Extra yeasty: the pre-ferment
Before we get to the science, I need to defend my recipe. I called my dad earlier this week to wish him a happy birthday, and he immediately moved on to more pressing issues: these scones take too long. King of the Sunday-morning scones for as long as I can remember, he hasn’t stopped whining about the grated-butter technique since I wrote about it on here. Now that the latest scone has two rising steps, I think he’s about to stage a riot.
(For my dad and other complainers: take the dough all the way up to the shaping step the day before and stick it in the fridge overnight. Let it warm up to room temp for about 20 minutes, then bake it as usual. And stop whining.)
We owe some of this scone’s flexibility of schedule to the very first step. Mixing the yeast with water, sugar, and flour gives it a head start on all of the sugar-munching that create the wonderful, particular yeast-raised flavors. It won’t take this all the way to a sourdough taste, but you do get a little bit of the alcohol and distinct yeast notes. Your pre-ferment should get very bubbly as the yeast do their thing and release plenty of carbon dioxide, and it’s pretty much ready when it looks like this and smells like heaven.
Jump-starting the yeast also activates enzymes that help make your bread even more delicious. Protease and amylase, both proteins naturally found in flour, contribute to softness by softening the gluten network and encouraging stretchiness within the dough. Soft, fluffy baked goods with extra flavor? Sign me up!