 5-star brunch. I’ll be baking them again.