Monday, May 07, 2012

Cranberry-Orange Scones (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)

I could not be happier with these gluten-free, dairy-free scones! Baking with gluten-free grains and meals (like cornmeal) is challenging because they lack the elastic, chewy characteristics of gluten-full flours. Gluten helps hold baked good together, and is often replaced by xantham or guar gum to create gluten-free treats with a similar texture.

A lot of great gluten-free bakers and bloggers, however, don't rely on gums and make gluten-free flour blends that are heavy on nutrient-rich whole grain flours like teff, brown rice, amaranth, millet, almond meal and cornmeal, and light on starches. The starches are absolutely necessary parts of a good gluten-free blend, but I love that I can bake gluten-free with so many interesting, nutritious ingredients and still get a fabulous finished product.

The texture of these scones is soft and tender on the inside with a pleasantly substantial crumb. They are neither heavy nor rubbery.  The credit for the recipe goes to two sources: Gluten-free girl, whose blog is full of inspiration and resources for delicious, natural gluten-free cooking and baking. In her post on baking without gums and using more healthy grains, Shauna laid out her template for a flour blend that is 70% whole grains/meals and 30% starch. Blending a variety of gluten-free flours is often the best tactic because they all have different characteristics and perform differently in recipes.

There is so much to learn about gluten-free baking, and I'm just scratching the surface, so I'm not going to pretend to be an authority. But Shauna's approach is working for me, at least where scones are concerned, and that leads me to the second credit for this recipe. The original scones come from the book, Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe by Joanne Chang.

A quick, but important, aside: After making this scone recipe, I bought the book. Not just because I loved the scones, but because all the recipes include measurements in grams. This is so incredibly important for success in baking, especially gluten-free baking, and it drives me crazy that every baking book doesn't include weights. Here's the thing: a cup of teff flour has a different weight than a cup of all-purpose, and a different weight than a cup of brown rice flour and a different weight than a cup of almond meal. You cannot swap cup for cup, but you can substitute an equal weight of gluten free flours for all-purpose and have a much better shot at a great finished product. If you'd like to read more about that go here. For more info on GF flours and starches, check this out, along with this and this. For baking tips in general, the Gluten-Free Goddess is full of wisdom here.  I've said enough for now, so here is my version of Joanne Chang's scones adapted by Shauna at Gluten-Free Girl.

Cranberry-Orange Scones (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)
Adapted from Flour by Joanne Chang and Gluten-Free Girl

The original recipe makes 8 large scones. I cut it in half and made 6 medium-size scones. You can use your own gluten-free flour blend, but the best bet of course is to substitute flours and starches with similar properties to the ones below. My blend, like Shauna's is 70% grains and 30% starches. You'll see that I used a total of seven flours/meals/starches. I'm fairly sure that your blend needn't be quite so complicated, but this did work for me. 

Shauna's version is not dairy-free like mine, so it adheres more closely to the original, which gets extra richness from creme fraiche. I replaced the creme fraiche with soy yogurt, so I added an extra tablespoon of (vegan) butter to make up for some of the fat from the creme fraiche, giving my dairy-free version plenty of richness. I used sucanat for the sweetener, which has a mild molasses flavor, but I think either granulated sugar or evaporated cane juice sugar will work well. And, you can certainly switch up the add-ins! Use up to 1/2 cup of dried fruit and/or nuts of your choosing, as well as any citrus zest, spices or extract you like.

Makes 6 medium scones

71 g cold vegan buttery baking sticks, i.e. Earth Balance (5 T)
30 g plus 60 g plain soy yogurt
30 g plain almond milk
50 g superfine brown rice flour
30 g cornmeal
29 g teff flour
28 g almond meal
20 tapioca starch
20 potato starch
18 g sweet rice flour
35 g sucanat
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp (generous) salt
1/2 beaten large egg (25 grams)
Zest of 1 medium orange
40 g cranberries
For topping:
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Cut vegan butter into roughly 1/2-inch chunks and stick them in the freezer while you prepare the other ingredients.

2. Line a baking sheet (or something that will fit in your freezer, such as a plate) with parchment paper.

3. In a small bowl, combine 30 grams of the soy yogurt and the almond milk; set aside.

4. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: 7 grains/meals/starches, sucanat, ginger, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

5. In a medium bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients: remaining 60 grams yogurt, egg, orange zest and almond milk/yogurt mixture.

6. Take the butter out of the freezer and add to dry ingredients. Mix with a pastry blender, your fingers or a fork until you have a shaggy mixture with some chunks of butter the size of small peas, and some a bit larger. Add the wet ingredients and fold with a spatula until moistened (mixture should not come together in a ball yet, and you may still have some dry bits at the bottom of the bowl).

7. Turn dough out onto a work surface lightly dusted with brown rice flour. Quickly knead dough into a ball with floured hands and pat into a thick disk. Lightly dust with flour and roll into a 1/2-inch thick circle. Cut into 6 triangles with a large, sharp chef’s knife. Transfer to prepared baking sheet or plate, about 2 inches apart, and freeze for 15 minutes.

8. If using a plate, carefully lift parchment and transfer scones and parchment to a baking sheet. Brush with egg yolk and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake until bottoms are golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean, 14 to 16 minutes. Cool on baking sheet 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Fully cooled scones freeze beautifully in a heavy-duty zip top bag. Defrost at room temperature, or microwave on medium power for 10-second intervals until just defrosted and warmed, taking care not to over heat.


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