In Search of the Perfect Gluten Free Scone

I love drinking hot tea. I favor herbal teas, such as lemon balm or rose hops, or Scottish blends containing heather or thistle. When I visited Scotland for the first time in 2014, I came home with a delightful new tradition…afternoon tea.

The typical Scottish or English tea includes finger sandwiches, tiny cakes, shortbread cookies and a scone. Those foods are no longer a part of my diet. And while I enjoy having tea with fresh fruit or veggies, or just a plain cup of tea, I would love to be able to include scones again.

The search for the perfect gluten free scone was on!

The problem is, I require a recipe that is not only gluten free, but also dairy, egg and sugar free as well. Such a scone has been difficult to find! A couple of weeks ago I tried a gluten free scone mix. These weren’t bad! They looked more like flat sugar cookies, without being sweet at all. I ate them with a side of fruit. But they weren’t exactly what I was searching for.

Tonight, encouraged by my recent successes with what I have dubbed “intuitive cooking”, I decided to try making healthy scones from scratch.

This batch was created using 2 cups of gluten free flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla, 1 tablespoon raw organic honey and for leavening, I mixed together 1 tablespoon of potato starch and 3 tablespoons of cold water. I mixed the ingredients, and then added unsweetened almond coconut milk, a tablespoon at a time, until a dough formed that would hold its shape. I ended up adding 7 tablespoons of almond coconut milk.

I turned the dough ball out onto a floured surface, using more gluten free flour, and gently shaped it into a sphere. The sphere of dough was cut into eight pieces and transferred to a pizza pan lined with parchment paper. I brushed the tops of the scones with a mixture of unsweetened almond coconut milk and raw organic honey and baked for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

The scones looked good! They smelled good. The taste was closer to what I am searching for. However, to quote a U2 song…“I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”. The texture wasn’t light enough. Rather, these scones were dense and chewy.

So, back to the kitchen I will go soon, for attempt number three. I am not discouraged. Every experiment in cooking teaches me something new, something important. I take notes about the process and ingredients I use so I can make adjustments. I believe I need a good leavening agent, something other than eggs.

I will do more research and try again. For evening tea, I had tasty, chewy scones! Nothing is wasted here…not food and not time. I create, I learn, I create again. I’ll let you know when I come up with that elusive gluten, dairy, egg, sugar free scone!

Day 243: Afternoon Tea Party

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What fun, for today’s first. Seven members of my family joined me for afternoon tea, which in my book, constitutes a party! Due to the heat and humidity this afternoon, rather than meet in the garden, I took the party to my mom’s house, where she and my stepdad, my sister Debbie, my niece Ashley, her husband Jon, and their two sons, Ethan and Kaleb, gathered around the dining room table for a formal high tea.

This is what afternoon tea is all about, taking time out of the day to gather, visit, take refreshment and sip tea. The three year old, Kaleb, met me as I came into the house, showing me a treat his mom had bought him at the store. “For the tea party,” he said. The children pulled up chairs and joined us. They didn’t have the hot tea but they enjoyed the rest of the refreshments.

For this tea, and sharing it for the first time with members of my family, I wanted the experience to be as authentic as I could make it, based on my afternoon teas in Scotland. I got to set up and use the three tier server that I purchased yesterday. The scones went on the middle tier, and strawberry jam and butter were nearby to accompany this treat. My mom helped me make finger sandwiches….thinly sliced ham or turkey with Swiss cheese and cream cheese, cucumber and fresh tomato. These occupied the lower tier at the base of the stand. On the top tier my niece Ashley arranged Walker’s shortbread cookies, brownie bites with cream cheese and raspberry preserves and red velvet mini cupcakes.

Debbie and Ashley helped me to prepare the tea. We fixed a pot of Heather Tea and individual cups of Highland Blend Tea. A small ceramic container of milk, tea cups and saucers, teaspoons, small plates, and knives for the butter and jam were all placed on the table, and we were ready. I was “mother” and poured the tea, for those of us savoring the Heather Tea and our afternoon tea party was launched.

This was an incredibly meaningful afternoon. I so enjoyed sharing tea with these seven dear family members. None had had hot Scottish tea with milk in it before. The scones were a hit, as were the cream cheese, cucumber, and tomato sandwiches. Ethan, who is nine, asked questions as he sampled the food. Kaleb sat by me. It was cozy. It was delightful. It was fun. I loved it.

I am blessed with more family members, and wonderful friends. I look forward to sharing this beautiful ritual with many others. I believe I’ll be ordering more Scottish tea soon!

Day 242: Scottish Scones

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Tomorrow I look forward to creating and sharing an Afternoon Tea with several members of my family. Today, I gathered the necessary ingredients to prepare finger sandwiches and tiny sweets, and I bought a three tier server that goes well with my white porcelain teapot and tea cups. I also picked up the ingredients to make scones.

Afternoon tea became such a delightful break each afternoon while in Scotland. Mindy and I looked forward to it, and Harry tolerated and indulged us! Back home, I have continued to have tea every afternoon. It is a great way to slow down, gather my thoughts and refresh. I’ve fixed finger sandwiches and have primarily relied on store bought or restaurant goodies to complete tea time.

While in Scotland, I purchased a traditional recipe book, intending to learn how to make tea time treats and other delectable dishes myself. Today I decided to make scones for my first and share them tomorrow with my family.

The scone, which in Scotland is pronounced to rhyme with “gone”, is a Scottish bread that first appeared in the 1500’s. There are variations on the origin of the name, from a Dutch word that means “beautiful bread” to the treat being named after the Stone of Destiny, upon which every Scottish king has been crowned. Whatever its name origin, the first scones were made of Scottish oats and cooked on a griddle. Later, after the invention of the oven, the scones were traditionally made of flour, instead of oats, and baked. Scones are very like American biscuits, and served with strawberry jam and clotted cream, butter or can even be enjoyed with cheeses or meats. Although they can contain currants, raisins or other dried berries, they are often served plain.

Scones became a popular and essential part of afternoon tea when Anna, the Duchess of Bedford (1788-1861), ordered tea late one afternoon and requested sweet breads as well. The serving girl brought in a selection of breads, including scones. The Duchess enjoyed the tea time so much that she continued the practice each afternoon, eventually inviting her friends to join her. The ritual of afternoon tea was established, and continues in the United Kingdom still, and is most commonly enjoyed between 2:00 – 4:00.

Using the recipe in my Traditional Scottish Recipes book, I created my first batch of scones this evening. The sound of bagpipes accompanied my efforts, as my iPod played softly nearby. Although the recipe was simple, and very similar to making biscuits, the author states that it takes practice to make a good scone. I was a bit nervous as my first scones came out of the oven. Their aroma preceded them, and they smelled wonderful. They weren’t quite as tall as the scones I had in Scotland, but I will keep working to perfect the technique of quickly and lightly handling the dough.

Although these are for tomorrow’s tea, I had to sample one. I broke a hot, fresh scone in two, dabbed a bit of butter on it and added a smear of strawberry jam. Bliss. I smiled. And I realized as I was standing in my kitchen, enjoying a scone and listening to Celtic music, that an amazing shift had taken place. The last time I made Scottish shortbread, I had also listened to bagpipes as I worked, and daydreamed of the day I’d visit Scotland. Tonight, as I worked, with the aroma of scones and the wail of bagpipes filling my kitchen, I didn’t daydream of Scotland, I remembered…..remembered being there, remembered cozy afternoons having tea, remembered so much more. The dreaming had transitioned into memories. I am so incredibly grateful.