There is an idea that has been perpetuated far and wide that must come to an end. Scones seem to be unilaterally defined as dry, tough biscuits, as if it is inherent in the very nature of this English pastry to be mealy and keep us reaching for the milk. But this is a stereotype, and thus, sadly, they are avoided by masses. Scones have every opportunity to be moist and light. The answer is in the information.
The bare facts
In all scone recipes, there is a liquid, something that brings it all together which holds the secret to a moist scone. It could be water, milk, half and half, or heavy cream. I’ve even seen some recipes with sour cream and yogurt.
What is the secret?
You probably don’t want to hear this, but fat is key. Milk fat, to be specific. This is something you see everyday in the supermarket but may go unnoticed. Dairy products are generally classified by the amount of milk fat content. The percentages on your milk simply mean the amount of fat contained in the milk. 2%, 1%, etc.
Fat keeps the pastry moist. So for a moist scone, a high-fat liquid is imperative. The ideal choice is heavy cream. Heavy cream ranges between 30 to 40% milk fat. But don’t be alarmed. For those watching what they eat, the amount of cream used is minimal, but essential.
Now for the token cliche with a dose of optimism.
My mantra continues to be: for a happy life and happy eating practice ‘everything in moderation’. Life is just too short to not enjoy a perfectly baked dreamy scone with a side of cappuccino every now and then. Especially one with chunks of dark chocolate and walnuts. Give the muffins a break.
Chocolate Walnut Scones Recipe
2 c (325g) all purpose flour
4 tsp (20g) baking powder
1/4 c (45g) sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c (110g) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1/2 c (83g) walnuts, chopped
3/4 c (100g) 55-60% dark chocolate, chopped
1 egg yolk
1/2 c (140ml) heavy cream
Preheat oven to 350F (176C). Combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in the bowl of a mixer. With paddle attachment, mix on low to combine dry ingredients. Add cold cubed butter to dry. Continue mixing on low, until all the butter is incorporated and the mixture looks mealy. Add chocolate and nuts. Mix on low to evenly distribute.
Whisk together the egg and heavy cream. Do not add all the liquid at once. It will not all be needed. The amount of liquid needed depends on the moisture level of your flour. That level can vary depending on the weather, the part of the world you live in, and the climate of your house. Never fear! It may sound complicated, but this is one of the easiest pastries. Information is power, my friends!
Pour the majority of the liquid into the dry while mixer is turned to low. (I poured all but 1/4 c of the cream mixture into the bowl.) The egg and cream will start to combine with the flour mix hydrating it throughout. This will take about 45s. Don’t mix longer than a minute or two, or you’ll have tough scones. The scone dough will be done when it starts to clump and pull away from the sides. If there are a lot of bone dry crumbs at the bottom of the bowl, then add a tbsp at a time of the reserved cream mixture until thoroughly hydrated, but not wet. Reserve the extra liquid for double duty in later.
Move dough to a cutting board. Roll, or pat, out dough to approximately 1″ high. Then cut as desired. 2″ x 2″ is a good size, as the scones will double in size when baked. Place scones on parchment-lined baking sheet. Use the reserved cream and egg mixture to glaze the top of each scone, then sprinkle each with sugar. Bake for 10m. Rotate pan. Bake for an additional 8 to 12m until golden around the edges and the scones give little resistance when gently squeezed.
Unbaked scones keep in fridge for 5 days and in the freezer for up to 3 months if wrapped tightly. Baked scones are best day of, but can be refreshed in a 350F (176C) oven for 3m the next day and be perfectly tasty. So make a ton, and keep them unbaked in the freezer for a rainy day.