I tasted scones for the first time when I was in my mid-twenties. (In fact, I think my initial scone endeavor might have been around the same period that I tried biscotti.) I immediately loved the moister-than-a-biscuit-but-less-sweet-than-a-muffin hybrid – so much so that I ate a scone (and a glass of milk) every morning for breakfast for several weeks. Then I noticed my pants getting tighter – but the only thing that had changed was the new scone habit. Hmm…. After a few minutes of research, I learned that I had been eating a full third of my daily calories with each scone I consumed – yikes! I put the brakes on the scones, and in another two weeks my pants fit just fine.
I steered clear of scones for a while. Then months later, I saw mini-scones in the grocery store. Perhaps I could enjoy a baby scone every now and again… (All things in moderation, right?) But the store didn’t have any flavors that I particularly liked; so I decided to go home and make a few mini-scones myself.
I found a recipe, assembled the ingredients, and started to measure and mix. Then I came to a curious point in the instructions: something about rubbing cold butter into the flour until it resembled coarse breadcrumbs? But then how would the scones actually form? I mean, if my batter was of a breadcrumb consistency, what would actually hold it together? I decided to trust the recipe, and dutifully rubbed the butter until I had my scone crumbs. Then I added liquid to the crumbs (milk, I think it was) – only they didn’t fully absorb all of the liquid, so I had a runny mess. Hopeful that the oven would firm up the soupy mix, I did my best to cut the soggy dough into wedges, then set the limp mounds on a baking sheet, put the sheet into the oven, and crossed my fingers that the heat would perform magic and yield tasty treats. Hopefully my faith would be rewarded?
Nope. At the end of 30 minutes, what I received were damp chunks of dough that in no way resembled the beautiful breakfast treats I had come to know as ‘scones’. I was disappointed – and I never again trusted a recipe that told me to “cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs”.
In fact, I avoided scone recipes all together. I resigned myself to the fact that I simply didn’t have the culinary chops to work magic with cold butter; and since every scone recipe I saw required that step in one form or another, I guess that meant I didn’t have the skills required to make scones.
Well my friends, that logic is bullshit. As I continue to refuse to be ‘afraid’ of recipes, the day would come when scones and I would meet again – and I would emerge victorious. Hopefully.
As I scoured the internet looking for a scone recipe that might help stack the deck in my favor, I found a fellow former-scone-flunkie (Lynn Kessel) who did some scone research herself, and created a simple, ‘failproof’ recipe for all of us bakers who have experienced a scone debacle in our past.
Lynn solved my problem of trying to “rub cold butter into the dough until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs” by omitting butter completely – she used heavy whipping cream instead. She also resolved the issue of attempting to cut sticky dough with a knife by freezing her dough before cutting it. (Genius! Thanks Lynn.)
Lynn’s recipe was a good start, but pouring two cups of heavy whipping cream into a recipe is not in alignment with how I like to eat (i.e., healthy). I wondered if I could find a suitable liquid replacement for all that cream? After a little more poking around the internet, I found Rianne at The Art of Dessert, who made a vegan scone that used coconut milk instead of dairy fat. Ah ha! A lower calorie/lower fat replacement for cream – and the swap made the recipe vegan to boot. Win win!
When I went to the grocery store to purchase coconut milk, I was dismayed to see that “fully leaded” coconut milk is not much healthier than whipping cream. However, I did see canned lite coconut milk on the shelf – so I made an executive decision to give the lite option a whirl. I did wonder if making this change would render the scones too dry – but I won’t know until I try…
As I examined the nutritional label, I also saw that each can of coconut milk contained 1.5 cups of liquid – half a cup short of the quantity I needed. I didn’t want to have to buy two full cans of coconut milk if I only needed a small quantity from the second can; so I chose to make up the difference with soymilk. Again, this modification could be a total disaster, but here’s hoping it works out…
Finally, I chose blueberry-flavored cranberries as my dried fruit add-in. When trying to decide what flavor of scones to make, I was torn between blueberry and cranberry – so when I saw blueberry-infused cranberries in the store, I thought, “A perfect solution to my dilemma!”
And so, with help from Lynn, Rianne, and Necessity, this recipe was born:
Crazy Vegan Healthy Scones
- 3 3/4 cups bread flour (this seems like an awful lot of flour…)
- 1/2 cup sugar (…and this seems like not enough sugar for the amount of flour being used…)
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 14-ounce can lite coconut milk (cold and well-shaken)
- 1/2 cup unsweetened soymilk (cold)
- 1 cup dried fruit
- 2 tablespoons soymilk
- 3 tablespoons turbinado sugar for topping
- Cut two 10-inch circles of parchment paper. Use one to line a 10-inch round cake pan. Reserve the second piece.
- Put the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together into a big mixing bowl. Stir to integrate the ingredients together, then make a well in the center of the mixture.
- Add the coconut milk (don’t forget to shake it!) and soymilk to the mixture and stir by hand, just until the batter is evenly moistened. (Do not overmix.) [It took me exactly 20 full turns around the bowl.]
- Add the dried fruit, and mix just enough to integrate the fruit into the batter. [It took me 5 turns around the bowl.]
- Place the dough in the lined cake pan. Lightly moisten your hands with water, then press the dough into an even layer. Cover the dough with the second parchment paper circle. Freeze the dough until very firm, at least 12 hours.
- (12 HOURS LATER): Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. [I had to use two baking sheets to fit all the scones.]
- Thaw the dough for 5 minutes at room temperature, then turn it out of the cake pan onto a cutting board. [I ran a sharp knife around the edge of the cake pan; once I did this, I simply inverted the pan on a cutting board, and ten seconds later the weight of the batter pulled itself out of the pan perfectly.]
- Cut the dough into 16 equal wedges, and place the individual wedges on the baking sheet about 2 inches apart.
- Brush each scone with soymilk and sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar.
- Bake the scones until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes, then transfer them to cooling racks. Serve them warm or at room temperature.
Makes 16 scones.
As the scones baked in the oven, they produced a beautifully fragrant smell: sweet, but not cloyingly so, and with a lovely hint of berries. After 30 minutes I peeked in the oven to check on the progress of the wedges – and I was thrilled to discover that the mounds on the baking sheet looked like real scones! Freezing the dough and cutting it into individual pieces with a knife made a huge difference – I dare say these scones were very easy to make.
But this experiment is only a success if the scones actually taste good; so after allowing the scones to come to room temperature, I chomped into one.
- The exterior of the scone had a gentle ‘crunch’ to it; the interior was doughy and chewy. The texture of this scone reminded me of a soft-baked pretzel, but with a less-tough outer crust.
- The scone wasn’t as crumbly/dry as scones usually are; for me, this is actually a positive quality. But for people who like ‘traditional’ scones, the version I made would probably be disappointing.
- Taste-wise, my scone was mildly sweet, and semi-bland. It reminded me of a very basic vanilla muffin; I didn’t get any hint of blueberry or cranberry until I ate one of the dried fruits. Still, I liked the flavor of this scone; but again, if someone wanted a strong wallop of flavor, this treat doesn’t deliver.
- Basically, I think this version of a scone isn’t what people think of when they think “scone”; but I do think it makes a nice, sweet, mild finish to a meal. (Or a traditional tea-time snack.) This scone seemed like a cross between a muffin and a biscuit one would make as the base for a strawberry shortcake.
In the end, I don’t think I would feel comfortable creating these baked goods and billing them as ‘scones’; but I did like the end product I created, and would happily make these again. Of course I’d experiment with different flavors (maybe playing with cinnamon and apples, or rum extract and raisins, or lemon and poppy seeds….), and I bet I’d be happy with all of the results.
If you have a semi-healthy, no-butter-rubbing-required scone recipe, I’d love to receive it! In the meantime, here’s a slideshow of this scone journey. Enjoy!