January Daring Bakers: Biscuits

by Shumaila

I am two days late.

In posting (before you get the wrong ideas).

I have been slacking with my DB challenges. I was not able to do the last two as I was in India. And this month, even though I could have worked on it, some other things, besides my laziness, kept me busy.

I have been slacking in all my posts and now there is a huge backlog of recipes to be shared. I have resolved this week I am going to try and catch up with some of those pending posts. I will be sharing some seriously good recipes in the coming days. So watch out for this space.

Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Audax worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!

Audax is a man who knows his stuff.

Really knows it.

Every month he is there for us and always makes us feel confident with our experiments. He is also always the first to try out the DB challenges. (So it’s a shame that I waited for so late to try his out!)

This month, as the host he really did outdo himself. He chose a recipe that made us return to the basics- Scones (a.k.a. biscuits). He did the most exhaustive research and experimentation in getting the scones “just right”. Do head over to his page and you will know exactly what I mean.

When Audax posted in the DB forums of our challenge this month, the subject of the post read Scones.

At first I thought it was the sweet triangular shaped scones that have a slightly crisp crust with a soft interior crumb, usually covered in sugar and are laced with dried fruit.

But as I read further, Audax informed us that what North Americans call scones, Australians and the English call “rock cakes” since they are usually made to look like “rocky” cakes not wedges.

And, what North Americans call biscuits, Australians refer to as scones.

The different terminology is surely confusing!

The North American biscuits (or what the Australian call scones) are buttery, slightly flaky, round shaped baked goods usually eaten with meals. In Australia and England these are eaten with butter and jam usually with cups of tea or coffee as a sweet snack.

The challenge scone (biscuit) recipe has been especially formulated by Audax Artifex after a large amount of research and experimentation. It is designed to help master the techniques involved in making scones (biscuits) exactly the way you would like them.

The first time I made biscuits was a few months back, when my parents came to visit me in the US.

My dad loves biscuits (Aussie scones). He requested me to try a recipe. Now I don’t remember which recipe I saw, but they were the buttermilk kinds. I wish I had Audax guiding tips to make them then. They were quite good (for a first attempt), but they could have been better.

This was my second attempt and while they tasted great (though I think next time I will add a little more salt), mine didn’t come out anywhere near as high as Audax’. Since I did not have a biscuit cutter, I used a knife and made rectangular scones as Audax advised not to use glass or any metal tin that is open from one side. They were definitely tender. But they did not rise as much and could have been more flaky. Audax mentioned the flakiness can be increased by leaving bigger sized fat particles when you rub in the butter with the flour.

Since this was only the first attempt of many, I’ll keep trying. (Something that I actually should have done this past month *sheepish grin*. But it’s never too late, is it?)

A summary of tips for better Biscuits, as mentioned by Audax:

  • When sifting, sift the flour from a height, incorporating more air into the mixture. Also triple sift the flour with the other dry ingredients. This ensures maximum lightness in your scones and ensures even distribution of all the raising agents and other ingredients.
  • Always work with really cold butter. The best way to ensure that is to grate the butter first and freeze it for at least 30 minutes before using it.
  • Tenderness/flakiness of the scone depends on how you incorporate the butter into the flour- the size of the fat particles and how much of the flour is used to coat the fat. The finer the pieces the tender the crumb. For flaky scones- make the fat pieces large like lima beans and only lightly coat them in flour.
  • Do not over-mix when incorporating the cold liquid into the flour. Over-mixing will result in less tender biscuits as gluten forms when mixing dough, so the more you mix, the more gluten forms. When a lot of gluten forms, it results in a heavier, denser bread.
  • Since most scone (biscuit) doughs are soft (and sticky) it is best to use your fingers (instead of a rolling pin) to gently pat out the dough once it has been kneaded or folded and turned. Use a very light touch with little pressure while forming the dough rectangle to be cut into rounds for the scones. If you want tall scones then pat out the dough tall, about 3/4 inch to 1 inch (2 cm to 2½ cm) thick is about right.
  • Use a well-floured scone (biscuit) cutter for each round that you stamp out from the dough. Do not twist the cutter while stamping out the scone, push down firmly until you can feel the board then lift the cutter.
  • Place each scone almost touching onto the baking dish. This encourages the scones to raise and also keeps the sides soft and moist. If you want crisp sides widely space your scones on the baking dish.
  • Resting the dough for 20 minutes helps in better handling of the dough and the final scones height, lightness and crumb. If you rest your patted out dough covered in plastic for at least 10 minutes in the fridge that the rounds are easier to stamp out and the final baked goods raise higher and have a better crumb.

I will definitely be making more and posting my summary of results soon. But for now, I would suggest you to have a look at Audax’ blog and more tips and suggestions on how to improve your biscuits.


Biscuits are quick bread that is raised using chemical agents usually baking powder and/or baking soda. Basic scones contain flour, raising agent(s), butter (or shortening or lard), salt, and milk (or buttermilk or soured milk or cream).

Scones/biscuits contain only a small number of ingredients they are fast to make, quick to bake, only cost cents per batch and most importantly are super FUN to eat.

In England and Australia scones are eaten with jam and butter usually with cups of tea or coffee mostly as a sweet snack, while in North America they are usually eaten with meals as a savoury side.

Recipe from Audax

Makes about eight 2-inch (5 cm) scones or five 3-inch (7½ cm) scones


  • 1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (10 gm) (⅓ 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


  1. Preheat oven to very hot 475°F/240°C/gas mark 9.
  2. Triple sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. (If your room temperature is very hot refrigerate the sifted ingredients until cold.)
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. 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.)
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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 colored on the tops. The scones are ready when the sides are set.
  9. Immediately place onto cooling rack to stop the cooking process, serve while still warm.

Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:
Scones are best eaten warm. Scones (biscuits) are really easy to store – bag the cooked and cooled scones and freeze until needed then reheat in a moderate hot for a few minutes.