Baking Scones at Mussers’ Bed & Breakfast
Every June, on or about the last day of school, we take the kids to Pennsylvania to ride the rails at Strasburg Railroad. We ride Thomas the Tank Engine, visit the train museums, buy jams in tiny jars, eat homemade ice cream and shoofly pie, and take a horse & buggy ride around Amish country. Best of all, we stay at Mussers’ Bed & Breakfast, our home away from home. Mussers’ has two special elements that we don’t have at our house: Barb, the owner, an extraordinary person we all adore, and Barb’s magnificent and magical breakfasts. Every morning is different. Eggs made to order, baked oatmeal, crisp bacon, fresh fruit, homemade waffles, all made from local ingredients combined to create the fantasy breakfasts of our dreams. Because Barb is creative and fun, it’s always decorative too. Who else would have such fun with red and green grapes?
I sent Barb the link to my baking blog, and when she asked if I wanted to have a baking adventure with her, I jumped at the opportunity. I’m still new at this and there are so many things I haven’t learned to bake yet, so she suggested scones. Perfect. There’s a technique to scones that I’ve never even tried.
Nathaniel decided to come along, so we headed downstairs once Juliet was in bed. Barb had already assembled the ingredients, putting what we’d need for the dough on the table and setting out a separate tray with the mix-ins.
She very thoughtfully included chocolate, knowing my (extremely negative) feelings about dried fruit in baked goods. The plan was to make three separate batches, and there were already three bowls ready & waiting.
The butter was still in the fridge, as it needed to stay cold, so I measured out the flour and Nathaniel took on the task of getting it into the bowls. We added sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Barb got the butter out, and cut it into small cubes.
We asked Nathaniel to whisk the dry ingredients together. He needed a little guidance on the basic procedure & principles of whisking, and I was happy to provide it. I love whisking. I even just love the word. Wonderful whisking.
Once the butter was cut up, it went into the flour mixtures. We started with two of the bowls, saving the third for later. Barb taught me to mix the cubes in with the flour, but then squeeze each cube, flattening it with my fingers with the flour to make the mixture flaky. Since we were both knuckle-deep in flour & butter, Nathaniel took on the picture taking. I think he did a pretty good job.
He is, after all, still an eight-year-old boy with a camera. Ha!
In went the chocolate (or in Barb’s bowl, the dried cherries).
In went a cup of heavy cream.
Oh wait. Did I mention there were mojitos?
A perfect host as always, Barb introduced me to a whole new concept: cocktails and baking. I will have to remember this one.
Nathaniel surprised us both at this point by announcing that it was his bedtime. He was right, it was just past 9:00, but I was going to let him stay up for a while. I wasn’t, however, going to argue with such perfect behavior, so I hugged & kissed him and off he went. Dave told me later that he arrived back upstairs in our suite and brushed his teeth, then went to bed immediately. What a kid! I can only assume it was the influence of Barb and Pennsylvania, because Juliet put herself to bed that night too, with no negotiations or shenanigans whatsoever. The magic of Mussers’.
Once the heavy cream was added, the dough got pretty sticky…so sticky, in fact, that the next step — rolling it out, shaping it, and cutting it — just didn’t seem to be an option. Undaunted, Barb just suggested dropping the dough in large spoonfuls and making cute round biscuit-like scones vs. the more traditional, triangular ones.
We baked them. We took them out and smelled the glorious smells of the scones. We baked them a little longer. And then we had scones.
Now we still had one bowl of ingredients to work with, and Barb thought that using less of the cream would make the dough less sticky. She proposed about half as much, with the option to add more as needed. Turns out half was exactly right.
Barb had a pastry cloth that she’s had for decades, and she floured that up and started rolling out the dough on it. Now I want a pastry cloth too, and I want to have it for decades, and teach other people to bake on it. It does seem to be ideally suited to the task.
She rolled it to about three quarters of an inch thick, then shaped it into a large rectangle. She cut it into small rectangles with much more precision than I am usually able to muster up, especially after a mojito.
After that, we cut the rectangles in half to form triangles. I got to do some of that, taking care to be as precise as possible. Once they were all cut we loaded them into a big round pan that looked like a pizza pan, and put them in the freezer instead of baking them.
I don’t have a photo of the finished triangle ones, as they didn’t get baked until the morning, but they were a big hit with Nathaniel & Dave. (The dried blueberries ruled out my further involvement, but I was thrilled that they enjoyed them so much.) And they were fresh baked, with all the work having been done the night before.
Of course, Barb actually has room in her freezer for a giant tray with scones on it. Ours is jammed tight with frozen waffles & vegetables, random items from Trader Joe’s, things we can’t identify anymore, and leftovers that threaten to come flying out every time we open the door. But Barb has TWO kitchens, and is just generally a lot more organized and focused than we are. (She also has a business to run!)
We cut open one of the finished chocolate chip scones and had a look, then a taste. All the butter I normally avoid, yes, but worth every bite. SO flaky and light and buttery and wonderful.
What a great evening. We are so lucky to have found Mussers’ B&B, and Barb, and to be able to go on this special vacation once a year and do all this stuff for the kids. They do seem to love it.
Mussers’ Bed and Breakfast Flaky Scones
Baking temp: 400 degrees Time: 12-15 minutes—until golden brown
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter
2 cups + 2 T. of unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/8 t. salt
1 liquid cup of heavy cream (or milk)
1/2 currants or other dried fruit of choice or chocolate chips
Cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes.
In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the butter mixing by hand making it like flakes. Pinch butter cubes between thumb and fingers until there are no longer any hard lumps but flakes. It should not be grainy.
Add dried fruit or chocolate and mix.
Wet dough in bowl with cream but don’t over mix and don’t knead.
On a lightly floured surface shape the dough rolling it into a 3/4 inch thick rectangle, handling the dough as little as possible. Cut the rectangle into long strips and then cut more smaller rectangles, lastly cutting the rectangles into triangles.
At this point you can bake the scones or freeze them unbaked on a cookie sheet and when frozen transfer into freezer bags or containers to bake as needed. The frozen scones do not need to be thawed but baked frozen.
THANK YOU BARB!!! We can’t wait to come back and see you again next summer.