January 12th, 2011

Homemade Convenience: Bake & Serve Scones

When it comes to eating there is one basic rule I follow that sets the basis for all others: It can be cheap & easy, cheap & good, or easy & good but not all three at once. You pay for convenience, even more for tasty convenience.

Pick one combination based on what’s important to you.  On a tight budget? Then you will probably focus on “cheap.”  Epicurean? “Good” is definitely high on your list.  4 kids to feed? “Easy” most likely takes top spot.  I love good food, but am trying to save up for some pretty expensive things so cheap & good is what I strive for.  But easy is pretty important to me too, so I try to find some semblance of balance.

Part of that is to make things from scratch, but doing so on the weekend when I don’t have to work.  That is when I do my baking, make pizza and pie crusts, make chicken or vegetable stock, and sometimes prepare things like soup to heat up later in the week.  You probably know how much I adore scones, so it should come as no surprise that it’s one of my favorite things to make ahead.

Lemon Cream Scones - refrigerated

The ugly duckling of the culinary world: unbaked, refrigerated dough. As you can see, this is after it's been wrapped up overnight.

I used to bake a full batch of scones on Sunday then just eat them Monday & Tuesday.  However, scones don’t really keep well, and sitting in a plastic tub overnight doesn’t really do them justice.   But I just don’t have time before work to mix up and bake a batch of scones.  So I decided one Sunday to make a batch, but rather than putting them in the oven, to wrap them up and refrigerate them overnight.  Then the next morning I could pull them out, pop them in the oven, and continue getting ready for work.

I am happy to report that this method works beautifully.  I can do the time-consuming portion a day or two before, then have hot, yummy scones on-demand.  However, in order for this to work properly, there are some important things to keep in mind (and yes, I figured them out via trial & error, so please trust me on them, mmmkay?):

  • Scones are a quick bread, so you’d normally use both baking soda and baking powder.  Since baking soda begins working immediately, you need to use just baking powder – just use a little more.
  • Scone dough discolors rather easily.  Do not for all that is sacredly delicious use foil.  I did this.  I had gray scones.  Don’t do this.  Instead, I find that wrapping the scones in parchment paper then putting them in an air-tight plastic bag works REALLY well.  It also helps to absorb most of the excess moisture that forms in the refrigerator, so it lets them crisp up on the outside.
  • Don’t bake the scones with the parchment paper.  It burns and crumbles and the smell overpowers the smell of hot, crumbly heaven.  I am guessing it has something to do with all the moisture it’s been absorbing…
  • When you’re ready to bake them, put them into a cold oven and let them preheat with it.  This significantly cuts down the time between looking at raw scones and stuffing them in your face.

Unbaked scones, sitting on a baking stone

Unlike the massive scones you get at coffee houses, mine are a bit smaller and serve 2 per person for breakfast or 1 for a snack.

Other than that, you make the scones the same as you normally would.  Mix the dough, knead it briefly, then pat it out and cut it into wedges.  Then place all of the wedges back together on some parchment and wrap it up.  Put this into a gallon-sized plastic bag and seal it up, removing as much air as possible.  It can stay refrigerated for 1-3 days, but as day 3 is starting to lose some quality, I wouldn’t keep it longer than that.  When you want to bake them, take as many as you want out and put them on a baking sheet or stone, and put them in a cold oven, turn it to the necessary temperature, and go make yourself look presentable.  They start off looking rather sad, but they puff up beautifully in the oven.

This method also works really well for biscuits, cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls, and pizza crust.  But anyone who’s bought a Pillsbury bake-and-serve can of anything already knew that…

I’ll post the scone recipe tomorrow!

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