Pass up the opportunity to bake raspberry white chocolate scones and sip tea during a sunny morning in Victoria? I think not! It’s no secret that I enjoy baking, and I have (what I thought) was a scrumptious scone recipe. But when online bakery owner Carla Johnson invited me to learn how to bake her “classic English scones with delectable American flare,” little did I know that my scone formula was headed straight to recipe heaven.
Johnson’s scones, compared to ones found in British bakeries, are more “cakey” and sweeter, unlike scones that read more toward baking powder biscuits, served with jam or cream. “If I can have a morning of baking scones, I’m a happy person,” she says. Hear! Hear!
Johnson, who, up until a few months ago, lived in Victoria with her husband, Eric, and the two youngest children of the couple’s five children, began Victoria Street Bakery in the spring of 2018. The online business offers a variety of scones ($19.95/eight large or 12 petit), including banoffee, birthday cake, blackberry, brown sugar butter pecan, carrot cake, chocolate pecan, cinnamon and raisin, classic, cranberry pistachio, fruited classic, lemon poppy seed, lemon coconut, luscious lemon, maple pecan, orange cardamom, pink princess, raspberry, raspberry white chocolate, snickerdoodle, strawberries and cream, triple dark chocolate and vanilla sugar cookie. Variety packs are available for those suffering from a sweet case of indecisiveness. (Profits go to various ministries and charitable organizations. “I’ve always been mission minded,” Johnson says.)
The bakery’s name is a nod to Victoria Street, near Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral in London. Johnson, an Iowa native, is an Anglophile at heart. “I would live there in a heartbeat,” she says. In lieu of a move, Johnson’s settled for visiting England twice, stocking her kitchen with nearly 40 varieties of English (and some African) tea and satisfying her “Brit tooth” by baking scones. (She’s also working on opening a teahouse on their new property in Maple Plain.)
Johnson has baking down to a science, and she shared some of her tried-and-true tips for baking, including weigh, don’t measure the flour. “The texture is more balanced out,” she says. This tip was followed by a spirited conversation about King Arthur—as in the flour, not the Round Table. Is the scuttlebutt true, I asked, when it comes to the flour brand? Does it really make a difference? With more protein in the mix, King Arthur, she confirms, leads to better baking.
“Let’s talk vanilla,” I say of the flavor powerhouse. Brand be darned, “Pure,” Johnson simply recommends. What about using the bean? Nope. Johnson prefers, above all, vanilla powder. (Why is this the first I’ve heard of this ingredient?) With a potent flavor profile, “It’s just such a wonderful flavor that I’d just open the jar and smell it,” Johnson says, waxing poetic about vanilla powder. (Like most ingredients, there can be a wide range of price points. A cursory look revealed as such, so be sure to understand the contents of your purchase. FYI: kingarthurflour.com offers Nielsen-Massey’s Madagascar bourbon pure vanilla powder for $29.95/2.5 oz.)
Johnson had more recommendations. Opening the fridge, out it comes—the crème de la crème, so to speak,—Kerrygold Irish butter, which boasts a higher butterfat content than most American butters. She suggests using cold butter, which remains in chunks during mixing and produces a better rise. Finally, fresh is best when talking eggs (Johnson contends they offer better batter color), and fruit for adding to the batter or even serving as a side with the scone.
Once the batter is prepared, use a professional grade baking sheet. It matters, Johnson says, as does the oven temperature. She recommends baking at 400 F, which produces enough high heat for a quicker rise.
Ingredients and tools aside, perhaps Johnson’s scones taste so good because she puts her heart and soul into them, and that serves her commitment to her small bundles of baked nirvana. She says, “I love scones—baking, eating, sharing. That’s my big why.”
Tools of Her Trade
Carla Johnson spends a lot of time in her kitchen baking and cooking, so she is determined to make every minute count. Her top five kitchen tools include:
- Cookie dough scoop
- Cuisinart food processor
- Dough scraper
- Ingredient scale
- KitchenAid mixer