January 2012 Daring Bakers Challenge
After a rather successful e-baking session around christmas with my friend Sheela, we decided to do it again. After our session last time another friend of ours was mad at us for not inviting her to the e-baking session. So this time when we decided to meet up over the internet we decided to let her know as well. Sheela (from NY), Prabha (from London) and I met up online to bake, gossip and catch up… What I really miss about my undergraduate days are my friends. Yes we did become engineers at the end of the four years but more importantly we made some very good friends for life. The kind of friends who you meet after a few weeks, months or years and you can pick up from where you left off the last time you met. Friendships that are not affected by how far away you live from them. But I do miss them a lot… Here’s a picture from out undergraduate days… This was taken in 2001, our final year of undergraduate studies, a very long time ago….
Getting back to a couple of weeks back… It was a nice coincidence that I had the daring bakers challenge to be completed for Jan 2012. Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Baker’s host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious perfect batches in our own kitchens!
So a week or so before D-day we exchanged a ton of emails trying to decide what kind of biscuits to make. And then each of us decided to make a batch of savory ones and another batch of sweet biscuits. Ultimately what was made was a little different except by Sheela, who made exactly what she had decided to make. I made an extra batch of cheese and chive biscuits and Prabha made just the savory biscuits. A couple of things that we did not realize would be a problem came up during the baking session. Prabha, since she is in London for a project, did not have measuring cups. So all measurements she made were with tea cups. The butter she had was more like the spreadable butter we get here in the US. And no she did not have measuring spoons, so we had to make some approximations in the measurements for the butter she had to use. Due to all these measurement changes we had to make sure that the consistency of the dough was the same using the web camera so that all of us do get the perfect biscuits. The instructions given by Audax were so detailed and perfect that even though we had all these little issues to take care of we managed just fine.
Biscuits with Fresh Herbs (Courtesy Sheela)
At the end of the first batch that we made, Sheela and I had 12 savory biscuits while Prabha managed to make 24 with the same approximate measurements. I still don’t know how that happened! Oh yes, when Sheela was cutting the butter into small pieces to rub into the dough, she managed to break the knife, rather she thought she broke the knife… Imagine that! But then she did realize that she did not break the knife after all. Sheela’s oven also decided that it would take half hour instead of taking 10-15 mins it took Prabha and me to bake the biscuits. Still haven’t figured out why it took her that long!
But even with all of these hiccups, all three of us managed to make really awesome biscuits / scones as you can from the pics. Prabha made the biscuits with herbs, Sheela made the biscuits with herbs and another batch with sweet fruit and I made three batches; one with herbs (half whole wheat and half all purpose flour), one batch of orange and cranberry biscuits and another batch of cheese and chive biscuits. The measurements that follow are for a batch of 5-6 3″ biscuits or 7-8 2″ biscuits. It takes about 10-15 mins of prep time and 10 mins of baking time.
- 1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (10 gm) (1/3 oz) fresh baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) salt
- 2 tablespoons (30 gm/1 oz) frozen grated butter (or a combination of lard and butter)
- Approximately ½ cup (120 ml) cold milk
- Optional 1 tablespoon milk, for glazing the tops of the scones
Sweet Fruit Biscuits (courtesy Sheela)
- Preheat oven to very hot 475°F/240°C/gas mark 9.
- Triple sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. (If your room temperature is very hot refrigerate the sifted ingredients until cold.)
- Rub the frozen grated butter (or combination of fats) into the dry ingredients until it resembles very coarse bread crumbs with some pea-sized pieces if you want flaky scones or until it resembles coarse beach sand if you want tender scones.
- Add nearly all of the liquid at once into the rubbed-in flour/fat mixture and mix until it just forms a sticky dough (add the remaining liquid if needed). The wetter the dough the lighter the scones (biscuits) will be!
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, lightly flour the top of the dough. To achieve an even homogeneous crumb to your scones knead very gently about 4 or 5 times (do not press too firmly) the dough until it is smooth. To achieve a layered effect in your scones knead very gently once (do not press too firmly) then fold and turn the kneaded dough about 3 or 4 times until the dough has formed a smooth texture. (Use a floured plastic scraper to help you knead and/or fold and turn the dough if you wish.)
- Pat or roll out the dough into a 6 inch by 4 inch rectangle by about ¾ inch thick (15¼ cm by 10 cm by 2 cm thick). Using a well-floured 2-inch (5 cm) scone cutter (biscuit cutter), stamp out without twisting six 2-inch (5 cm) rounds, gently reform the scraps into another ¾ inch (2 cm) layer and cut two more scones (these two scones will not raise as well as the others since the extra handling will slightly toughen the dough). Or use a well-floured sharp knife to form squares or wedges as you desire.
- Place the rounds just touching on a baking dish if you wish to have soft-sided scones or place the rounds spaced widely apart on the baking dish if you wish to have crisp-sided scones. Glaze the tops with milk if you want a golden colour on your scones or lightly flour if you want a more traditional look to your scones.
- Bake in the preheated very hot oven for about 10 minutes (check at 8 minutes since home ovens at these high temperatures are very unreliable) until the scones are well risen and are lightly coloured on the tops. The scones are ready when the sides are set.
- Immediately place onto cooling rack to stop the cooking process, serve while still warm.
Variations on the Basic recipe
- Buttermilk – follow the Basic recipe above but replace the milk with buttermilk, add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, increase the fat to 4 tablespoons, in Step 3 aim of pea-sized pieces of fat coated in flour, in Step 5 fold and turn the dough, rounds are just touching in the baking dish, glaze with buttermilk.
- Australian Scone Ring (Damper Ring) – follow the Basic recipe above but decrease the fat to 1 tablespoon, in Step 3 aim of fine beach sand sized pieces of fat coated in flour, in Step 5 knead the dough, in Step 7 form seven rounds into a ring shape with the eighth round as the centre, glaze with milk.
- Cream – follow the Basic recipe above but replace the milk with cream, add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, in Step 3 aim of beach sand sized pieces of fat coated in flour, in Step 5 knead the dough, rounds are just touching in the baking dish, glaze with cream.
- Cheese and Chive – follow the Basic recipe above but add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, after Step 2 add ½ teaspoon sifted mustard powder, ¼ teaspoon sifted cayenne pepper (optional), ½ cup (60 gm/2 oz) grated cheese and 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives into the sifted ingredients, in Step 3 aim of beach sand sized pieces of fat coated in flour, in Step 5 knead the dough, rounds are widely spaced in the baking dish, sprinkle the rounds with cracked pepper.
- Fresh Herb – follow the Basic recipe above but after Step 3 add 3 tablespoons finely chopped herbs (such as parsley, dill, chives etc).
- Sweet Fruit – follow the Basic recipe above but after Step 3 add ¼ cup (45 gm) dried fruit (e.g. sultanas, raisins, currents, cranberries, cherries etc) and 1 tablespoon (15 gm) sugar.
- Orange and Cranberry – follow the Basic recipe above but after Step 3 add 1/4 cup cranberries, 1 tbsp sugar and the rind of one orange.
- Wholemeal – follow the Basic recipe above but replace half of the plain flour with wholemeal flour.
- Wholemeal and date – follow the Basic recipe above but replace half of the plain flour with wholemeal flour and after Step 3 add ¼ cup (45 gm) chopped dates and 1 tablespoon (15 gm) sugar.
I really enjoyed this challenge and loved the results it gave. The recipe is so versatile that you can add any ingredients and make variations of this recipe. It is also very quick and easy to make and requires not many ingredients. And yes I do hope to continue the e-baking sessions with my friends in the future. Baking is definitely fun but the best part is all the chatting and yapping we can do while baking. There’s something about baking with friends that is just perfect! Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did and hope you do try it. And now the wait for the next daring bakers challenge!