It seems like just about everyone is baking at home now during the lockdown, and the shortage of cream cheese, butter and flour is testament to its therapeutic qualities. Cutting cubes of cold butter delicately into flour in the quiet of the night, feeling nubby bits of dough form in between your finger tips, breaking into a golden yolk and whisking it into a homogeneous mixture. There's something so soothing and comforting about crafting a baked treat from scratch, with your own bare hands. Maybe it brings us back to simpler times, the Platonic ideal of hearth and home, where bread didn't come ready sliced and in a plastic package. Maybe it's the sense of satisfaction that comes from successfully creating something you'd normally pay a trained professional to do. Maybe it's just cheaper than therapy during these trying times.
I recently posted a tutorial on IG Highlights for these flaky bacon and cheddar scones. I've been making these buttery, tender little babies for more than 5 years now and they're always a huge hit. I give them out as gifts when someone's done me a huge favour (like say, bringing a cheesecake back for me from Japan), for celebrating special occasions or when I just feel like giving out little treats in the Central Business District. Well, now they're yours and you'll want any reason to make them. Bake them and pass it on. Perk someone's day up. Let the joy spread exponentially.
The key to their tenderness and incredible flavour lies in a mixture of creme fraiche and heavy cream, a nifty trick I picked up from Thomas Keller in his Bouchon Bakery Cookbook. I've also compiled a list of tips for scone baking at the end of the recipe. For the step by step visual guide, head on over here.These taste best freshly baked. If consuming them later, toast them for a couple minutes to re-heat and crisp up the edges. Serve with a pat of butter for maximum enjoyment.
140g unsalted butter, cubed AND VERY COLD
300g self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 to 8 rashers of streaky bacon, cubed
150g cheddar cheese, shredded
65g heavy cream (You can also just use a total of 125g creme fraiche or sour cream)
60g creme fraiche
1) Heat your frying pan over low and add in your cubed bacon. Let its fat render out and allow them to crisp up and darken. Be sure not to burn them! Transfer them to a separate bowl and let cool down completely.
2) For the scone dough. In a large bowl (or using a food processor) mix your flour, sugar, salt and pepper together. Add your butter into the bowl. Using your finger tips, gently rub and press the butter into the flour mixture. You want a mixture of textures like sandy bits and visible cubes of butter. Be sure not to overwork your mixture. If using the food processor, pulse a couple times to get the texture. If using a stand mixer, you'll want the paddle attachment. I find it's easier to overwork the dough using machinery versus using your own hands, which gives you greater control and allows you to feel the dough constantly.
3) In a small bowl, mix your egg, heavy cream and creme fraiche until combined.
4) Add this liquid mixture into your dry mixture. Mix until just combined. Add in your cheese and bacon. Pat the mixture into a rectangular shape. Work fast. Tip it out onto your cutting board. Cut into 8 rectangles or 16 small squares if you'd prefer them smaller.
5) Chill this in your fridge or freezer overnight.
6) Before baking, pre-heat your oven to 175 degrees celcius. Crack an egg a give it a good stir. Using a brush, paint the tops of your scones with this egg mixture. (A step I missed out in my ig stories tutorial. All's good it'll just look paler. I went to paint them when they're almost done and popped them back in again to dry the egg wash.) Pop them into the oven and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until it puffs up into burnished, golden goodness.
Make sure your butter is very, very cold. I usually cube them ahead of time, then stash them in the fridge to firm up again before making the scone dough. You need to start off with cold fat!
Use a very light hand when cutting the butter into the flour. You don't want to overwork the butter to the point where they disappear in the dough. You're looking for bits and knobs of butter dispersed throughout. The visible, chilled bits of butter will puff up in your oven, creating those coveted flaky and light layers, the mark of a well-made scone. No butter bits = No light, flaky layers. So resist overdoing it.
Cold, Cold, Cold! Make sure your egg/cream/creme fraiche mixture is cold. This ensures the dough doesn't warm up too much, which helps the butter stay more solid, which is Key to getting flaky layers.
Don't overmix and overwork the dough after adding your liquid ingredients. Overworking it will result in dense, stodgy scones, instead of the lightness we're after here.
Chilling/Freezing the scones for a few hours (or overnight) before baking allows the butter to re-firm up again before baking. This goes back to... *refer to first 3 points*
If you can't find creme fraiche, sub with equal amounts of heavy cream or sour cream, or just go full on creme fraiche//sour cream for a nice tang to complement the bacon and allium flavours here.