Updated: Apr 22, 2021
And why you should always trust your baker's instinct (if you have it)
Many people are intimated by baking. I hear it all the time. I get it! One wrong measurement, temperature, ingredient and those hours you've spent preparing something that you thought would be delicious turns out to be a big disappointment.
Been there, done that!
That is why, like anything else in life, if you want to become competent... good... great! at something, you have to put in the effort and practice, practice, practice.
In baking, practice helps you develop what I like to call "baker's instinct".
Let's be honest now. There are only so many ways you can combine butter, eggs, flour, sugar, etc. and depending on the ratios of those ingredients and the way they are prepared you will likely end up with a few different variations of cakes, cookies, etc.
It's science, yes, but maybe not rocket science?
Over the years, I've made enough cakes, cookies, frostings, etc. that when I read a recipe and see some ingredients that are out of whack, or, as I start to prepare the recipe the consistency of the batter for example just isn't right, I know before it hits the oven that things aren't going to go well. There's a little voice inside me saying "this will not be a success my dear" - that's my baker's instinct. Sometimes I listen to the little voice, sometimes I ignore it. When I choose to ignore it, guess what? 99% of the time it ends up in failure. But that's okay! Because I learn, I take notes and I move on to the next recipe.
Which brings me to what happened when I tried to make cranberry lemon scones not too long ago. I did some research, looked up different recipes and after finding one that seemed straightforward and didn't require too much work, or ingredients I didn't have, off I went.
Now right off the bat, I knew something wasn't right when the 2nd ingredient listed was "1 TABLESPOON of baking powder". That's right, ONE TABLESPOON! Never in all my years of baking have I EVER used a tablespoon of baking powder in ANYTHING!
But I thought, what the heck! Let's give it a go. Well, not too surprisingly, the "scones" decided to explode on me while baking and did not look at all like I wanted them to.
They ended up in the garbage bin.
So after a long walk to blow off some steam, I did some research.
First, I looked at my other "go to" recipe for scones and confirmed that for the most part, the ingredients between the 2 recipes were almost identical. With one exception. My tested scone recipe called for "1 teaspoon baking powder", that's right, a TEASPOON!
Secondly, I did some research about recipes that use "A LOT" of baking powder. And what did I find? A bunch of recipes for "Baking powder biscuits". SAY WHAT? And now, let's be honest, North Americans are notorious for wrongly making biscuits and then calling them scones. After after living in the UK, I just need to make one thing clear: Scones and biscuits are not the same thing! But that's a story for another day.
So after much disappointment, I looked back at my trusted scone recipe and asked myself: why I hadn't simply adapted it to make a lemon cranberry scone version? I blame being lazy and wanting someone else to tell me how much lemon zest and cranberries I needed - pitiful.
Let's hope next time my baker's instinct kicks-in, I'll listen to the little voice and save myself the disappointment and wasted ingredients.
Anyways, now I am saving you the trouble I went through by sharing my recipe for lemon cranberry scones. I hope you'll enjoy and while you're at it, don't hesitate to share your own baking horror stories in the comments below.
Lemon Cranberry Scones
340g all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
135g butter, cold and cut into cubes
1/2 cup of milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp lemon zest
1/2 - 3/4 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp milk
a few tablespoons of granulated sugar
For the glaze (optional):
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 cup icing sugar
a few tablespoons of water
Preheat oven to 375F.
Add the lemon juice to the 1/2 cup of milk and let stand while you prepare the other ingredients.
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar.
With the mixer on low, slowly add in your cubes of cold butter. Be careful as the butter might cause the mix to "splash" out of your bowl. Once all your butter has been added, you should end up with a rough crumbly mix with a few larger bits of butter throughout. Feel free to get your hands in there and rub the flour mixture into the butter until the larger lumps are gone. Alternately, you can use a pastry blender for this step.
Add your lemon zest and mix briefly.
With your mixer on low, slowly add in the milk to the flour and butter mixture until the dough comes together. Don't over mix, it should still be somewhat crumbly. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Add in the cranberries and mix for a few second more until the berries are loosely incorporated into the mix.
Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently bring together to ensure you spread the cranberries throughout and that the dough comes together.
Shape your dough until you obtain a flat disc, about 4-5 cm thick. At this point you have 2 options: 1) you can cut the dough into 8 triangular pieces or 2) use a cookie cutter to make round scones. *I find the cranberries get in the way when trying to make round scones so triangles are easiest.
Place your scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Space them a few cm apart from one another.
Mix your egg and 1 tbsp of milk together. Brush the scones with the egg wash. Sprinkle with some sugar if desired.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until they have a nice brown coloring to them.
Let cool completely.
For the glaze: Place your icing sugar in a small bowl and whisk while gradually adding the water. You want the glaze to coat the back of a spoon but be runny enough you can drizzle across the scones. Add the lemon zest just before decorating.
I wanted these scones to pack a whole lot of lemon flavor, which is why I used a tablespoon of lemon zest in the mix. If you don't want it too tart, feel free to use less.
You'll note there's not a ton of sugar in this recipe, that's why I like it. It also means that using the glaze won't make them overly sweet.