Recipes engineered for perfection—what exactly does that mean? We take you inside Cook’s Illustrated’s science experiments.
Could we find a way to make last-minute scone baking possible?
There are few people who don’t enjoy a freshly baked scone first thing in the morning, but there are also few people who feel like getting up early to grate butter, roll dough, and shape the scones all before sunrise. So we decided to test whether our Cook’s Illustrated Blueberry Scones could be made in advance.
We mixed the dough, cut the scones, placed them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and refrigerated them overnight before putting them straight into a pre-heated oven the next morning. The results were practically as good as a freshly mixed batch. We also found that unbaked scones could actually be frozen and baked from the freezer without significant loss in quality. Why was this?
Today, most baking powder is “double-acting,” meaning that in order to perform its leavening function, it must react in two stages. In the first stage, the baking powder dissolves in liquid and reacts to release carbon dioxide. In doughs with little liquid, such as our scone dough, the amount of leavening at this stage is minimal compared with that of thinner cake and pancake batters. The second stage of leavening requires heat. The thick dough in our scone recipe experiences most of its leavening during this second stage, in the oven.
The best part about this experiment? The same make-ahead method can be used for any baking powder-leavened dough recipe. So mix up a batch of cookies or biscuits, freeze them, and then just fire up the oven for fresh and easy baked goods whenever you crave them.
MAKE IT NOW: Our recipe for Blueberry Scones is free through January 30, 2013.