Growing up dad and I spent a lot of time cooking together. It was our thing to do on weekend visits, to stand working side-by-side, just doing something we both enjoyed. Scones were one of our favourite go-to's, not just because there are few things better than a fresh warm scone smothered in jam and cream, but because they were simple enough for a kid to manage, and made from such basic ingredients that they could usually be whipped up at a moments notice should the craving arise.
But of course 'basic' can be quite a relative term, and whereas dad's scone recipe involved just five ingredients first rubbed and then mixed together with a knife, in the decadent, sophisticated world of Bouchon a 'basic' scone recipe uses two flours, three types of dairy, requires a stand mixer, takes two days in preparation, is baked from frozen and, if you're being particularly serious, precise measurements and a well-oiled pastry wheel.
Naturally I had to see what all the fuss was about, and while they certainly push the boundaries of what I'd call a scone—being the wrong shape and a bit large and rich for the usual jam and cream accompaniments— they're still pretty delightful and well worth that bit extra in planning and preparation. The swirls of pecan cinnamon butter add a nice burst of flavour and are especially good where the exposed chunks have begun to caramelise. I got pretty nervous watching them bake as, unlike any scones I've made previously, these refused to hold their shape (sorry Mr Keller!), but they didn't look so bad once separated, and the taste certainly made up for it. Best enjoyed the day they're baked they do keep better than the (to my tastes) traditional scone, so you've an extra day or two before they become an inedible, albeit well-weighted, projectile.
The beauty of being baked from frozen is that you can easily prepare a batch or two in advance and have them ready and waiting for when those afternoon cravings hit or when unexpected visitors drop by. You'll have fresh-baked scones on the table within the hour with less effort than it takes to make a pot of tea. Speaking of which, now's probably a good time to go and pop the kettle on...
PECAN CINNAMON SCONES (Adapted from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller & Sebastien Rouxel)
For the scones
- 150 g all-purpose flour
- 300 g cake flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp bicarb soda
- 90 g caster sugar
- 225 g unsalted butter, cold and diced
- 135 g pure cream
- 135 g crème fraîche
For the pecan cinnamon cubes
- 30 g all-purpose flour
- 30 g caster sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 40 g unsalted butter, cold and diced
- 30 g honey
- 30 g pecan, finely chopped
For the honey glaze
- 35 g clarified butter*
- 1 Tbsp honey
To make the pecan cinnamon cubes, sift the flour, sugar and cinnamon into a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Toss in the butter cubes and then use your fingertips to rub into the mixture until there are no large visible pieces. Add the honey and mix to form a smooth paste. Press the paste into a 10-cm square on a sheet of plastic wrap, then wrap tightly and freeze for at least two hours until solid (the paste can be frozen for up to 1 week).
For the scones, sift the flours, baking powder, bicarb soda and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer and mix briefly on the lowest setting to combine. Add the butter and begin to incorporate by mixing on the lowest setting. Increase the speed to low and mix for about 3 minutes. Once the butter is incorporated into the dry mixture and with the mixer running, slowly pour in the cream then crème fraîche, mixing for about 30 seconds until all of the dry ingredients are moistened and the dough has come together.
Cut the butter paste into 1-cm cubes and mix into dough by hand. Push the dough together, place between two sheets of plastic wrap and press into a 19- × 26-cm block. Wrap tightly and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.
Once firm, cut the dough into either rectangles (by cutting the block of dough lengthwise into thirds and then crosswise into quarters) or triangles (by cutting the block of dough lengthwise into thirds, crosswise in half and then each rectangle in half on the diagonal) and arrange on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper, leaving some space between them. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until frozen solid, at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight (scones can be frozen at this point for up to 1 month).
Preheat the oven to 200°C, arrange the frozen scones 1-cm apart on a lined baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown. While the scones are baking prepare the glaze by warming the honey and butter together in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring until combined. As soon as you remove the scones from the oven, brush the tops with the glaze. Set the baking sheet on a cooling rack and cool completely.
** To clarify butter, melt in a saucepan over low heat, without stirring. Once melted, skim off and discard the top layer of milk solids. Carefully pour the clear layer (clarified butter) into a container, leaving behind the milky residue at the bottom. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate or freeze.