I’m going to let you in on a very real and very awkward moment in my life history. It involves standing in the middle of the bakery section at a Whole Foods in Los Angeles, picking up loaves of freshly-baked bread and sniffing them. This on its own was weird enough, but the fact that the bread-huffing was coupled with crying made it more of a spectacle. I wandered over to the pastry case and ogled the muffins, scones, and tarts, tears still gently streaming down my cheeks. One of the bakers asked me if I needed help. I tried to avoid eye contact and muttered a polite, “No, thank you.”
I had been gluten-free for a week, and while my allergies and tummy welcomed the change, my heart seemed to have a hole in it that needed to be filled with the promise of baked goods. Don’t worry, the story gets less pathetic. Hint: I’m totally going to stop crying and bake you scones.
The packaged gluten-free baked goods that were available at the time weren’t exactly what I would consider edible. They’ve gotten better in the last couple of years, but at the time, I wasn’t working with much. I found myself purchasing loaves of rice bread that resembled bricks. They were so dense and heavy they could have doubled as some sort of murder weapon. Seriously, they should add rice bread as a weapon in Clue. Oh, no...whodunnit? It was Colonel Mustard, in the kitchen, with a loaf of rice bread. Tragic.
So, even though I stopped being the sad, lurking bread-sniffer at my local grocery store (thank goodness), it was apparent to me that I might have to figure out how to make my own treats. It was time to put on my big girl oven-mitts and learn how to bake things that didn’t taste like cardboard.
Scones were one of the first things I ever learned how to bake, and they have always been a favorite of mine. Back in college, I was totally guilty of buying a couple of scones from Starbucks and turning them into a single-lady dinner. Classy, I know. There is just something so comforting about them. I love the crumb, and how it flakes off when you dunk it into a cup of tea. They are totally therapeutic.
I’ve dabbled with quite a few gluten-free flour combinations. Sometimes I use an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend, or I'll use a combo of various flours and gums. More recently I’ve been trying my hand at fully grain-free baking and have had surprisingly delicious results. When I discovered almond meal, which is essentially ground-up almonds, all bets were off. It keeps things moist and light with a decadent, buttery flavor.
In this recipe, I’m using a combination of both almond meal and coconut flour. Coconut flour is very absorbent and helps to give the scones that perfect crumbly consistency. Lemon gives them a little zing and the blueberries add bursts of juicy sweetness. I've even added in some calming chamomile tea which provides a subtle flavor and fragrance to the scones.
The best part? I’ve fed these grain-free scones to hosts of people for brunch and they’ve never guessed that they were gluten-free. The scones have simply disappeared quickly and produced only smiles. And if you ask me, I’ll take smiles and happy tummies over awkward fits of grocery store tears any day!
Grain-Free Lemon & Blueberry Scones
Makes 8 scones
2 cups almond meal
1 cup coconut flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 bag chamomile tea (use a tea bag with finely-ground tea, not whole flowers)
1 heaping tablespoon coconut oil, in its solid state
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
Zest from 1 lemon
1 1/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or other milk of your choice — I've used coconut milk and cow's milk with good results)
3/4 cup fresh blueberries
2 teaspoon turbinado sugar, to top the scones
Preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat and set aside.
Combine the almond meal, coconut flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a mixing bowl. Open the bag of chamomile tea and add the contents of the bag to the other dry ingredients. Whisk together to combine fully.
Add the cold coconut oil to the dry ingredients and work it in with your fingers until the mixture is slightly crumbly.
In a smaller, separate bowl, combine the coconut sugar and the lemon zest. With clean fingers, work the lemon zest into the sugar until the sugar is fragrant and slightly moist. Whisk this sugar into the bowl with the almond meal mixture until fully combined.
Add the milk, and using a spatula, mix thoroughly until the entire mixture is evenly moistened. Your mixture might still be a bit crumbly, and this is okay. It will come together as you handle it a little more.
Gently fold in the blueberries. Make sure to be gentle with them, or they will all burst.
Transfer the dough to the parchment-lined baking sheet and shape it into a ball. If your mixture was still crumbly, it should come together a bit more now as you gently press the pieces together. Once you've shaped a ball, press the dough down into a disk approximately 10 to 12 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Using a knife, cut the disk into eight even wedges, like a pie. Sprinkle the tops of the scones with turbinado sugar.
Bake the scones until they have browned and become crispy and golden brown on the outside, but are still slightly crumbly on the inside, 19 to 22 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and allow the scones to cool on the baking sheet for several minutes. Using a spatula or a knife, pull the segments apart from one another. Serve and enjoy!
(Image credits: Gina Eykemans)