Q. We run a bed and breakfast, and often need to have fresh baked goods ready very early in the morning. Is there some way we can freeze prepared recipes to bake first thing? – Mary Ann and Jim Guertin, Lake George, NY
A: Freeze and bake scones!
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If there's one breakfast treat that's absolutely perfect for preparing ahead, it's scones. The secret is freezing them at the point where they're shaped, but not yet baked, the obverse of bake and freeze – freeze and bake scones.
Days (or weeks) later, when you're hurrying to make an early breakfast, simply pop those frozen gems into the oven, and within 20 minutes you're serving hot scones, ready for butter and jam.
Let's see how to make freeze and bake scones.
I'll start with one of my favorite recipes: Harvest Pumpkin Scones. I've added some pumpkin spice chips to the dough – just because.
For purposes of testing I divide the dough into six pieces, rather than the usual two. The rounds are still 3/4" tall, though, which will yield what I consider an optimally thick scone: about 1 1/2".
I brush the top of the scones with milk, and sprinkle with sparkling sugar. Then I cut each round into four wedges. For larger rounds, you'd cut six to eight wedges.
I tent the scones with plastic wrap, and freeze until solid, which will take a couple of hours.
Once frozen, I wrap each round tightly in freezer wrap...
...then bag the rounds as airtight as possible. Be sure to label and date the bag – your memory's probably not as good as you think it is!
Time marches on [calendar shedding pages, like in those old-time movies]. You decide it's time for some hot, fresh scones.
Transfer however many scones you want to a baking sheet. Parchment reduces cleanup to zero. For crisp-sided scones, separate the wedges as pictured above. For softer scones, leave the wedges close together.
Preheat your oven; the scones will thaw a bit while the oven heats.
Bake the scones for however long the recipe calls for, adding a couple of minutes or so to the time to account for the scones being partially frozen. (Though if your oven is slow to heat, the scones may be pretty much thawed by the time they go in.)
Remove fresh-baked scones from the oven; serve hot.
Now how easy was that?
Wait a minute – I hear it coming, everyone's burning question:
How far ahead can you do this, i.e., how long can you freeze unbaked scones?
Here are baked scones that had been frozen (unbaked) for 1 week (left), 2 weeks (center), and 3 weeks (right). No discernible difference in rise, right? And I can attest to their taste – all moist and tender. So you can freeze unbaked scones for at least 3 weeks without any reduction in quality.
After that, things get a bit dicey. I've baked scones that were in the freezer for 5 weeks, and there was definitely a diminution in rise and moisture. Thus I'd suggest freezing unbaked scones no longer than a month.
So, what if you're one of those super-organized people who has plenty of time to make scone dough in the morning and bake it right away, without freezing? I have a suggestion: slip the pan of shaped scones into the freezer anyway – but just for about 30 minutes.
Why? Chilling hardens the scones' fat, and time relaxes the gluten in the flour, both of which contribute to a higher rise.
On the left, a scone baked directly after shaping; on the right, after 30 minutes in the freezer. See the slight difference in rise? Just as chilled chocolate chip cookie dough produces a better cookie, so does chilled scone dough make a better scone.
Now, since the summer Olympics are coming right up, I'll close with this thought: freeze and bake scones embody the Olympic motto – faster, higher,