Baking challenge: Scones a la Paul Hollywood

I made Paul Hollywood’s scones for tea-time, and I made them for the Great British Bake-Off series one, episode two technical bake. The chief thing I remember about this episode is Paul’s pride and absolute confidence in his scone recipe, which he’d baked for the Queen. Also, it’s notable, again, how simple the challenges were in the first series: scones are definitely something a competent home baker should know how to make.

My usual go-to scone recipe is Darina Allen’s, which are soft, fluffy and barely sweet. Darina Allen’s recipe makes a never-ending supply of scones which taste pretty good the next day. Paul’s recipe was simple, despite his calling for a  ‘chaffing’ technique (pretty easy but effective), the scones themselves were pleasantly sweet and they were fluffy and rose high. Sumptuous out of the oven, they were much better fresh than the next day and dried out fairly quickly, so make sure to cover them in an airtight container. A keeper. I suspect that the key to the lovely texture of Paul’s scones is the technique – the chaffing and the relaxing of the dough – so if you have a recipe whose flavour you love I’m sure you could incorporate the method used for Paul’s scones.

Interestingly, Paul’s recipe uses strong white flour, whereas many American ‘biscuit’ recipes (which are more like British scones) use delicate pastry flours. Also, I disobeyed his instructions and did not really leave to cool before piling with (whipped double) cream and strawberry jam.

Paul Hollywood’s scones
The original recipe can be found on the BBC website

  • 500g strong white flour, plus a bit extra for dusting
  • 80g softened butter, cubed, plus extra to grease
  • 80g caster sugar
  • Two eggs
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 250ml milk
  • To glaze: one egg, beaten with a little salt
  1. Preheat oven to 220C. Lightly grease a baking tray (the original recipe calls for it to be lined as well but I didn’t – because I didn’t have baking paper.
  2. Place 450g of the flour into a large bowl and add the butter. Rub the flour and butter together with your fingertips until the mixture is like breadcrumbs.
  3. Add the sugar, eggs and baking powder to the mixture and stir together with a wooden spoon. Make sure to incorporate all the ingredients, mixing all the way to the bottom of the bowl.
  4. Add half (125ml) of the milk and keep turning the mixture together gently with the spoon to combine. Add the remaining milk a little at a time and mix gently together to form a soft, wet dough. You may not need to add all the milk – but I did.
  5. Sprinkle most of the remaining flour onto a clean work surface. Gently tip (or scrape) out the dough onto the work surface. Sprinkle the remaining flour over the soft dough. The mixture will be wet and sticky.
  6. Using your hands to fold the dough in half; turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat the folding. This folding technique incorporates flour and air and accounts for the fluffy texture of Paul’s scones. Repeat this folding and turning action for a few times until the dough is smooth. If the mixture is too sticky, gently dust some flour over your hands. It’s important to avoid overworking the dough.
  7. Roll the dough out. Sprinkle flour over the work surface and on top of the dough. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough up from the middle and then down from the middle. Turn the dough 90 degrees and continue to roll in this way until it’s 2.5cm thick.
  8. Lift the edges of the dough slightly and allow it to drop back to the surface to relax the dough.
  9. Dip a pastry cutter (I used a 7cm-ish one) in flour and stamp out rounds from the pastry. Line up the rounds onto the baking tray. Don’t twist the cutter, just press firmly and lift it up straight away. This maintains the height of the scones.
  10. Once you’ve cut as many rounds of the dough out as you can, the dough can be gently patted together and re-rolled to cut out the remaining rounds. My very last scone was lumpily hand-formed. Reworking the dough means the scones won’t be as fluffy – but tant pis (my words, not Paul’s. He would never serve the Queen a sub-par scone).
  11. Let the scones rest on the baking tray for a few minutes to activate the baking powder. Then, using a pastry brush, glaze the tops with the beaten egg and salt mixture, making sure that the glaze does not run down the sides of the scones as this inhibits their rise.
  12. Bake scones for 15 minutes in the middle of the oven, until risen and golden-brown on top. Leave to cool a few minutes before splitting and eating with butter, cream, jam, golden syrup or whatever else you fancy.

2 thoughts on “Baking challenge: Scones a la Paul Hollywood

    1. I love the Great British Bake-Off. I think Paul can be a bit rude sometimes, to be honest. I think he was actually worst in series one, because although Mary Berry is incredibly well-known (…in the UK), PH was new and was trying to assert himself as a presence and credible authority. I think in series one he was more likely to criticise Mary and disagree with her, and now when he’s scathing it’s usually against a contestant. I don’t agree with everything he says but his recipes seem to work!

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