Sourdough scones

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I am very excited.  I have been making the best scones ever lately and it is all due to a recipe I found in a little old cook book.

In the early years of my life, I only bought cheap, pocket-sized cook books.  Money is hard to come by when you are young so you spend it sparingly.  I still have those old books and some of them have turned out to be real gems.  The book in question is Homemade Bread, by the food editors of Farm Journal.  It was first published in New York in 1969.  My pocket book edition was published in 1977.

I dragged out my Homemade Bread last month when, after a couple of weeks of looking through Elizabeth David’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery I decided that, even though I may love to read Ms David’s book, it will never be my go-to book if I want to make a loaf of bread.

Whilst I was flicking through my little pocket book, a recipe for sourdough biscuits jumped out to me.  Those in the know will be aware that scones are called “biscuits” and biscuits are called “cookies” in the States.  I read the recipe and, given my interest in sourdough baking, was very interested.  It wasn’t actually a sourdough recipe as the starter was made with commercial yeast but I was still very interested because I was already converting it into a sourdough recipe.  I decided to first make the recipe as instructed, to learn what was intended, and then convert it.

Even though it was an American recipe, I used metric cup measurements and it worked out perfectly.  The only adjustment I made was to add a bit of milk as my dough was way too dry.  Also, I should have adjusted the cooking time and temp of the oven.  The original recipe said 425°F for 20 minutes which was way too hot and way too long.  I should have realised that, in 1969, a conventional oven would have been used, not a fan forced oven which is decidedly hotter.

Here is the original recipe.

Starter:

  • 1¼ tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose (plain) flour
  • 2 tbs* sugar
  • 2½ cups water

*These are 15 mil tablespoons.

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a glass bowl.
  2. Beat well, cover and let stand for 2 days.

After the first day, my mixture was totally exhausted but I was determined to follow the recipe so I left it for the full two days.  By then, it looked totally dead.

Scones:

  • 1½ cups sifted all-purpose (plain) flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda (bicarb soda) (The recipe said ½ tsp if starter is quite sour.  For my first batch, I used the ½ tsp because my starter was well and truly dead!)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 cup starter.

 Method:

  1. Sift all the dry ingredients together.
  2. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. Add the starter and mix.  As mentioned above, I had to add some milk as my dough was too dry.
  4. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board.
  5. Knead only long enough to form a smooth dough.
  6. Press out dough to about 2 cm deep.
  7. Use a scone cutter to cut out scones.
  8. Put scones onto a tray lined with baking paper.
  9. Brush scones with milk.
  10. Let scones rest for one hour.
  11. Bake for 12 minutes at 200°C.

Here is the result – though they were overcooked, they still tasted great.

scones

They were, without doubt, the very best scones I had ever made.  I could not believe it.

After I had made the first batch of scones, I looked at the two extra cups of the ‘sourdough’ starter.  I had nothing better to do with it so I made another double batch.  They were equally good.

008copyI had two criticisms of the original recipe.  I could see absolutely no reason to leave the yeast mixture for the two days (it was well and truly exhausted after about 6 hours) and why make up three cups when the recipe only calls for one cup of starter?  The recipe only made nine scones so why not double or triple it to use up all the starter?

You know where this post is going.  It was time to start fiddling with the recipe to make it work for my 100% hydration sourdough starter.  If you don’t have a sourdough starter and would like to try these scones, make up a starter as follows:

  • 200g plain flour
  • 200g water (filtered, bottled or rainwater)
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast

Mix all the ingredients together and leave on your kitchen bench for 6-8 hours.

If you have a sourdough starter that is not 100% hydration, amend the fluid as appropriate.

Sourdough scones:

  • 400g active 100% hydration sourdough starter or starter made as above.
  • 450g plain flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp bicarb soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 120g butter
  • ½ cup tepid milk – and more, if needed
  1. Whisk the milk into the starter then set aside.
  2. Sift all the dry ingredients together.
  3. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into flour mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  4. Add the starter mixture and mix to form a dough.  You may need a bit more milk.
  5. Tip dough onto your work surface and knead just enough to form a smooth dough.
  6. Press out dough to about 2 cm deep.
  7. Using a scone cutter, cut out scones.  I got 16 out of my dough.
  8. Put scones on baking tray lined with baking paper.
  9. Brush scones with milk.
  10. Let scones rest on kitchen bench for one hour.
  11. Bake at 200°C for 12 minutes or until cooked.

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Here they are – perfect.  Every time I make these scones, either with commercial yeast or sourdough, they are a success.  There is no difference with the flavour.  You can tell I am very excited by these.  They would easily be three times better than any scone I have made before.

I haven’t varied the resting time.  I would love to know the significance of the one hour.  I can see me making a batch and baking a few every 15 minutes to see what effect the resting time has.

I have been using ripe starter but, considering the state of the starter I used for the first batch, I am certain a starter straight from the fridge would work just as well – that would make scones another way to use up excess starter.

Now I have worked out the cooking time, there is no stopping me.  These scones are plain but I can see no reason why I couldn’t up the sugar and add some currants or dates.

007copyOne more photo, this time of a batch I made last night.  This batch had been  sitting on my sideboard for 45 minutes when I decided to bring them into the kitchen where it was warmer.  I put them on our stove top.  A moment later, Maus decided to rest a chopping board on the stove top to dry.  As she did so, I said,  “Don’t let it fall on my scones.”  A split second later, there was the almighty crash of the chopping board falling on my scones.  I baked them 15 minutes later and they still turned out this good.  Not as good as the other batches that didn’t get a chopping board on their heads but in the circumstances, they are a miracle.

For the members of the Feel Sorry for Maus Society, I would like to say that I did not even raise my voice.

38 thoughts on “Sourdough scones

  1. Hi Glenda, should I take some starter from the fridge and feed it up like I do for bread for these scones? Also should I let it feed up and warm overnight if I want to bake scones in the morning. Thanks Kay

    • Hi Kay, The starter should be active as when you are making bread ie feed it and when it is bubbling away and really really happy make the scones. If you want to make the scones in the morning you should feed your starter the night before and leave it out of the fridge.

      Alternatively check out Carol’s comments below. She made the scones in the evening, refrigerated them and baked them the next day. If you follow Carol’s technique you would need to feed your starter in the morning you want to make the scones.
      I have made these scones again and they turned out perfect again. I just love it.

      • Thanks Glenda. Looking forward to trying these out now. It might work well also if I leave the starter in the airing cupboard overnight to take advantage of the heating when it kicks on in the morning as I am putting starter there when building it up for bread also. The kitchen counter is not good enough in these cold winter climes to get it bubbling enough.

        • Hi Kay, I keep forgetting people don’t live in the same climate as me. 😦 I made another batch today as I had some excess starter and they were perfect again. They were rising even before I put them in the oven (Its much warmer here than where you are).

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  3. Hi Glenda,
    I make scones to sell in a canteen and usually make them the day before, refrigerate them uncooked and then cook them the next day so they are fresher, do you think that it would be possible to do that with these sourdough scones. They look so delicious, I am always looking for that perfect scone recipe.
    Thanks Carol.

    • Hi Carol. I was about to suggest that they would be fine as long as you refrigerated them, then I read your comment and that is exactly what you do. I would be inclined to bring them back to room temperature before I baked them so the yeast has some kick in it. Give it a bash and let me know how they go.

      • Hi Glenda,
        I made the scones, cooked one and refrigerated the rest until the next day then I cooked them, the only difference that I could tell was that the one made on day 1 was crisper on the outside but this could have been because it was cooked on its own. I should have frozen some uncooked to see how they performed, maybe next time.
        Thanks again for the recipe.
        Carol.

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  5. Being mostly Yank myself, I always thought American biscuits had more salt than scones but were made roughly the same. From one Maus to another, I could see myself doing just that too. I can be a real klutz sometimes and you were so good to keep your cool.

  6. These sound delish…I do love the food adventures you take to adapt recipes to suit your knowledge and tastes. Great sounding scones 🙂

  7. Well, thank goodness we don’t have to drop a chopping board onto a batch of scones to make them perfect – I was waiting for you to say that they were the best batch! About two months ago I thought I’d found the perfect scone recipe and of course now I’m not so sure. The only downside I an see with these scones is that they have to be left to stand for an hour as usually I make scones because they’re so quick.

    • Hi Anne, I wonder whether the hour is necessary. The only thing to do is try without it. My guess is it is just long enough to get the sourdough working so when it hits the oven you get more oven spring, but that is only a guess.

  8. Thanks Glenda for that tip of not using all of the Lemonade at once. Have just ordered some Scone Cutters which I will collect at the end of the week. You have now got me inspired to try again. Deb

  9. Glenda they look fab. Nothing better on a cold rainy day that Scones, Jam & Cream. Yummy.
    I did laugh about the chopping board incident, poor Maus. We are all laughing along with you.

    I made Lemonade Scones last Saturday but the mixture was way too wet. 4 cups S.R.Flour, 300ml Cream & 375ml Lemonade that was the only ingredients required so I thought this should be easy. How wrong I was!!!!!! I think best for me to stay out of the kitchen!!!!!!

    Cheers Deb

    • Hi Deb, go on try again. With a lot of cooking it is best to hold back on some of the fluid and slowly put in the balance as you are mixing. This is because all flours absorb water differently. Next time hold back half of the lemonade and add it slowly until you think you have enough. Scone mixture is quite firm. BTW Thanks for bothering to comment. I love hearing from you.

  10. A delicious post to read… very entertaining, and to look at.
    And, I agree, some cook books like Elizabeth David are great to look at and get ideas from but the humble cook books we return to again and again are priceless.

  11. You’re such a baking legend, Glenda… and I love how you road test these recipes and provide honest, constructive critique… Celia very kindly gave me a starter a while back, but with one thing after another health wise I simply haven’t had time to do anything with it. Bookmarking this recipe for when I do have the opportunity, for these scones look dandy!

  12. I was thinking how thoroughly you’ve researched the making of this recipe when I got to the chopping board part and was convinced. I also had a bit of a giggle.

  13. Looks like you’ve nailed it with these Glenda. But I have to say that they look like what I would call a biscuit here. Cookies are flat and I think you call those biscuits but what passes for a scone over here is usually a rock hard lump that looks and tastes more like a hockey puck…although I haven’t been chewing on any hockey pucks lately. These look perfect whatever they’re called so let’s just call them Glenda’s best scones.

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