Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Search for English Scones and Clotted Cream

Double Devon Cream
If you haven’t read my post about having High Tea at Claridges Hotel in London, England, then you probably don’t know that I’ve been absolutely obsessed with scones and clotted cream since returning from Europe in 2010. We have been on a quest ever since to find or make something similar. Unfortunately store bought scones in Canada are not the same as you find in the UK. Biscuits are the most similar thing we have in Canada to an English Scone, but they are not as flaky and tend to fall apart more easily than scones. Many people don’t understand what an English Scone is and think that those hard, dense, flat, and dry lumps of dough they call scones at most coffee shops are scones. Let me tell you that you are sorely mistaken and are missing out on the light, fluffy, flaky, moist goodness that is a traditional English scone!

Rub in cold butter
The other thing that is non-existent in Canada is clotted cream. Clotted cream in England is made from unpasteurized milk. It has a milk fat content of at least 55%, is slightly nutty and sweet tasting, and has a similar texture to butter, but is creamier. Unfortunately, you can’t buy unpasteurized milk here in Canada, so the closest thing to clotted cream we can get is English Double Devon Cream that’s commercially available in the deli section of most grocery stores. But I can tell you that from trying it multiple times, it’s really not quite the same as it lacks that nutty, sweet taste, and isn't nearly as creamy.

You can try to make clotted cream yourself as it basically involves a long process of slowly heating cream in a shallow pan in an oven until the milk fat floats to the top and clots. Although this might sound simple, it really isn’t as there are many things that can go wrong. After 3 failed attempts using a variety of methods (oven, slow cooker - there's also stovetop and double boiler that we didn't try), we finally gave up.

Finished scones!
Scones turned out to be equally as elusive to achieve for us. We tried a variety of recipes found online, one given to us by someone who'd recently moved here from London, and one from @michpetersjones. The majority of our scones turned out flat and dense, with the exception of the one provided to us by @michpetersjones, which at least were flaky inside. We had given up hope until a Twitter conversation with @DashofSnP, whom I had not met yet, resulted in her agreeing to give me a scone-baking lesson.

If you don’t know who @DashofSnP is yet, she’s the sous chef at Highlands Kitchen, the genius behind Gourmet Girl Cookies, which are available for purchase at South West Farmers Market, as well as at Drift Food Truck, and baker extraordinaire! She also happens to be the wife of @ChefMPhillips, sous chef at my favorite downtown restaurant, Lux Steakhouse, which is how I learned of her. Gourmet Girl Cookies primarily focuses on selling baked cookies and frozen cookie dough, in insanely addictive flavors such as bacon chocolate chip and potato chip with chocolate chips.

Enjoy with double cream and jam
@DashofSnP is a wealth of baking knowledge and I’ve since learned why not only my scone recipes, but many other baking recipes have gone wrong – we live in Alberta! As @DashofSnP explained it, the majority of recipes will work perfectly in Ontario and those with similar climates and elevations, as they are at or very close to sea level, because the majority of recipes are designed for sea level. The further west you go in Canada, the higher the elevation becomes, which has an affect on your baking – basically you have to tweak recipes for them to work properly. What does this mean? It means for those of us living in Alberta, you will find that things rise more quickly and lose moisture faster, so you have to compensate for this in recipes or else you will wind up with a lot of dry baked goods. 

So those English scone recipes from English baking sites won’t work here! In fact, if you try working the dough so you can cut them into beautiful circles, you’ll wind up with a dry hockey puck. Thanks to @DashofSnP for helping Moo finally achieve perfect English scones!

The recipe we used is fairly simple and is a variation on a Martha Stewart recipe. It takes roughly half an hour or so from start to finish, including baking time. Here are some tips and tricks before you get started:
  • Using some sort of fresh fruit will help with the moisture issue.
  • If you use dried fruit, make sure to rehydrate it before adding it to the batter, or it will just suck up any moisture in the batter.
  • Make sure your baking powder isn't old, if it is
  • Only use the additional ½ cup of flour if you need it. If you choose to add the extra 1/2 cup of flour you can add additional cream to compensate if it's too dry.
  • If there is still flour left at the bottom of the bowl after you’ve finished mixing it, add some additional cream until everything's incorporated and the batter is not dry.
  • Make sure you mix everything by hoof! Otherwise you will over mix it. However, make sure you are mixing gently, in other words, mix it don't knead it!
  • Consume them while fresh, they taste the best within the first two days.
Blueberry Scones

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (if needed)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
heavy cream for brushing

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 375F degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. 
  3. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers, until mixture has the texture of coarse meal. Add blueberries.
  4. Pour heavy cream, 1 egg, and the vanilla in. Mix gently by hoof until dough comes together. If there is still a small amount of flour left at the bottom of the bowl, pour in a bit more heavy cream and mix until incorporated. Note that the dough should be quite wet.
  5. Drop the dough onto parchment paper in desired sizes.
  6. Brush with heavy cream.
  7. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 22 minutes. 
  8. Once they are cool, you can enjoy!

6 comments:

  1. Nice post, Moo!
    I always knew that the elevation and dry climate affected baking, but had no idea how to compensate for that.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Haha, its so funny that we both realised that elevation and the distance from sea level has a massive effect on baking. Kathryn and I have had to retest every single one of our baking recipes here... its ridiculous, the difference elevation makes.

    I am actually planning to retest my scone recipe here as well. Who knows Mary Berry may just be my savious yet. Did I tell you about my Victoria sponge disaster? Made me realise how much work is still to be done.

    That said, we made a DIVINE sticky toffee pudding for our desserts class. Let me know when you want to come by and try it. And try not to wince at the calories :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your scone recipe more or less works but needs tweaking cause they came out really flat, but still soft inside. Though I don't know enough about baking to figure out how to compensate for that... 8O

      What is Victoria Sponge? You definitely haven't told me about that! I had a black forest cake disaster, will have to tweak that to work correctly here.

      Mmm sticky toffee pudding... I'm in! Do you do bread pudding too? =p

      Delete
    2. Do I ever? Bread pudding and STP are my standby staples. Let me know when we can do a dessert evening :)

      Delete
  3. Lovely berry dish. Berries and currants are this week's subject for Food on Friday. Would you be happy to link this in? We are looking to create a fantastic collection of berry dishes. This is the link .

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for linking in. Cheers

    ReplyDelete

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