Fakin’ It When You Bake It: Scones

I thought today I’d give you a behind-the-brain look at how I came up with my scone recipes. There are some general rules of thumb and things to look out for which may help you if you want to create a recipe from scratch or modify an existing one. I have begun to “veganize” some of my scones recipes by substituting soy milk for milk. A note about whether this is an appropriate substitution will be added to recipes after I test them. My Apricot Ginger Scones were my first vegan scone and they were great! (If you want more vegan scones, check out Nancy’s raisin buns and tea buns!)

Lemon Poppyseed Scones

Lemon Poppyseed Scones

The first thing is the baking powder and salt ratio. You may notice that I tend to use 1 Tbls of baking powder to 1/2 tsp salt. The reason why is that over the years I’ve noticed that a lot of recipes for scones and muffins use these amounts. Not all do, but I’ve noticed this particular ratio more consistently than others. Of course it depends on what you’re making and how much. For a dozen, that seems to be about right. If you want to experiment with the amount of levening, this is a good place to start.

Of course, a lot depends on the amount of flour and other dry ingredients. For a dozen scones, amounts of flour range from 1 3/4 to 2 1/2 cups. I use organic unbleached all purpose flour.

I also add protein powder to some of my baking recipes. A friend recently asked me what it was, what could be substituted, and why it was even in the recipe. I felt foolish for assuming that everyone had heard of protein powder for protein shakes…and other baking needs. I use unflavored because it can be added to other recipes besides shakes. The protein powder is whey protein. Depending on the brand (and your own vegan or vegetarian practices) it may or may not be suitable for you. (Not all powders are made using animal rennet.) My rationale in not going into this in the recipes is that if you’re okay with using low fat milk in the recipes, you’re probably going to be okay with using whey protein, too. But why the heck am I putting this in my baked goods??

Cinnamon Vanilla Scones. They smell amazing hot from the oven!

Cinnamon Vanilla Scones. They smell amazing hot from the oven!

Whey protein has been proven to help stabilize blood sugar, so if you’re diabetic or have concerns about carbs going off like a bomb in your blood stream, the addition of extra protein will help some. (Though limiting the amount you eat will also help. If you stuff yourself with a plateful of scones, the small amount of protein that’s added is not going to save you!) The addition of protein powder also, I’ve noticed, makes the scones brown up nicely in the oven. You can use all flour instead of substituting protein power for some of the flour, but the scones may be still pretty pale when they’re done.

I would caution you about substituting a lot of protein powder for flour. It’s not a grain. It changes the consistency of the dough. I once ran out of flour and ended up substituting protein powder for half the flour…without changing any other ingredient amounts. The dough was a wet sticky mess, which ended up more like drop cookies than scones.

And that’s why you may need to change the amount of liquid in a recipe if you substitute unflavored whey protein powder for part of the flour. The dough will be wetter and stickier than if you use flour alone, so don’t just dump the usual amount of milk (or water) in. I use less milk in recipes since I started experimenting with protein powder.

Plain hazelnut scones, hot from the oven.

Plain hazelnut scones, hot from the oven.

Another nutritious addition to scones is to substitute a nut meal for part of the flour. I’ve only used hazelnut meal (I really love hazelnuts), but it will make the dough wetter and stickier and you just have to more or less go with it…otherwise you’ll just keep adding more flour which will be absorbed and the dough will become sticky again and you’ll add more flour etc. until you end up with a very dense scone. Nuts are a good source of protein, so if you don’t want to use (or don’t have) protein powder, you can add a bit of protein by substituting a nut meal for part of the flour.  My hazelnut scones (plain, chocolate, and cranberry) are a good starting place if you want to try a nuttier scone.

I also use less sugar because I honestly don’t think scones need to be as sweet as candy. They’re supposed to be only slightly sweet, or have enough sugar that they don’t taste flat and un-sweet. If you want something as sweet as a cinnamon roll, then you should probably just go with a cinnamon roll. 😉

Cheese Scones. Warm, dense and delicious.

Cheese Scones. Warm, dense and delicious.

Of course, there’s a whole category of savory scones, of which cheese scones are probably the best known. It’s worth experimenting with different cheeses if you are a mouse. 😉 Here’s my cheesy scones. (Many cheeses are not made with animal rennet these days, so if you’re scrupulous about this, there are quite a few options.)

For the fat in the recipe…and sadly, baking really good things usually does require the addition of fat….this is part of kitchen chemistry. The fat has an essential role in the way the ingredients of baked goods come together, as well as flavor. I use Smart Balance Original. Varying the type of fat can change the texture of scones, but whether you use full fat butter or some margarine substitute, it will probably still taste good. I’ve used a variety of margarines over the years and though I have noticed a difference in the way the scones turn out, nothing has ever turned out bad because of the type of fat I use. (The exception to this is substituting oil for a more solid-ish fat. If you use oil, you’ll need to use less of it, if the recipe calls for butter or margarine, otherwise you’ll end up with something really greasy.)

Flavors…ahhhh…flavorings. As you may have guessed from some of my other posts I like finding a good formula and then swapping off flavor combinations. (An extravagant example of this is my oatmeal and yogurt breakfast improvisions.)  I’ve begun experimenting with flavor extracts and spices in scones as you’ve seen in my recent  Lemon Poppyseed Scones and Cinnamon Vanilla Scones posts. I anticipate doing more along these lines, and hope you will too!

So, you see, I’m not quite the mad scientist in the kitchen that I appear to be. 😉 I hope this peek into my process when doing scone improvisations will help you with your own baking experiments. 🙂

Hazelnut scones with mini-chocolate chips

Hazelnut scones with mini-chocolate chips

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