The increased interest in gluten-free baking is absolutely overwhelming. Not a day goes by when I am not asked for a gluten-free recipe for a cake, pastry or biscuit. I suppose the first thing I want to say is that this is not a fad or people’s imagination; there is a definite rise in food sensitivities, and wheat is one of the big ones.
Many people with wheat and gluten issues experience quite severe reactions after eating gluten, and those with coeliac disease cannot eat any gluten at all. The classic symptoms of wheat sensitivity are bloating, fatigue and gas. If in doubt, leave it out of your diet for a few weeks and see how you feel. If you have severe symptoms however, go see your doctor.
This week I have decided to look at scones – a great alternative to bread if you’re looking for something gluten-free to bake. I am not a big fan of making gluten-free bread because just does not keep, so unless you have four very hungry bread-lovers in your home, you will struggle to finish it before it goes stale. Another reason I like scones is that I can include some veggies in the mix, and this creates an all-round healthier alternative to bread. Scones also don’t need any yeast, and sometimes those with funny tummies find yeast can throw a spanner into the digestive system.
Rustic scones take hardly any time to through together – they don’t need rolling out or time for rising. I use a lightly floured cutter or the top of a glass to cut them into rounds or you can make what we call “shearer’s scones” here in Australia, which means we just pat the scone dough out into a large square and then cut them into smaller squares. Scones are my kind of no-muss, no-fuss cooking.
Traditionally, scones were made by rubbing butter into the flour, but the Australian CWA (Country Women’s Association) recipe changed all of that for me. Their wrists probably tired of the finicky rubbing-in movements, so they came up with a much better alternative – using cream in place of the butter. I know, I know; not a very healthy alternative, but sometimes on a rainy afternoon when I feel like a Devonshire tea and I have been “good” all week, I think “why not?”.
Below are two varieties; a delicious savoury pumpkin scone and a more decadent version of the quintessential Australian fluffy white scone that’s perfect for Devonshire teas. These wont keep as long as your scones that contain gluten – they like to be eaten straight out of the oven or shortly after, but that never seems to be a problem in my house.
FLUFFY GLUTEN-FREE SCONES
- 1 cup gluten-free plain flour¼ cup white rice flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ cup almond meal
- a good pinch of sea salt
- 60ml cream
- 125ml milk, plus a little extra for brushing
- strawberry jam, to serve
- whipped cream, to serve
Preheat oven to 220°C/440°F/gas 7 and line a baking tray with baking paper. Put the flours, baking powder, almond meal and salt into a bowl, make a well in the centre. Combine the cream and milk then pourin to the well and mix just until the dough comes together. Pat the dough out on a lightly floured surface and use a lightly floured round cutter to cut rounds out of the dough. Place the rounds touching each other into the lined baking tray, lightly the brush the tops with milk and bake for 10 minutes, or until risen and golden. Break in half whilst warm and serve with fruit spread and whipped cream.
SAVOURY PUMPKIN & PEPPER GLUTEN-FREE SCONES
- 250g pumpkin, steamed and mashed
- 1/2 cup gluten-free plain flour
- 1 cup brown rice flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 cup fine polenta
- 2 spring onions, sliced
- good pinch of sea salt
- 1/2 cup Greek style plain yoghurt
- 60ml olive oil
- 20g Parmesan, very finely grated
- 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
- cracked black pepper
Preheat oven to 220°C/440°F/gas 7 and line a baking tray with baking paper. Sift the flours and baking powder together, then stir in the pumpkin, polenta, spring onions and salt and make a well in the middle. Combine the yoghurt and olive oil, then pour it into the well and mix with a flat-bladed knife until the dough comes together. Pat the dough out on a lightly floured surface, sprinkle with the Parmesan, pumpkin seeds and pepper, then use a lightly floured knife to cut the dough into squares. Transfer the dough to the lined baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until risen and golden.