gluten-free scones

I’ve eaten a lot of bad scones. And I don’t mean gluten-free scones, although I haven’t had much success with them before this week. I mean regular gluten scones, the ones I ate before six years ago.

You know the ones, right? The big-chain coffee shop scones. The ones that crumble like cheap grocery-store cake as soon as you touch your lips to them. Or the ones that crumble at first touch right onto your lip. Or the ones that sit like rocks in your stomach. Poor scones. They’ve received such a bum rush.

Scones, to me, should have a solid texture — you should know you’re eating more than air — with the flaky layers of a good pie crust. Substantial yet light, like that friend you adore who never makes you talk about the state of your friendship, makes you laugh so hard you snort, and sits next to you the minute you say you need someone there.

Wow, it seems I’m asking a lot from a scone.

Scones are lovely wonderful things. And finally, I have mine down.

Two forces finally made scones easy for me.

1. The Gluten-Free Ratio Rally.

This band of bakers is making me tackle baked goods I left until later. It’s such an honor to be talking with and baking with people who care deeply about getting this right. Going from a ratio means we understand better how these ingredients tumble together into something as lovely as a scone. (And how they are different than a pancake.)

(To see this month’s entire spectrum of scones made by ratio, check out this post by the lovely Lauren at Celiac Teen.)

Scones, it turns out, need a lot of flour, a good chunk of butter, some liquid like buttermilk or cream, and some egg.

After lots of playing, I realized the ratio for scones that works for me: 7 parts flour/4 parts liquid/2 parts butter/1 part egg.

So, if you think of it this way, you can play with any flours you like, any liquids you like, any fats you like, and an egg. (Or an egg replacer, like the ones suggested in this post.) Think of it this way and you have total freedom. What kind of scone do you want to make?

We really only bake with whole-grain flours around here now. It’s clear that we’ll be baking most days. I’ve grown tired of the starches. Forget the gums — you just don’t need them. Once I cut those out, I realized that I want the flavor and substantial texture that whole-grain flours provide. I’m done with white stuff.

We’re also playing with alternative sweeteners. It’s funny when cane sugar in its raw state is considered alternative to the refined stuff. I’ve fallen in love with sucanat lately. I love its sort of molasses/almost caramel taste. And since it’s not refined, it feels good to be using it in our kitchen.

So, I knew some of my ingredients. But I needed a great recipe, based on the solid ratio, to guide me toward great scones.

2. Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe

We recommend recipes from cookbooks here frequently. And we recommend individual cookbooks too.

However, listen to me say this, in as clear and definitive voice as I can use:

If you are interested in becoming a better baker, you must buy Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe. You must buy it.

Joanne Chang’s book is precise and inventive at the same time. She explains everything she knows about baking in mathematics and poetry both. Her headnotes are playful. Her recipes are airtight.

Every single recipe we have made from her book has been superb. And since she gives her recipes in grams, all I need to do to make the recipes gluten-free is to substitute an equal weight of grams of our whole-grain mix for her all-purpose flour. It’s that simple.

I’m not kidding. Buy a copy of Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe if you are at all serious about baking.

Now, let’s have some scones.

CURRANT SCONES, adapted from Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe

Scones seem intimidating at first. However, once you have made them a couple of times, you’ll see there’s a rhythm to them. Combine the dry ingredients and the butter. Freeze. Break up the butter, a bit. Combine the liquids. Add the liquids until a dough forms. Pat it down, cut wedges, do an egg wash. Bake. Cool. Eat.

You’ll see directions to put flours and doughs into the freezer. Don’t skip this step. Working with everything cold means you’ll have flaky layers and a light dough instead of the hardened clumps so often sold as scones in coffee shops.

Consider this recipe a template — as all the ratio rally recipes are — for the kind of scone you’d like to make that day. Cranberries? Walnuts? Cilantro and tomato? Have fun.

390 grams whole-grain gluten-free mix
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
70 grams (1/3 cup) sucanat
80 grams (1/2 cup) currants
114 grams (1/2 cup or 1 US stick) cold butter, cut into 8 to 10 pieces
120 grams (1/2 cup) cold buttermilk
120 grams (1/2 cup) thick Greek yogurt or crème fraiche
1 cold egg
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons raw sugar

Preparing to bake. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Or, if you want your scones to puff up higher, grease a 9-inch pie pan (preferably not glass). Preheat the oven to 350°.

Mixing the dry ingredients. Pour the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sucanat, and currants into the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix them together on low speed until they are well combined.

Add the pieces of butter. Put the entire mixing bowl into the freezer for at least 5 minutes and no longer than 15 minutes.

Mixing the liquids. While the bowl is chilling, combine the buttermilk, yogurt, and egg. Whisk them together well.

Making the scone dough
. Put the bowl back on the stand mixer. Mix on the lowest speed until the butter has broken down a bit. The pieces of butter should be the size of lima beans.

Slowly, pour the buttermilk mixture into the flour-butter mixture with the mixer running on low speed. As soon as the dough comes together — with loose flour remaining on the bottom of the bowl — turn off the mixer.

Forming the scones
. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. Turn over the dough with your hands. It will be a bit wet, with the loose flour at the bottom. Gently, turn the dough in the loose flour until all the flour is mixed in. Do not over-mix. You want to keep the buttery layers in the dough.

Dump the dough onto the baking sheet (or in the pie pan). Pat the dough into a 7-inch circle about 1 inch thick. Brush the egg yolk over the top, then sprinkle with the raw sugar. Cut the circle of dough into 8 wedges. Put the dough into the freezer for 15 minutes.

Baking the scones. Slide the dough into the oven. Bake until the entire circle of dough is golden brown and firm to the touch, about 50 minutes. Allow the scones to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then slice the wedges.

Serve.

Makes 8 scones.

A few notes:

If you want to make cheddar chive scones, take out the sucanat and currants. Replace them with 84 grams of cheddar cheese, diced into ¼-inch cubes, ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika, and a good handful (about ½ cup) fine-diced chives. Use about 100 grams of cornmeal and 290 grams of whole-grain flours. Brush the top with the egg yolk and a pinch of coarse sea salt. All the rest is the same.

All scones are best the day they are made, but they will keep in an airtight container for 3 days. After a day, heat them in a 300° oven for 8 minutes or so. You can also freeze these — plastic wrap works best — for up to 1 week. A scone a day!

47 comments on “gluten-free scones

  1. Nancy

    Bad scones…they should be outlawed! I was forced to eat a S*bucks scone at a convention center a few months ago. It was one of the scariest pieces of ‘food’ I have ever encountered. This recipe looks delightful and I must try it :)

  2. Jillian

    When you say you’re “tired of the starches,” does that mean you’re not including them in your gf flour mix any more?

  3. Caneel

    I love this post, with the directions for freezing. I haven’t heard of that — and must try it for my next batch! These look incredible! Thank you for pioneering the rally. I’m having so much fun experimenting and learning with it!

  4. Jeanette

    These scones are gorgeous! I agree, gluten free baking with whole grains is the way to go. This is such a terrific idea, the Gluten-Free Ratio Rally. I learned so much!

  5. Nina

    My stomach is growling. Can’t wait to try this. Also hope I can make you laugh until you snort. Love the scone/friendship analogy. You are you-nique, my friend Shauna!

    Funny– I’ve been leaving the starches behind, too. (hence that pie crust recipe I sent you– try it, you’ll like it!)
    Thanks for the scrumptious scone inspiration.

  6. Nina

    1) Those look tasty. I’m a little perturbed by egg in scones, but maybe I’ll give it a go!

    2) We’ve been almost sugar-free in my house for some time now (apart from very occasionally). This sucanat stuff — it’s still cane sugar, right? So doesn’t it still have the problems described in the NY Times article you shared, around the metabolisation of fructose? Anyone know anything about xylitol, other than that it’s good for your teeth and tastes nice?

    3) Aha, no more starches! Yesterday I tried making a gluten-free flat-breads recipe from a book, using flax instead of xanthan gum. The recipe includes 25g cornstarch, but I used tapioca starch (the other flours are 100g rice and 100g gram/garbanzo). The mixture was soooo sticky — whereas when I’ve made it with xanthan it’s been fine. I mean, to handle the dough I probably used another 25g flour for dusting, and then while the breads were rising they stuck to the non-stick parchment! Any thoughts? Unscientifically I’d changed 2 variables at once — usually I substitute arrowroot for the cornstarch. Do you think the flax would have made it so sticky, or the tapioca?

  7. Julie

    Not kidding — Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe just arrived on my doorstep (ordered a few books last week) — it’s sitting at my feet now. Can’t wait to crack it open. You’re right — life’s too short for bad scones.

  8. Jenn

    Just lovely Shauna, really. Our ratios ended up very similar — mine used just a little more fat, but I think that’s because I counted the fruit purée as fat in my ratio — I bet if I had used only butter it would’ve been an even 2 as yours was rather than 2.5.

  9. Mandi

    That scone right before the recipe looks like its licking its lips, ready to gobble down its fellow scones. I had just looked up regular scones recipes to try out this weekend when I noticed your post. I’m so excited to give this recipe a try, and no gf substitutions needed!

    1. ~Mrs. R

      Yes! Cashew cream is wonderful! I used it in the scones I made for the Ratio Rally. It is also what I use in my tea. :-)
      Blessings,
      ~Mrs. R

    1. ~Mrs. R

      You can add lemon juice or apple cidar vinegar to cashew cream (or So Delicious brand coconut milk beverage) for a great substitute for buttermilk. I use cashew cream a lot! I love it, love it, love it! You can see how I use it in my recipes on my blog, all of which are dairy free as well as gluten free.
      ~Mrs. R

  10. Ki

    I (heart) Ratio Rally. Ever since this started, I’ve been bravely baking and we have had some phenomenal results. I never would have started baking with coconut oil without the Ratio Rally and that was a lasting revelation.

    Please, KEEP IT UP! It ROCKS!

  11. Kate

    Oh I need to make more scones! These look so appetising and healthy.

    You should be mighty proud of this event of your creation, Shauna. As a newish blogger, I’ve just been so pleasantly surprised by the warmly supportive baking community. Thank you!

    As for leaving the whites behind-I couldn’t agree more. Autoimmune disease forced me off grains entirely, but I certainly don’t feel restricted in the kitchen, especially with the wealth of inspiration out there.
    x

  12. MilkJam

    I used to make scones for a b&b on the olympic penninsula and we would make them and freeze them individually raw and then put them straight (frozen) into the oven in the morning. They freeze beautifully and then when they come out of the oven fresh baked scones!!! Sure saves time in the morning :)

  13. Jessica

    These could not have come at a more perfect time! I have a girlfriend coming to stay with me this weekend that is G-Free and I knew breakfast was going to be the hardest meal to stay within her diet restrictions. These look fabulous and I plan on adding them to our menu! :-)

  14. Irvin

    Your scones look fantastic. And I must get that Flour book. Everytime I see it at the store I think to myself, dang, I need that book. Because, you know, I need another cookbook in my house.

  15. ronnissweettooth

    First, I’m not gluten-free, so I made these scones with gluten flour and cornmeal. I just wanted to get that out of the way because I don’t know if non gluten-free people comment much on recipes on this site.
    ANYWAY, I’ve been seriously craving scones for about 2 weeks and finally decided to bake some from another blog. I saw Shauna’s recipe and changed my mind because of the ratios. I am now a big fan of ratios. The scones are so.damn. good. “Substantial yet light” is the perfect descriptor. And the ratio works, no matter what ingredients you use. The freezing and refreezing seemed a little labor intensive in print, but once you start making these, it’s not a big deal at all and I think it makes a big difference. This is going to be my go-to recipe for scones. I can’t wait to try different flavors and flours.

  16. Rachel

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!!!!!! You have opened my eyes to a wonderful new world! I recently went dairy free, sugar free, and gluten free. There isn’t anything quite like ripping all of that from a single, 26 year old, food loving, beer drinking, world traveling girl. You have inspired me to lengths I can not explain. Thank you! From your site I found another and then another to yet more. In that crazy mess of tabs being open I found a dairy and gluten free pie crust recipe. But i have lost said tab and recipe and was wondering if it was on your site. Thank you for all your hard work and time and everything!

  17. Nine

    Thanks so much for the recipe! I made orange and cranberry scones, fig and wanut muffins, and ginger scones for my gluten free mother on Mother’s Day — with far better success than any I’ve ever made with normal flours! I’m so excited about baking more with my new flour mix, and can’t wait for my bunch of bananas to go brown so I can turn them into banana bread.
    (I also bought my mother your book for Christmas.…and had a serious internal struggle when it arrived from Amazon — I really really really wanted to keep it for myself!)

  18. SASKIA

    my husband and I and our American Au Pair all laughed about this post, “its not a SCONE” its a “biscuit” or a.… I don’t exactly know how to describe it in the Australian vernacular!

    “it’s not a biscuit, it’s a scone” said our Au Pair!

    Whatever it is, it looks lovely! thanks for sharing your recipe, I will be trying it out soon, scone, biscuit, whatever it is!

  19. Claire

    Growing up my mother used to make chocolate chip orange scones with mini chocolate chips, orange juice and orange rind. They were the most moist and delicious Sunday treat, gobbled up right before scurrying off to church. You have inspired me to try and recreate these delectable treats. Hooray for good scones!

  20. Amber

    I’ve never put egg in a scone in my life. What’s it add to the texture/flavor of the pastry that good old salted butter doesn’t?

    1. Veronica

      My mom taught me that scones have egg while biscuits don’t. It’s a texture thing I think. I make biscuits lots, not so much scones, because my mom made biscuits growing up.

  21. Lily

    After looking Joanne Chang’s book over, I see that some of the recipes call for cake flour, or part all purpose flour and part cake flour. I know cake flour is naturally lower in gluten so she must have chosen to do this for a purpose. My question is, does your whole grain gluten free mix still work weight for weight in those recipes? Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated!

  22. Pamela

    I know this is a late comment, but thank you, thank you for this recipe. I had made gluteny scones before I was diagnosed, but they never turned out quite right. I think the chilling process is what makes this click. My scones were light yet substantially homey, with a flaky butteriness that is rather inexplicable, given that I substituted coconut oil for the butter. I’m going to be playing with this one for sure!

  23. kathy

    These are fabulous! Even the gluten eaters enjoyed them. More like a dense cake than any scone I’ve had before. Thank you!

  24. Eimear

    I just made this scones. With cheddar cheese, chives & fresh marjoram. They were AWESOME. So delicious. I ate two before they could fully cool and am currently contemplating a third :-) That is all. e
    – A baking note: Cornmeal gives the scones a kind of gritty texture that I don’t love. Next time I’ll make them without. Still awesome though. For the record, I used oat, rice and buckwheat flours for the mix — and a bit of oat bran for extra wholegrainyness. Ta!

  25. Kelly

    I made these yesterday with my kids. They were very easy! The flavor and texture-just fantastic. We made half of the batch chocolate chip. The other half got the leftover fried apples and a dash of cinnamon. Delightful! There was a clamoring for more chocolate chip ones in the near future. Somehow, chocolate always wins. ;)

  26. Lawanda Johnson

    Hi, Thanks so much for the work you do and the way you inspire others to live healthy and fully. I’ve recently been following the Paleo Diet for about a month and I realize that it is very similar to a gluten-free diet naturally because it recommends eating the foods our human ancestors ate before agriculture and higly processed foods (which are mostly wheat-filled). For more info about the Paleo approach to nutrition check out my new blog http://paleorecipebooknaturalfoods.blogspot.com/

    Thank you,
    Lawanda

  27. Tv Food and Drink

    I think I have only ever had bad store-bought scones. I look at yours and they don’t even register as scones in my head. My, the sheltered life I live. I’m gonna give these a go. Thanks for sharing! — Gary

  28. Veronica

    Here I was thinking your site might be an awesome place to get recipes from. Your descriptions are great, you obviously know what you’re talking about, you don’t settle.

    But Lo and Behold, your recipe doesn’t follow your own ratio for scones!! Your liquids for this recipe are buttermilk and greek yogurt. Anyone else see the added fat? And thick greek yogurt as a liquid, really? If this is your BEST scone recipe, I suggest you rethink what you list as ratios for. Anyone who decides to use regular 2% milk or milk alternative in a ratio of 2/1 with the fat will probably end up with a inferiour, dry scone.

  29. Teresa

    Hi, I love your blog and learn so much from you! I made these scones and they were too wet. I wonder if different flours absorb different amounts of liquid? I grind my own with oat, rice, almond ‚quinoa.….thanks for any info! T

    1. shauna

      Yep! Different flours absorb different amounts of liquid. That’s why I try to describe the texture of the dough — match that rather than the precise amount of water. You have a lot of whole-grain flours here, which are wonderful. But they absorb water completely differently than the starches!